Stop me before I climb again

October 10, 2002|by TIM ROWLAND

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - Finally. After seven years, tens of thousands of driven miles, and more cumulative agony than my keyboard can describe, the quest has been attained.

Last week I finished out the last two of the 46 High Peaks way up north in New York's Adirondack mountains.

Having completed this holy grail of hiking, having climbed all 46 peaks, I must say the feeling is indescribable.

Which, come to think of it, is a lot like my feelings before I had completed the 46 High Peaks, which was also indescribable. In fact, I've felt indescribable as long as I can remember, a vague uneasy feeling revolving around the great unanswered question, "After 42 years of life and 20 years in the business, why do I still have to get my own coffee?"

Not that I wasn't gratified, that I didn't feel the whewiest of whews when I scrambled up the final ascent of Hough (rhymes with zough) Peak in the midst of a stunning, unspoiled wilderness and became an unofficial 46er.


My brother Bruce and I actually climbed four peaks that day, partly because Bruce is in the high 30s and needed them, and partly because the Adirondack peaks have the bad manners of coming in ranges and often as not you have to go over three to get to the fourth. And then back over them to get out.

But the problem is twofold. One, to become an official 46er, and a member of the Adirondack 46er Club you have to complete a lot of paperwork, namely a sort of retrospective of each and every climb since you began with Peak One. It's not enough that you have to struggle up each and every mountain in practice, you then have to struggle up them again in print. My climbing recollections are pretty much alike for each mountain:

Hour One: Feet hurt.

Hour Two: Feet hurt a lot.

Hour Three: Got teeth caught in balsam fir.

It all seemed like a lot of work for a patch. So paradoxically, after conquering the wilderness I still had to come home and conquer the home office.

Still, for every woodsy mile, for every rock face, for every net of downed trees I've slithered beneath on my belly, for every insect bite, for every black mud lagoon, for every second spent dead lost trying to figure out a compass line, for every driving rain, for every surprise snow and for the night we encountered all of the above and ended up trying to sleep beneath a soaked spruce log, it's all been...


Oh right, worth it. I knew that.

The side of, say, Mt. Redfield in the sparkling sun three-quarters of a mile in the air beside a torrential foaming white falls that regroups in a crystalline pool of glittering greens and golds, staring out at the bald dome of Algonquin through yellow leaves of birch and red berries of mountain ash makes it so.

Ahem. Didn't mean to lose myself in the moment there. Sorry.

So anyhoo, the problem wasn't the writing, the problem is that I've never been much of a joiner.

But as long as they don't ask anything more than an essay - no raffle ticket sales, no brunch hostings, no lining up the annual banquet speaker - I supposed I could handle it.

And it was neat, in a way, recalling how, seven years ago, every climb seemed to take a super-human effort, where as now it only takes a mid-Herculean effort.

I mentioned a second problem, which is this: It just so happens there are something like 110 peaks in the entire Northeast that are higher than 4,000 feet, and now that I've done 46 plus a couple in New Hampshire, I'm desperately afraid I won't be able to sit back and relax.

I want to relax. I want to hike purely for the fun of it again, not as part of some greater goal. However, you know how things have a way of getting in your blood.

But someone. Please. Before it's too late.

Stop me before I climb again.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or you can e-mail him at

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