(Note: I’ve updated this post in July, 2018, after climbing Mt Tom once again. I’ve recently completed ascending all 48 4000-footers, and am going up a few again, in different seasons…)
A few weeks ago I climbed Mt Tom, one of 48 mountains in New Hampshire that are at least 4000 feet tall. Since moving to New England in the late 1970s, I have climbed many of these peaks, but in the coming months I’ll climb all 48. May take me a year or two? … we’ll see.
So that’s a new journey. Along with a brief description of each of these climbs, I’ll also reflect a bit on the journey since I joined Peace Corps, 30 years ago: on development, social justice, conflict, experiences along the way, etc. Over the next months, 48 posts.
Mt Tom is 4051 ft tall (1235 m), and I got to the top (a solo hike) on 10 May 2016, leaving from Crawford Depot:
There isn’t much of a view from Tom’s top, as it’s surrounded by short pine trees, but near the summit you can look over towards the “Presidential Range” – Mt Washington, the tallest of the 48, can be seen clearly, still with snow on May 10, 2016.
And here is the summit of Mt Tom – not the most spectacular! Well below the tree line, so no real view, just a meager cairn:
An easy and enjoyable start to this project, with few other hikers. So I had a nice, solitary walk for the most part…
However, as I neared the top, I found myself on snow and then ice that had been packed by climbers over the winter. They call these “monorails” – areas of the trail that have been packed down so hard that they don’t melt until late in the season. They can be tricky, as I would find after summiting Mt Field, when they are on steep inclines.
I had brought my Yak-Trax on the trip, thinking that there might be some risk of snow, but it was quite warm at the trailhead, with no snow visible, so I left them behind, in the car. Big mistake! Because as I walked from Mt Tom over to my second 48-footer – Mt Field – I ran into much more snow and ice and the trail became steeper. The few other hikers I saw had brought along micro-spikes, and used them. I felt a bit nervous on the ice.
I will write about getting to the top of Mt Field, and down, soon. For now I’ll just say that the descent from Field was very tricky!
Another new journey began on Valentine’s Day, 1984, when I flew from Boston to Miami to begin two years of Peace Corps service. That was an emotional day, because I was leaving Jean behind in Boston. Little did I know that, in 2016 we would celebrate 31 years of marriage! But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit…
Omnibus 44 gathered that day at the Everglades Hotel (demolished in 2005), for training and assessment before flying to Quito a few days later. I made two long-lasting friendships that week (this means you, Chris, and Kenny!). And, in retrospect, it was the beginning of a new career, because in my second year as a Volunteer a large international NGO came to town, and that led to a long and happy career in the NGO world. More on that in future posts!
Having studied mechanical engineering, when I signed up to volunteer I was assigned to the Instituto Ecuadoreano de Obras Sanitarias (IEOS) as a project engineer. There were several different groups of soon-to-be Peace Corps Volunteers gathering that day in Miami, forming Omnibus 44: agriculture, disability (vision-impaired), water, etc. Some in our water group were going to be “water promoters” – focused on working with communities, organising projects. Others, like me, would be “water engineers”, working as project directors, designing and overseeing project implementation. Despite having studied mechanical engineering, I was assigned as a water engineer because the technical skills required weren’t very specialised… Chris, who would spend his two years in Guaranda, was a “promotor de agua”; Kenny, a fellow engineer, would be assigned to Cayambe, north of Quito.
So after five days in Miami, we flew to Quito and stayed there for about a month, focused mainly on language training. Each of us lived during that month with an Ecuadorean family – I lived with the “Familia Larrea”, not too far from the training center.
Omnibus 44’s different groups (agriculture, disability, water, etc.) then split for two months of technical training. We moved outside Quito, and then farther afield to Riobamba, continuing (less intensive) language training. Here’s the water group, future engineers and promoters, in a photo taken at the Ecuadorean Cooperative Institute (ICE) training centre, outside of Quito. Our technical trainer (with a hat), and one of our Spanish instructors (Laura – in the front row, in black) are also in the photo… Laura, in particular, was a great person and a very skilled Spanish teacher. I was lucky to study with her.
After three months of training we went to our assigned sites – for me, Azogues, capital of Cañar province.
Azogues wasn’t too isolated geographically, being fairly close to Cuenca, but (for my first year, at least) I was the only PC Volunteer assigned there; I had heard some rumours that, because the Province of Cañar was quite leftist in its politics, earlier Volunteers had a hard time. So I guess I was a bit of a guinea pig (a “cui”!)
But I was very lucky to be assigned to Azogues, and to IEOS Cañar. Being the only Volunteer in the province for the first year, and the only project engineer (apart from “L”, the “Jefe Provincial“) I had nothing to do but work, which is what I did: on my very first day in the IEOS office, the “Jefe Provincial” told me that there were two communities ready and waiting for a water project to begin, materials were in the office, so he didn’t want to see me until the water systems were built! What a great opportunity – just out of graduate school, and I had responsibility for two significant water projects.
Being fairly isolated in Azogues, I wasn’t distracted by socialising with other Volunteers, unlike (for example) some of my fellow PCVs closer to Quito, who got together a lot. This helped me learn Spanish – nobody to speak English with except Jean, who telephoned the IEOS office every two weeks!
Another reason I was lucky was that, after a year, an international NGO arrived in Azogues. There was absolutely no missing the arrival of Annuska Heldring (Plan Cañar’s first Field Director) and her white Land Cruiser – Plan International opened a Field Office!
But first, I had a couple of water systems to get built that first year in Azogues. In my next post, covering my hike up Mt Field, I will describe what it was like helping bring potable water to those first two communities: El Tambo and Cochancay. Stay tuned!
Postscript: I climbed Mt Tom again on 19 July, 2018, after having completed all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4000-footers earlier that month. I wondered how it would feel to start the cycle anew – it felt good! It had been a bit over 2 years since I had climbed Tom and Field, and some things had changed…
This time it was mid-summer instead of late spring, so no snow or ice on the ground. And, this time, I climbed Mt Field first, going around Avalon and A-Z trails clockwise instead of counter-clockwise.
I drove up from Durham, leaving at 7am, arriving at the trail-head in Crawford Notch about 2 1/2 hours later. Since I had climbed Tom and Field last time, I had established a tradition of stopping for coffee and a Subway sandwich on the way north – which I did this time, too.
It was a beautiful summer day, warm and clear, with great views from the tops. As I hiked up, I did notice many more tree-falls than I had remembered, perhaps due to the severe storms we had here in March 2018. And I am pretty sure I saw the place where I fell on ice two years ago, descending from Mt Field.
Here are a few photos of this second ascent of Mt Tom:
Notice the difference – no snow at the top of the Presidential Range this time!
And here are two videos I took along the Crawford Brook that day:
I’m not planning on hiking all 48 of the 4000-footers again, but it might happen! But as I do hike them, the repeat climbs will be in different seasons, and afterwards I will revisit these articles and add photos from the subsequent climbs.
Here are links to earlier blogs in this series. Eventually there will be 48 articles, each one about climbing one of New Hampshire’s 4000-footers, and also reflecting on a career in international development:
- Mt Tom (1) – A New Journey;
- Mt Field (2) – Potable Water in Ecuador;
- Mt Moosilauke (3) – A Water System for San Rafael (part 1);
- Mt Flume (4) – A Windmill for San Rafael (part 2);
- Mt Liberty (5) – Onward to Colombia, Plan International in Tuluá;
- Mt Osceola (6) – Three Years in Tuluá;
- East Osceola (7) – Potable Water for Cienegueta;
- Mt Passaconaway (8) – The South America Regional Office;
- Mt Whiteface (9) – Empowerment!;
- North Tripyramid (10) – Total Quality Management for Plan International;
- Middle Tripyramid (11) – To International Headquarters!;
- North Kinsman (12) – Fighting Fragmentation and Building Unity: New Program Goals and Principles for Plan International;
- South Kinsman (13) – A Growth Plan for Plan International;
- Mt Carrigain (14) – Restructuring Plan International;
- Mt Eisenhower (15) – A Guest Blog: Max van der Schalk Reflects on 5 Years at Plan’s International Headquarters;
- Mt Pierce (16) – Four Years At Plan’s International Headquarters;
- Mt Hancock (17) – Hanoi, 1998;
- South Hancock (18) – Plan’s Team in Viet Nam (1998-2002);
- Wildcat “D” Peak (19) – Plan’s Work in Viet Nam;
- Wildcat Mountain (20) – The Large Grants Implementation Unit in Viet Nam;
- Middle Carter (21) – Things Had Changed;
- South Carter (22) – CCF’s Organizational Capacity Assessment and Child Poverty Study;
- Mt Tecumseh (23) – Researching CCF’s New Program Approach;
- Mt Jackson (24) – The Bright Futures Program Approach;
- Mt Isolation (25) – Pilot Testing Bright Futures;
- Mt Lincoln (26) – Change, Strategy and Culture: Bright Futures 101;
- Mt Lafayette (27) – Collective Action for Human Rights;
- Mt Willey (28) – Navigating Principle and Pragmatism, Working With UUSC’s Bargaining Unit;
- Cannon Mountain (29) – UUSC Just Democracy;
- Carter Dome (30) – A (Failed) Merger In the INGO Sector (1997);
- Galehead Mountain (31) – What We Think About When We Think About A Great INGO Program;
- Mt Garfield (32) – Building Strong INGO Teams: Clarity, Trust, Inspiration;
- Mt Moriah (33) – Putting It All Together (Part 1): the ChildFund Australia International Program Team;
- Owls’ Head (34) – Putting It All Together (Part 2): ChildFund Australia’s Theory of Change;
- Bondcliff (35) – ChildFund Australia’s Development Effectiveness System;
- West Bond (36) – “Case Studies” in ChildFund Australia’s Development Effectiveness System;
- Mt Bond (37) – Impact Assessement in ChildFund Australia’s Development Effectiveness System;
- Mt Waumbek (38) – “Building the Power of Poor People and Poor Children …”