Member Submission

Joining the AMC Four Thousand Footers Club

By: Leah Nicholson

I moved to Lebanon, New Hampshire from western North Carolina in 2020 with my husband and three young children- ages 4, 5, and 7 now. I’ve been running trails for years, but I had no clue about the ruggedness of the White Mountains. I thought I had run rocks and roots before, but nothing compares to the rocks and roots of the Granite State. These trails are gnarly and steep compared to even the toughest of North Carolina trails! My first peak was Moosilauke in August 2022 as it is the closest BIG mountain to Lebanon. At the time, I did not realize it was part of a “bigger thing”- the 48 4000 footers of the White Mountains. A few months later, I asked Cara Baskin if I could join her on one of her “hike”/runs. We did Owl’s Head which is a lackluster peak with just a pile of rocks at the summit, but this is when I truly learned about this “bigger thing.” Cara was in the middle of her Grid completing all 48 4000 footers in each month, and I was happy to tag along with whatever hikes she had planned as I was mostly looking for miles, vert, fitness, and friendship.  

As Cara was nearing the last few months of her Grid in the fall and winter of 2023/2024, I also decided it was time to get serious about finishing my 48 instead of simply repeating peaks and tagging along with Cara. I started to put weekly “4k peak” on my shared Google calendar with my husband making my intentions public and known. This is when the real joy began as I set out to complete a bigger project just for myself. With this newfound joy, the Kinsmans are my favorite peaks as they were the start of the final project and a new sense of purpose! In October, I got autumn yellows and reds at the Mount Kinsman trailhead, bright green moss and the stickiest rocks on the way up, and early season snow laden pines at the top. What a treat of mixed conditions! I also appreciate the not so sketchy peaks (all my favorite peaks are also the milder trails, or “boring” or “worst” according to some). I never felt nervous about my safety on the Kinsmans Trail, and I felt truly empowered as I set out on my mission to complete the 48.  

My final peaks were Wildcat D and ultimately Wildcat A. Cara and I had set out on Presidents’ Day (Monday) to get the Carters and Wildcats, but we unexpectedly broke trail after summiting Mount Hight. It was cold and we were without snowshoes. We made it to the Carter Notch Hut, and as we started up to Wildcat A, there was ZERO evidence of anyone being on the trail over the weekend although according to Strava accounts, at least 6 people had completed the entire Wildcat traverse from Nineteen Mile Brook the day prior! Snowdrifts are real! Getting to the Wildcats would've required knee to waist deep postholing for nearly a mile with over 1000 feet of climbing under the setting sun. So we turned back and went down Nineteen Mile Brook trail returning to the car bailing on the Wildcats. We returned early on the following Saturday to get the Wildcats via the ski slopes. We brought large packs full of gear including snowshoes, gaiters, and all the layers just to find perfectly packed trails only requiring microspikes the entire traverse from Wildcat D to Wildcat A and then down to Nineteen Mile Brook.  

So what’s next? I joke about a lifetime grid. Or most likely starting the 48 with my kids. My oldest just finished his first peaks, Pierce and Jackson, last month, and what a new level of mom proud! To see his face at the top of Pierce as he took in the views of the Presi Range, wow! Or perhaps even a Direttissima. No matter my future goals, I’m in love with the Whites! 

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