Brian Rachford's mountaineering

First off, most of my ascents of mountains are simply hikes; sometimes long hikes and often at moderately high altitudes, but still hikes. Basic rock scrambling is fine and basic snow climbing is fine, but I'm not a rock climber or some sort of serious alpinist. Perhaps "non-technical mountaineering" is the correct term for what I do, if that isn't some sort of oxymoron. Still, I've been in a few places where a minor slip would have killed me and I don't feel too guilty about the term "mountaineer"; nobody is going to mistake me for a "real" mountaineer.

In any case, I grew up in Iowa and my first ever true hike was an ascent of a 12,000-foot peak in 1994 when I was 24 and I was quickly hooked on peakbagging. I wish I had had the early start that just about everybody else seems to have had, less demanding and/or higher paying jobs to allow more travel, a little more natural athletic ability, and a body that was a bit less injury-prone, but oh well. I especially like that mountaineering requires a lot more endurance than popular sports and it also requires brains if you want to do it right, which is a big plus if you aren't a natural born jock. In addition, there's nothing fundamentally arbitrary about it; you either reach the summit and make it back home or not. And, there aren't a bunch of stupid people cheering you on.

I am a dedicated peakbagger; I rarely do a hike unless it involves a summit, even if it is a tiny summit. In fact, I don't even count it as a hike unless I have at least made a reasonable attempt at a summit; otherwise it just gets treated as it I went for a walk around the neighborhood. I am also a dedicated datahead, so I would still count it in my overall foot travel totals for both mileage and elevation gain. (Life would barely be worth living if spreadsheets did not exist!) I have a page of statistics on my peakbagging accomplishments, such as they are.

Even when gas was $1 per gallon, I was driving a car that gets 35 mpg on the highway, so I'm not one that drives up 4WD roads to climb peaks. I'm generally also of the mind that in the lower 48, if I can't climb a peak in one day, I can't climb it, period. Otherwise, I usually climb a peak by its easiest route unless there is a different non-technical route that looks interesting, and try to do it with as little impact as possible.

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File last modified: 01 July 2008

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