Sunday, January 1, 2017

Calendar-Year GRID

Upon completion of any big project, I often have a hard time summarizing the experience or articulating my answers to the general question "How was it?"  Surely this instance will be no different -- writing does not come easily to me -- but here goes.

In White Mountain parlance, "the Grid" refers to hiking each of the 48 New Hampshire 4000 footers in every month, usually over many years.  People who pursue the Grid are referred to as Gridiots.  In November 2003 I became finisher #3, the first woman -- what I like to call a Gridiette -- to do so.  That Grid took about 15 years of relatively casually picking away at the monthly lists.  When I started to pursue this game, only one person was known to have finished.  I referred to it simply as "the 48 in every month," the Grid term coming along a few years later.

As far as a single-year Grid, that seed was planted a few years ago on one of the local hiking forums when I jokingly (mostly) entertained the possibility.  My immediate thought was that it could be done but that the candidate would need to have a rather unique lifestyle that permitted such a... well...  such a lifestyle!  Someone who loves to hike, is focused, driven, fit, healthy, retired/unemployed/unusually employed, childfree, and with a supportive partner or spouse.  Hey, I thought, that candidate would be me!  :)

So in late 2015 we decided to give it a go, Chris committing to the crucial support role for an entire year.  (Yes, I am a lucky woman.  2017 is HIS.)  It was important to me that it be a CALENDAR year Grid, done entirely within 2016, from the short days of January to the short days of December, the ending not known until the very end!  Knowing that stuff happens -- sickness, injury, weather issues, family stuff, reasons why success was definitely not a sure thing -- I did not make a big announcement... just started hiking.  New Year's Day we climbed Moosilauke via Glencliff followed by Tecumseh.  At the end of each month I posted my itinerary, mileages and feet climbed.  Those who are interested in those numbers can scroll down this blog.  January and February I did more doubling up than later months -- squeezing more miles into a day -- partly due to the fact that where we lived added a whole hour to our round-trip commute time.  January was completed in 15 days of hiking, February in 16.  In March we overcame an added complication:  that of selling our house, packing up and moving to a place 1/2 hour closer to the Whites.  Being a mere 15 minutes from Franconia Notch was huge!  (Our house had been on the market a year.  Contrary to what some folks assumed, we did not "sell our house in order to do the CYG!") 

The winter was easy in terms of snow depth with just a handful of times on snowshoes, but it was the winter and spring of ICE in the White Mountains -- holy moly! - with treacherous ice lasting well into May.  Walking in microspikes became second nature!  The summer months brought blessed warmth, long days, light packs and trail runners, and a few 30+ milers.  I spiced up July and August by doing a Direttissima and the Trailwrights Six-Pack respectively (scroll down for those posts).  We also fit in the Maine 4000 footers, including a trip to Baxter.  September and October meant less midweek crowds, crisp air, and spectacular foliage, although October was a bit of a challenge due to an almost two-week trip to New Mexico.  (Being the 10th month, no way was I giving up now!)  November and especially December  turned out to be the hardest months due to the ever shortening days, colder temperatures, and uncooperative weather for being above treeline.  I joked to Chris that I should have started in November of last year since the weather was so mild then, but then it would not have been a Calendar-Year Grid of course.

The entire year was a JOY.  I never got tired of hiking, it never ever felt like a job, and except for a couple of rainy hikes, I was always excited to spend the day walking in the woods and climbing mountains.  :)

In May or June I happened upon the blog of a runner who was training for the Hardrock 100, who focused not only on mileage but also total vertical climbed.  Thus was the impetus for my secondary goal of the year -- that of climbing at least a million vertical feet -- funny, since I have never really kept track of vertical before.  For the most part, I got my numbers from the White Mountain Guide but did occasionally use a GPS app, for example, if bushwhacking.  Surely my numbers are not totally, completely accurate to the foot or tenth of a mile, but I think they are pretty close.  The last few days of December were spent ensuring that I got over that million-foot mark!

Now for a few stats:

- Miles hiked:  3,181
- Vertical feet climbed:  1,001,820
- Days hiked over 4000 feet:  206/366 (includes other, non NH48 hikes)
- GRID peaks soloed:  289/576
- Total peaks summitted over 4k:  ~620 or so
- Highest elevation:  12,632 ft. - Santa Fe Baldy, New Mexico (not a GRID peak!)
- Days over 20 miles:  44
- Days w/over 10k in climb:  3
   - 6/18 - Presi Traverse w/Isolation 10,050 ft.
   - 7/5 - Franconia Ridge, Owls Head, Garfield, Galehead, Twins - 11,250 ft.
   - 8/23 - Cabot, Waumbek, Moriah, Wildcats - 12,050 ft.
- Mornings getting up waaaay before dawn:  Almost all (Chris even earlier)
- Evenings going to bed after 8 pm:  Very Few
- Days I didn't feel like hiking:  0
- Highest mileage month:  September - 294.6 miles
- Lowest mileage month:  October - 210 miles
- Times on Lincoln Woods Trail:  at least 20
- Favorite peaks:  Moosilauke, Bonds, Lafayette, Northern Presidentials
- Least favorite peaks:  Cannon, Osceolas ('cuz the steep ice scared the crap outa me last winter)
- Do I really like Owls Head:  Yes
- Did I carry a SPOT/PLB:  No (but did carry enough emergency gear to spend an uncomfortable night out, did carry an iPhone, and someone always knew my itinerary)
- # Sandwiches made by Chris:  400?  500?
- # Times running, biking, and skiing:  half dozen, one, and zero respectively!
- Wildlife sightings:  Moose, bear, deer, fox, one attack spruce grouse, dozens of gray jays, bunnies, porcupine, and tracks of just about every NH mammal
- Stuff broken:  3 poles, 1 pair snowshoes, 2 spikes, lots of shoelaces, and killed a few pair trail shoes
- Injuries:  Pulled back muscle while front-pointing up ice on North Carter in April.  
      Tripped on crampon points twice, falling ass-over-teakettle on Adams in December.  Got owies.
- Chris/Fancypant's "Not Doing the Grid" progress:  280/576 (yes, I'm keeping track)

I will close with a quote from Eugene Daniell III, the first finisher of the 4k's in every month, and someone with whom I had the pleasure of hiking a couple of times back in the early 1990s:

"I had undertaken the project with the idea that not only would it help satisfy the obsessive-compulsive urges that all of us whom Guy Waterman called 'ultimate peak baggers' harbor; it also had a certain delightful whimsicality to it -- doing something that others would consider crazy and enjoying it.  But mostly I looked forward to seeing my beloved mountains in the full panoply of beauty they assume as the seasons pass around.  I have always said that for me and most other peakbaggers I know, the List is an itinerary rather than a goal -- on completing a list most of us experience a certain bittersweet exultation, knowing that a beloved old friend will never be with us in the same way again."

I'm not sure yet What's Next?! but I have a few thoughts...   ;p


John Gutowski said...

Congratulations, Sue! One incredible achievement. Shout out to Chris also, for being such a supportive husband. The champagne was well deserved. Just remember...gotta have a list!

John & June

Sparkplug said...

Wow! Totally impressed! Are you the first fir a calendar year grid? Nice work. AlwYs enjoy reading your adventures(found your link from MaineRunners blog)!! Happy New Year!

"Pepper" said...

How many people would want to do Owls Head every month for a year? Not many, if any. Isolation instead? Still not many, if any. How about the ZBonds? Not many although I know a Delta Force that might. All 3 hikes, every month for twelve months? Yikes. All 3 hikes plus 42 other peaks every month for a year? Holy moly! Yet you did it, did it with joy and such ease that you mixed in harder routes to the peaks and added a host of other hikes like the Trailwrights 72 with its bushwhacks to these. Awesome. Simply awesome Sue.

Chris Dailey said...

Congratulations on an incredible accomplishment on the Calendar-Year GRID. The memories you made out there hiking those 576 peaks in one calendar year will always put a smile on your face anytime you look back on it, how awesome is that!!

Really great that you wrote, "Days I didn't feel like hiking: 0." That's what it is all about, and happy to see that you loved every day out there tackling the different conditions, especially the monster ice fest that was March through early May!

Major kudos to Chris (Fancypants) for being supportive, hiking with you along the way, and with car spots. Congrats to him too on being awesomely awesome :)


p.s. Nice to finally meet you on Owl's Head in December, and nice to know other hikers like exploring that lil' bump in the heart of the Pemi!

RunSueRun said...

Thanks for the nice comments, and especially for recognizing Chris's efforts. He was/is incredibly supportive, and I absolutely could not have done it without him.

John, I whole heartedly agree: "Gotta have a list!" for us Gridiots. Figured out that I have less than 200 peaks to complete GRID #3 but think I'll take a break from it for awhile! :)

DMOutdoors said...

Congratulations again, Sue! Truly amazing accomplishment, and nice words. I did my last 40% of the Grid in about one year. Everything that goes into it, the planning, dedication, passion, etc, all fun too, and I think you answered "how was it" perfectly well. Having goals within goals is a great way to keep it interesting. Hope to run into you on the trails.

Gravityh said...

Congrats Sue... amazing focus to keep this dream alive AND accomplish it! And Fancypants... major kudos to you, not only for the supporting role but for bagging your own peaks in the process... WOOP WOOP ...

JimC said...

Hi Sue
You made the Wall Street Journal.
MON 09JAN16. pp A5

eric said...

Incredible accomplishment Sue. I'd love to hear more...maybe as a guest on ultrarunnerpodcast? I can't find an email for you, so could you email me please? Thanks!

Unknown said...

Hi Sue, would love to talk with you about this for a story. Lisa

Ted Albers said...

Hi Sue, this is Ted Albers from the Burlington Section of the Green Mountain Club- can you contact me about a possible speaking engagement? Thanks!