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Hiking to New Heights

Local man gets to the top of the White Mountains

January 29, 2012
By?RODNEY MINOR , The Leader Herald

PERTH - Jim Higgins Jr. was looking for a challenge after hiking to the top of the 46 high peaks in the Adirondacks.

He found it in the 48 4,000-footers in the White Mountains, which are mostly in New Hampshire.

While it took him about five years, Higgins was able to conquer those too.

Article Photos

Jim Higgins Jr. of Perth is shown, along with his Golden?Retrievers named Reyes and Hans, on top of Mount Garfield in New Hampshire on July 27. The hike marked the completion of Higgins goal to get to the top of the 48 4,000-footers in the White Mountains, which are mostly in New Hampshire.
Photo submitted

Higgins, 32, said knowing he would be hiking the high peaks gave him plenty of motivation to stay in shape, but climbing the peaks was not just a matter of endurance.

" ... it takes a little something else that is hard to describe, maybe it's desire or motivation or something mental, but I have seen a lot of very good athletes give up on these lists over the years," he said in an e-mail.

Higgins, a health teacher at Gloversville High School and a junior varsity baseball coach at Broadalbin-Perth, started hiking when he joined his father on his hikes up the high peaks of the Adirondacks.

Hiking has become his main hobby during the summer.

"The thing that lures me to hiking is the challenge of it, to see how far I can push myself, the sense of accomplishment," Higgins said in an e-mail. "The views are great as well, and just being out in the woods is also very rewarding."

According to the website for Adirondack Forty-Sixers Inc. - - club members are hikers who have climbed the summits of the 46 major peaks of the Adirondacks.

"Robert and George Marshall, along with their friend and guide Herbert Clark, identified 46 mountains in northern New York state with an elevation of 4,000 feet or higher," the website said. "They were the first to ascend all 46 peaks, which they did between 1918 and 1925."

While subsequent studies have shown four of the 46 peaks are less than 4,000 feet, the original list is still used.

Higgins, who is member No. 4439, first climbed Cascade Mountain in 1990. He finished his 46th peak - along with his father, Jim Sr. - at Allen Mountain in 1998.

His younger brother, Josh, conquered Mount Marcy in 2004 to join the organization as well.

However, beating the high peaks in the Adirondacks had left Higgins looking for a new challenge.

"The reason I ended up hiking in New Hampshire was because I needed a new challenge," Higgins said in an e-mail. "I finished hiking the ADK 46 in 1998 and it was such a great experience, I was looking for a new list of mountains to start working on and White Mountains of New Hampshire was exactly the challenge I was looking for."

The White Mountains are part of the Appalachian Mountains, and are in New Hampshire and a portion of Maine. The White Mountains contain 48 peaks that are more than 4,000 feet high.

Higgins noted the White Mountains are part of the Northeast 111 - the mountains with peaks above 4,000 feet in the Northeast - which caught his attention. Having already finished the Adirondacks, he would knock out a many on the list by hiking all of the White Mountains.

Higgins started hiking the White Mountains in July 2006 with Mt. Eisenhower and Mt. Monroe.

"I was hooked after my first trip, the views were amazing, the trails were great," he said in an e-mail. "There are a lot more trails above treeline in the Whites as compared to the Adirondacks."

On July 27, he finished Mount Garfield to claim no. 48.

"The hiking did not involve any technical climbing [no ropes] but there were some very steep sections throughout. Some include climbing 1,050 feet of elevation over 0.7 miles, 1,300 feet in 1 mile, 1,850 feet in 1.5 miles," he said in an email.

Higgins did not do all of his hiking alone. His father still joins him sometimes. Jim Sr. will sometimes drop his son off at one end of the trail head, then go to the other side.

"This works out great for trips where I need to climb 3-6 mountains in a day. It saves me from having to climb back over the ones I already did," Higgins said.

His dogs - Golden Retrievers Reyes, 3, and Hans, 1 - have gone with Higgins on some of his hikes. While Higgins has to carry some extra water for them given the amount of hiking he does in the summer, he said the dogs love the adventure.

"They always know, when I start getting things ready the night before, they get very excited," he said in the e-mail.

For Higgins, the hardest part of the adventure was the driving. It was a five-hour drive to most of the mountains in New Hampshire.

"My strategy early on was to leave at midnight so I could get on the trails at 5 a.m., hike all day, then drive home, sometimes getting home at midnight," Higgins said in the e-mail. "Last summer, my father decided that was enough and paid for a hotel room for our trips."

For the coming summer, Higgins' plan is to finish the Northeast 111 - which actually has 115 mountains, but is still called the 111 from when the list was first made.

With only 12 more 4,000-foot mountain peaks to ascend in Maine, Higgins should reach his goal in no time at all.



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