We are sad to announce that the thru hike has come to its conclusion in its current form. Unfortunately, after climbing Esther Mountain, Whiteface Mountain, Cascade Mountain, and Porter Mountain over the first two days. On day 3 Neil succumbed to a lower leg injury so painful he could not continue less than a tenth of a mile from the summit of Giant Mountain. Neil will need time to heal which would take him out of the date window established for this project.
“Not the post I wanted to make.
I really thought I had this. Baling on this project has some points in common with a death in the family. I spent the past year planning this thing and thought about it nearly constantly. I lived and breathed it and invested myself in it totally. And spared no expense. And then, close to the top of Giant, feeling gutted, I turned around only 4 peaks in. But, after 35 years of being a chiropractor and having experienced a number of injuries as a hiker, I knew. (Insider’s note: I consoled myself by thinking about Cory Delavalle’s blister all the way back down Giant).
What I can say is that I have no regrets at all regarding the months of preparation, the training, the tweaking of the itinerary, figuring out the gear and the re-supplies. I spent three months living in my very close friends Tom Haskins and Doreen Heer’s house in Jay. Tom and Doreen have opened their home and their hearts to me on my previous projects. I am extremely privileged to have such friends who enabled me during my 3-month hiking/training extravaganza. Tom and Doreen are experienced winter hikers and they shared advice and insights with me daily. Tom followed my InReach track during my hikes and when I got home he usually had meaningful comments regarding my day. Hiking 5 days a week, no matter what the weather and trail conditions was a wonderful project all on its own. And the four months Sylvie and I spent hiking in Lake Louise, Canada, where we met 45 years ago, was literally a dream come true.
Due to the high risk of failure, I was always leery of drawing so much attention to what I was planning. But, in order to attract people to help me and to raise funds for the Foundation I felt there wasn’t a lot of choice.
Regarding my training and the injury that made itself felt so acutely on January 19, I don’t think I would do anything differently if I was to start all over again. Except for one thing: when I felt the first mild twinges of shin pain on my way to Dix that day I wish I had stopped and examined my leg. It would have taken less than a minute and I am certain the muscle and bone would have been very tender. Had I turned back then and there I believe I would have recovered within a few days and continued on. But, we all know what they say about hindsight.
I can’t thank the hiking community enough for the outpouring of support and assistance, not to mention the incredible enthusiasm. The generous donations that have been made to the Foundation I founded upon the death of my son, Dominic, reach very deeply.
The incredible effort put in by Jack Coleman regarding the social media and fund-raising arm of this project is a testimony to a deep friendship that was forged at the time of Dominic’s passing 16 years ago. During that difficult time we hiked together weekly and Jack was a rock. The Foundation, under Jack’s unwavering stewardship, has raised more than $150,000 since its inception. Jack agreed to be my logistics manager and then he created the through-hike’s website to which he either contributed the content or pushed me to do so. Jack worked very hard and smart on this project. He was with me all the way all of the time. He managed the fund-raising arm of the project and has been coordinating the timing and movement of the many people who have signed up to help out. I feel worse for Jack than for myself regarding this outcome. I can’t shake the feeling that I have let him down.
Right from the get-go, my wife Sylvie has been incredible with her loving support. She bent her considerable organizational skills to ensure that all the moving parts of this complex project were going to mesh smoothly. She handled the re-supply logistics, which enabled Jack to focus on everything else. She had a 3-ring binder with pages of notes that, along with that day’s map, accompanied each day of the project. She would say things like, “on day 9 you will need one more base layer shirt than you have planned. On day 12 I can meet you with two Nalgenes of hot water.” Her encouragement throughout the training phase was unwavering.
As many of you reading know, the ADK High Peaks Foundation and my fund-raising projects are born of our family tragedy. We lost Dominic to an avalanche 16 years ago while he was back-country skiing in Lake Louise, Alberta. Sylvie and I lost a son but our two other boys, Jean-Philippe and Daniel each lost a brother. JP and Daniel follow me and support me in these projects, which involve the whole family
I would like to thank Joey Goliber for partnering with me on Esther and Whiteface and Chris Martin for joining me on Giant and for being such a good ear while I agonized over whether to continue or bail. The amazing Inge Aiken surprised me on Whiteface. She skied up the toll road and then ran up the trail to the summit for a hello and hugs. That gave both Joey and I a huge lift. Viviane Arcand came in with Sylvie and met me on the trail as I came off Blueberry and set up my camp (her tent), gave me snacks and heated up a pot of home-made chili on her stove. The trail from Porter to Marcy Field was a dream to follow because Donna Merrill, Barbara Ann Place and Jay Brooks broke it out and maintained it. Marie-Josée Ouellet, bless her generous heart, signed on for the toughest sections of hiking and never backed down. I don’t know if she is disappointed or relieved.
I would also like to mention the dean of Adirondack hiking, Joe Bogardus. Joe and I have done more hikes together than I can count. Steady Joe has logged more trail miles and summits with me during my projects than anyone. In winter he always knows what the trails conditions will be like and what gear to bring. Thank you Joe.
People were lined up for every segment of this project with re-supplies, trail-breaking plans and partnering. Now that a full day has gone by since I stopped, the “what could have/should have been” is hitting me a lot harder than I thought it would. I suddenly feel disoriented and aimless. On the other hand, hiking is a recreational activity, not something we do for “king and country” and so I’ll slowly get over it. Right now I am sad but I am safe and I will heal physically and mentally. And just like that other guy said, “I’ll be back”.
Thank you everyone for your heart-warming comments and continuing with the project in its modified form.”
However the volunteer community formed to support Neil has not yet given up completely. Many have offered to complete the remaining peaks before the end of winter, December 21st in his honor as they are as committed to the effort as Neil. We have dubbed those participants going forward as Team Neil.
We will keep track and post updates on the Facebook page as each peak is summitted by these amazing people.
We are Happy to announce that through everyone’s gracious generosity we have reached our initial goal of $5,000 but we are not done yet!
Our hope was to be able to donate at least $2,500 to the Forest Ranger Foundation. We have just raised that to $3,000 base and every dollar above the five thousand already raised will go directly to that very worthy cause. Our new goal (for now) is $7,500 which would net the Forest Ranger Foundation a tidy $5,500!
This coming February our co-founder Neil Luckhurst will attempt to do a Through Hike of the 46 high peaks. We call it a hybrid since it is not totally unsupported, we have asked for volunteers who will hike in re-supplies of food, clothing and at times shelter on 8 different occasions. However once started he will hike all 228+ miles and 71,800 feet in elevation without ever stepping into a house or automobile along the way starting at Mt. Esther continuously till his finish on Seward within a planned schedule of 19 days.
This will be the major fundraising event for the ADK Highpeaks Foundation as we look to continue our support of organizations that provide a benefit to the Adirondack Forest Preserve and our continued mission on the Fire Tower and Trail maintenance on Mt. Adams. It is our hope to provide a significant portion of the money raised to the Forest Rangers Foundation to help offset the out-of-pocket expenses our Rangers incur yearly for gear, apparel and training.
Donations in US Dollars
Donations in Canadian Dollars