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Peak Bagging Challenge

28 June 2018
Mountains
Outdoors
Hiking
Peak Bagging

Peak Bagging is an activity in which outdoor enthusiasts attempt to reach a collection of summits. These collections are usually published in the form of a list.

The peak bagging activity was popularized in Scotland in the 1890s with the creation of the Munro list by Sir Hugh Munro. Nowadays The Scottish Mountaineering Club holds the record of Munros, Corbetts, Grahams and Donalds completers. They accept notifications of completion and any amendments to the list in writing only and delivered to their postal address!

Since then, peak bagging has been popularized around the world, with lists such as the US fourteeners, the Seven Summits, the eight-thousanders, the Ultras of Europe becoming the subject of mass public interest. Also, there are many cultural, historical, and visual attraction based lists.

Peak Bagging Awards

Completing some lists brings prestigious awards. For example, The Snow Leopard Award was given to climbers who summited all five peaks of 7000m and above located in the former Soviet Union, the champion climber here is Denis Urubko. There’s also the Explorers Grand Slam challenge which requires a challenger to reach the north and south pole and climb the Seven Summits, and this is called a True Explorers Grand Slam when one not only reaches the magnetic poles of the Earth but also summits all 14 peaks above 8,000 meters.

Fourteeners of Colorado

Highpointing

A small tweak turns peak bagging into highpointing. In peak bagging, the targets are the summits. In most cases the lists have a threshold of elevation, prominence or isolation. Alternatively, in highpointing, targets are the highest points in some geographic area (e.g. a county, a state, or a country). In general, a high point might not be a summit at all. For example, the highest point of Monaco is on the slope of a mountain and has zero prominence.

In many countries there are high point challenges: Ireland county tops, US states high points, etc.

This idea can be developed even further. It can be turned into a list of national parks with the goal to visit them all. The only thing is that national parks change more often than mountains.

Extra Challenges

With growing popularity of peak bagging and almost all the peaks having been conquered, mountaineers strive to find new challenges. Among the popular options are doing that faster, solo, without supplemental oxygen (alpine style), in winter period etc.

Peak Bagging in the US

One of the most popular peak bagging challenges in the US is to summit all 14ers in Colorado. Out of the 77 national 14ers, 53 are in the single state. It often takes more than a year to complete the task. Con Koch recently finished the challenge. Here is what he says about it.

Con Koch

* What made you start the project?

- As a transplant from California, I initially approached these peaks not as a physical challenge but as a way to explore the beauty of Colorado, my new home. Along the way, the motivation became more internal and important for other reasons. Through difficult and smooth periods of my life, the 14ers were always there, providing a relative backdrop for the course of my growth as a person. The follow-through required to complete this project became central. Physically, it was always possible, but emotionally it became a real labor of love.

The 14ers project taught me a lot - about my new home state, about moving efficiently and quickly in the alpine, about follow-through. Mostly, the journey taught me about myself and my capabilities. Through the toil and the mileage and the thin air, I grew stronger, faster, more confident. Surrounded with panoramic, breathtaking vistas, I found myself looking inward, searching for something intangible and indefinable. I like to think I found it sometimes, in fleeting moments near the summit of each peak, or in the desperately golden light of a sunset in the high country. It took a labor of love to see this project to completion, and I’m proud of that.

* What was the most challenging?

- The crux of the project was, for me, not any one peak or a group. Rather, I found difficulty in the toil of long drives and long days, in a relatively short period of time. Over the approximately 3-year duration of the project, I frequently found myself driving to remote reaches of the state, often alone with my thoughts. Meanwhile, I balanced this with other goals, including more technical climbing objectives, and my career. That, for me, was the real challenge. Were I to repeat the goal, I would focus on efficiency and style, to avoid the repetitive long drives across the state.

* Was there a moment when you were very close to giving up?

- There wasn’t, although my obsession with the project waxed and waned. I went through phases where I would get the ‘urge’ again, and enchain large groups of peaks in a fast and light style that appealed to me. Or, when the snow was falling and conditions were safe-ish, I felt inspired to ski beautiful slopes on some of the peaks, experiencing many of them for a second time under the cloak of winter. I think taking an occasional step back from the “14ers fixation” helped me to enjoy the steps along the way; it never felt like a chore. Rather, the perspective I gained through the pursuit helped me become whole and comfortable in other parts of my life.

* Any advice for others who do the same project?

- Don’t rush it! Enjoy these peaks and the wonderful beauty the state has to offer. The 14ers are a perfect example of the truism “It’s about the journey, not the destination.” Take the time to savour and learn from the journey, and you will feel much more fulfilled at the conclusion.

* What’s next?

- A late summer attempt on Nolan’s 14, a 60-hour, 100-mile enchainment of the Sawatch range covering fourteen 14ers. We are also going for a Gannett-in-a-day attempt, reaching Wyoming’s highpoint in good style and with minimal gear. Both of these will be attempted with my partners Jonny Morsicato and Jackson Schmidt, who played major roles in the 14ers project.

Knife Ridge

Peak Bagging in the UK and Ireland

As the birthplace of peak bagging culture these lands offer the most diverse set of lists for peakbaggers. Here are just the most popular options:

  • Munros - a Scottish hill over 3,000ft
  • Furths - a hill over 3,000ft outside of Scotland
  • Corbetts - a Scottish hill between 2,500 and 2,999 feet high with a prominence of at least 500 feet
  • The Great Outdoors: Britain's 40 Finest Mountains
  • And dozens of others

You can observe most of them in the PeakVisor app with a special tag, so it is easy and convenient to identify mountains belonging to particular lists.

Robin Wallace completed the Munros in 2014. In his blog he says: “Since then hill-bagging has lost its appeal. Instead I visit old favourites and new hills regardless of their height or criteria.” I encourage you to check his “Walk With Wallace” blog, it is entertaining and has tons of useful information for those who plan to trek in Scotland.

Stob Ban

Robin’s tent and Stob Ban in the background.

Peak Bagging in Europe

The lists of four thousanders in the Alps and European Ultras are the most popular. While the lists intersect at some peaks the latter requires much more paneuropean traveling and has some relaxing hikes in the programme.

Your challenge

You might have a challenge in your plan or might just freely roam the heights and collect epic vistas. In the end of the day only going out and having fun matters.

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