Patricia: Hiking big peaks with little girls

I first heard about Patricia and her daughters Alex and Sage from Adventure Parents.   This trio lives in New Hampshire, and is in the habit of hiking to the tallest peaks around–like, all of the tallest peaks.  When Adventure Parents posted this video on their site, I was instantly awestruck… completely blown away by both Patricia and her adventure-loving daughters..

I’ll also admit to a certain degree of peak-bagging-with-kids envy, because my oldest child (5), despite my best efforts, does not (yet) share my passion for putting peaks in bags (check out question #6 if you experience this same issue).

I had so many questions for her after I watched this video, so I immediately tracked her down and asked if she would be willing to be interviewed. These questions are only the tip of the iceberg, but I have a feeling the rest of my quesitons will be answered when I read her book Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure (more about the book here).

Thanks for doing the interview Patricia. And thanks for inspiring your fellow outsidemoms.

1. What made you (and your girls) decide to start hiking peaks?

In the spring of 2008, I read information about the Four Thousand Footer Club at a scenic parking area off NH’s Route 112.  On a whim, I asked then-5-year-old Alex if she wanted to try hiking one of the “big” mountains.  She immediately responded with a yes.  At that time, Alex was a nonstop bundle of energy and I was curious about how far she’d want to hike.

2. Did you hike as a child?  A young lady?

As a child? No, I never had the opportunity (my parents weren’t hikers).

A young lady? Traditional hiking, no.  Long walks of 7-10 miles two or three times a week, yes.  During my 20s, I lived in cities (first Chicago, then New York) and I walked everywhere.  I’d take long, all-day walks to clear my head and contemplate whatever was going on in my life at that moment.  When I moved to Cambridge, MA for graduate school, I’d walk from the main Harvard campus in Cambridge to the Harvard Medical School in Boston several times a week

3. You mention in your video that there are many lessons, and many life lessons to be learned on the trail.  Can you give us an example of a lesson your girls have learned from all these peak bagging experiences?

Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure is organized by life lessons illustrated by specific hikes.  One of these lessons is “Ignore the Naysayers.”  There will always be people who try to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do.  Such people have their own rigid ideas of what is or isn’t appropriate behavior; they take their own life experiences and attempt to map them onto everybody else.  When someone comes along who defies their expectations, they become either dumbfounded or angry.

We experienced someone who was angry with me on the trail because Alex was hiking up a “grown-up” mountain.  This person kept telling Alex that she shouldn’t be on the trail, that we should turn around and go home.  The encounter infuriated Alex, who was doing well and feeling strong, but it was a good opportunity for me to tell her that some grown-ups are point-blank wrong, and that she should ignore the naysayers and believe in herself.

There will always be people like that in your life — people who try to tell you they know best when they really don’t have a clue and should keep their mouths shut.  You’ve just got to ignore them, listen to your own instincts, and proceed according to your own set of rules.

4. Out of all the peaks you’ve climbed, do you have a favorite? Why?

My favorite peak is Mt. Tecumseh. It’s one of the smaller Four Thousand Footers (4Ks) and it barely has views; most people don’t care for it.  However, it was Alex’s first 4K, it was my first 4K, and, later, it was Sage’s first 4K.  It was even my dog’s first 4K!  I’m therefore quite attached to that mountain for sentimental reasons.

5. How much pre-planning do you do for these hikes, and do your girls carry all of their own ‘gear’?  It must be quite the endeavor for you, too…

The biggest aspect of pre-planning is watching the weather forecasts — especially during the winter!  There are several higher summit forecasts I watch religiously.  We often decide which mountain we’re going to hike at the very last minute — sometimes, that very morning — because the forecasts are rarely accurate more than 24 hours in advance.  If we’re planning to hike above treeline for an extended amount of time, that means we need to plan bail-out routes and carry more gear, just in case the weather turns unpredicatably sour (as it so often does in the Whites).  I always carry enough gear to safely spend an unexpected night out, and I carry a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).

The girls carry their own changes of base layers, their own food and water, their own chemical body and hand warmers (even in the summer), hats, gloves, balaclavas, facemasks, goggles, and certain emergency gear.  In the winter, they also carry their own microspikes.  Next winter, they’ll carry their own snowshoes and crampons as well (I’ve carried the snowshoes and crampons in the past).

6. And, what every parent wants to know: Do your girls ever whine when your out hiking?

No.  The girls hike because they want to hike.  We go when they want to go and we stay home when they’d rather do something else.

The desire to pursue the 4K lists came from within the girls.  In 2008, I suggested trying one of the mountains for the heck of it, but Alex quickly became convinced she could do the entire 4K list.  Later, Sage followed suit.  I’m basically the girls’ sherpa; if there’s any whining on a hike, it comes from me at the end of the day when we’ve still got two miles to go and my back wants to fall off.  :)


8 Comments so far

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  1. What an inspiring story! Thanks for sharing it. I’ve put a link to this blog on my site (

    • Rebecca – Thanks for sharing the link. I was pleased to become aquatinted with your blog just now. Good job!

  2. I love this video–I was amazed to think that little kids could hike such big peaks, but, really, why not? That’s a question we should probably ask ourselves more often: Why not?

    • Liv – I agree! But I’m starting to wonder if perhaps the problem with my 5 year old and hiking peaks is that we’ve lived by 3 major mountain ranges in is life time, all are among the steepest in the Nation. Maybe the key here in the west is to start with small hills… ;)

  3. Lauren

    Fantastic story! I had heard a little about Patricia, Sage, and Alex but had not yet seen the video. I really appreciated your additional questions Linds, and I am so excited for the girls to get out there and do everything they can dream of. This is very inspiring :)

    • Lauren – I see great things ahead for you and the twins, I can totally see you doing something like this. The great thing about 2 girls hiking who are the same age is that perhaps there will be some competition you can play off there… ;) I already notice that Ari picks up the pace with hiking with Isaac because Isaac has A LOT more hustle!

  4. Excellent post! Speaking of your son not sharing the love of hiking yet, much as we try, our daughter is really hit-and-miss. Sometimes she charges to the top or end, other times she asks to be carried. Kids, like adults, accomplish whatever they decide they want to accomplish. Great follow-up questions, too. Loved it.

  5. Beth

    Love this! “Ignore the naysayers!”


    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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