How Do We Measure Success

by Randy Pierce

Achieving the summit of Mount Washington on our Inaugural 2020 Vision Quest hike was a tremendous success. Reaching the lives of many people with our tale and our message is an overwhelming and hopefully ever-increasing success. Having the incredible experience of the journey, the struggle and the accomplishment is an unmitigated success, and stands as an example of what I think is the essence of my very fortunate life.

Over the last day, I’ve been evaluating a particular aspect of our journey. It’s something that challenged us to look at success with new eyes. It’s a facet of the trip about which I’m incredibly proud.

Our plan was to climb the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail to AMC’s Lakes of the Clouds Hut.  There we would evaluate the time, the weather, and the group’s condition and then either summit Washington and return to the hut or summit Monroe (a closer peak) and return to the hut. On the second day we would summit whichever of the two we had missed and return to the appropriate trailhead either via the Jewell trail or the Edmands trail.

On Sunday July 4, we spent 8 pretty challenging and amazingly fantastic hours working the 2.4 miles to Lakes of the Clouds. We had all exerted significant amounts of energy to reach the hut. Doing the math, we saw clearly that making a Washington summit attempt that evening would be a hefty challenge. Washington was a 1.4 mile journey up some challenging and new (to me) hiking terrain. We anticipated that at our speed, the round trip time would be near to the 8 hours we’d just spent going a similar distance. For both time and exertion reasons, we agreed to forego a summit bid that evening. We were also well aware that this decision had a very serious impact on how much work remained ahead of us. We knew there would be much to address during our evening evaluation, but in the meantime, we decided to enjoy ourselves. Our crew had two folks and one dog take the resting option while the rest of us made for the peak of Monroe with no packs and minimal equipment. We did that .6 mile journey in 2 hours counting time to celebrate at the summit pin.

After dinner we had a serious talk about our prospects. We were looking at a roughly 14-hour hike minimum for Monday if we wanted to achieve the Washington crown and get back down to the trailhead. I had done such a day in the Pemigewasset Wilderness with the UNH Outdoor Education class. I realized how tremendously challenging that type of day was for everyone. We also needed to consider that at the end of the hike our group was facing a three hour drive home. These factors combined to create a significant amount of risk, both on and off the trail. We thought about what we were accomplishing and what we had learned from the experience. We had considerable confidence we could shave off several hours in future journeys with a slightly different approach to a few things. Most importantly, we knew we had an amazing experience in full swing and it would not be lessened by choosing a safer approach. Our quintessential message is that we are always reaching higher and savoring the adventure; putting that much additional risk into the journey wasn’t worthy of us or our goals.  We listed multiple options, did some quick research and then shared our thoughts and ultimately came to a decision together.

Sitting outside the hut in the windy mountain twilight, we decided as a group to set our sights on the Washington summit – visible to us from our vantage point – early the next morning after the AMC breakfast. We anticipated roughly four hours of climbing and then left room for some evaluation, but would likely use the Cog railway to transport our crew down in whatever shifts would be required to get us all back to the trailhead. This meant that neither Washington nor Monroe would qualify as mountains climbed on my list of the 48 because that requires you climb to the summit and hike back down as well. We knew this. In a moment I think none of us will ever forget, we unanimously vowed that we would not only return to the mountain and achieve the requirements but would do it with our very same group who had bonded in so many life-enriching ways through this trip.

Tonight I was reminded of a quote regarding the Apollo 13 mission; it was termed “a Successful Failure.” While we did not fulfill the requirements to add these mountains to our list of the 48, we were living our credo for Team 2020. We had savored an incredible experience, driven ourselves to reach incredible heights of both geography, determination and community. We had accomplished much and were already set to reach higher still when next we return to this mountain.

The mountain’s original name was “Agiocochook ” in the language of the Abenaki Indians; it means “Home of the Great Spirit.” There is nobody in our group who doubts that all eleven of us in this journey proved that name quite true. We all had tremendous spirit in our journey and in our accomplishment. When we say it is about the journey and not the destination we offer the success of this trip as living proof of our beliefs.


Experience! My Initial Thoughts

by Randy Pierce

An endeavor of this magnitude is potentially life-transforming. The reality did not disappoint at all. I’m home safe and sound from the summit of Mt. Washington. Surprisingly, I have also only begun to scratch the surface in evaluating all the impactful moments. I do intend to give a detailed tour of our Washington experience eventually. Right now, though, I hope to share the highlights and reflections foremost in my mind.

I’m fortunate to have a natural ability to truly savor the experiences of adventure. This is of particular importance when the adventure includes tremendous challenge. Hiking blind is as much a mental as physical challenge. I needed to tap deep reserves of determination and will to push through many points on our journey up Washington. But if I’d spent each and every moment driving myself with unrelenting intensity, I’d have missed many

marvelous moments. That’s my gift I guess: that amidst exhaustion I can pause and summon enough focus to fully invest in a moment’s magic. I often partake in those moments through companions, whether it’s the camaraderie of trail talk, an exclamation of awe or a descriptive tour of the splendor that surrounds us. Even when my companions are silent, a pause can give me an opportunity for introspection, to let my senses soak in the moment. Whether I’m taking a break for rest, to deliver well-deserved praise to Quinn, or just for a sip of water and reflection, a few seconds can be enough to expand my awareness of my own human potential as well as the potency of the world around me.

Friday our journey began with a stay at AMC’s Highland Center in the Bretton Woods region. We gave a small presentation there on Friday evening, which was reasonably well-attended. Tracy managed the audio and video components while I spoke about my approach to the experience of life, and the particular poignancy of one’s “point of view” in both life and the hiking community. There were many questions, one of many signs that the talk was well-received by the broad range of ages represented in the audience.

The next morning, Tracy and I hiked to nearby Ripley Falls to enjoy the amazing weather and the astounding location, and to test out the pack and boots for our impending Washington hike. My feet must bear more work than most due to the nature of hiking blind. I have to hand it to the folks at EMS because the “Super Feet” boot inserts they recommended made for a vastly-improved hiking experience. Despite having heavily loaded the pack, it was a fantastic trip and the falls were glorious. I even tested out the new Teva Itunda water shoes which were so fantastic they took me where even Tracy and Quinn didn’t venture! They are now an integral part of my gear given the many water crossings here on these Mountains. The trip to Ripley was a highlight of Saturday.

The remainder of the day we luxuriated in the mountain paradise that is the Highland Center. Walking through the many tributes to the mountains, hikers and nature scattered throughout the property nicely set a mood of reflection. Our Team 2020 companions began to arrive and the building excitement carried us quickly through to our departure early the next day.

Sunday July 4th we celebrated independence by starting up the Ammonoosuc trail. We were loaded with energy, enthusiasm, hope, determination and excitement. Quickly we found our trail rhythm and the reality of the task at hand began to settle in. Meeting soldiers from the Army and Air Force on their return trip from the summit, American flag in hand, was a nice reminder of the significance of the date. Their words of personal encouragement for our task will remain with me as well.

The balance of the day was a long and hard climb with many boulders and rock challenges through the deep forest. Often, I sing the praises – all deserved – of my doggedly determined and devoted Guide Quinn. Many are the astounding details of his devotion and skill which buoyed my every step during this expedition, but for now suffice it to say that he was elated for the trip and on his game. As always, Quinn’s work, so moving to me, gets my top attention; just barely second is the assistance, love and devotion of  Tracy, my fiancée, and the rest of the crew who were so determined to patiently work with us through all the challenges. The arduous hike repeatedly offered both setbacks and conquests. We all learned much, separately and as a group, as we ascended past the Gem Pool, the Overlook and many cascades. Ultimately, we paid 8 hours of work to achieve 2.4 miles of ground, 5,050 feet of elevation, and the celebration of reaching the Lakes of the Clouds hut. You know how much work is involved if 2.4 miles takes 8 hours!

Some of the group needed a rest and Quinn absolutely was in need of some down time, so he stayed at the hut while I took to a human guide for the second time that day. Before the hut, Kara had Guided me through a series of slab sections requiring hands and feet to climb, and now it was our hike leader Carrie’s turn to Guide me as we achieved the summit of nearby Mount Monroe. We felt surprisingly light and free, having left our heavy packs at the hut, and made a power ascent and descent in time for dinner!

The evening at the Lake of the Clouds held much magic. The majesty of a spectacular sunset silenced in awe all onlookers and at its close drew applause of appreciation from all the gathered and appreciative hikers! The Fourth of July topped itself off with weather so clear (an extremely rare thing for the region) that we could view fireworks launched from communities all over New Hampshire from our 5,000 foot vantage point – incredible!

Monday morning we made a summit surge to Washington. The entirety of the route traveled above tree line and over a boulder-strewn mass of Quartz-ridden rock which was truly unlike any other section of hike I’ve ever experienced. Our group came together with a conviction that was touching and inspiring. We were jubilant over that last quarter mile of build-up, knowing our success was imminent. Quinn was a marvel once again and we covered the distance to the summit in two hours and fifty-four minutes of work. I cannot imagine how Quinn can guide me so expertly and efficiently – but he does. We did it.

There’s so much more to say about the accomplishment and the entirety of the experience. I’ll offer the full details in stages and look forward to sharing the greater story ahead. I remain still overwhelmed at our accomplishment. I’m incredibly thankful to have the support which is such an essential component of this adventure, and so very hopeful at the prospect of many more adventures and experiences ahead!

I hope to give you more detailed insights on this particular trip on the morrow! For now, the Mighty Quinn and I are putting our paws up.

Be Well!
& the Mighty Quinn


Ground Control to Major Quinn! Musings on staying behind…

by Rachel Morris

No more than 10 people are allowed to climb as a group in the Whites, and the inaugural Washington trip is capped, filled with an intriguing mix of people, from our web designer, Jenifer, an experienced hiker whose recent musings about Washington can be found here, to our film producer, Kat, and her team. She’s coordinating the crew working on the first of what we hope is many professional film shorts we’re developing. Carrie, the 2020 hikes coordinator, is lead on this one, though I realize I’m not sure who her second is. They always hike with a leader and a second, in case the party needs to split up for any reason. Kara, our business manager, is up there, as are, of course, Randy, the Mighty Quinn (good thing four paws don’t make him count twice), and Tracy, who does double duty as 2020’s manager of finance and social media coordinator (triple duty, if you count the recent addition of her role as fiancée).

We’ve been planning the 2020 project for what seems like both a long time and no time at all – development meetings, both face to face and virtual, extensive phone conversations, thousands of emails, a wiki behind the scenes to track our many programs (adeptly coordinated by our project manager, Kim), publicity and marketing to consider (managed by Jim, with a strong initial boost thanks to Jennifer’s hard work), and, of course, discussions about our focus and core philosophies: How do we go about fulfilling our mission statement? Inspire. Educate. Challenge. Support.

These are lofty goals, and they are ones we take seriously, both for ourselves and for those who follow along and get involved in 2020, directly or indirectly.

Would I like to be on that mountain with the team? Absolutely. Going into this project, however, I knew that I have my own challenges to overcome. I haven’t been truly in shape since I bike toured parts of Europe as a teenager. Added to that, I’ve been battling my third extended case of Lyme over the course of two years’ time, and am coming to terms with some big shifts in my life after selling a business I’d been responsible for nearly a decade. I’m not ready to climb mountains. Yet.

But this project IS about inspiration, and it’s hard to be around Randy and Quinn and not be inspired. And it’s not just Randy, but everyone involved – each of the amazing individuals I’m honored to work with brings new inspiration to me, whether through their skill set, work ethic, creativity, or enthusiasm. Education? I’ve never felt so behind on my homework as working with this crew. Each and every day, I learn something new from someone on the project – tools I can use in my everyday life and work. Support? You betcha. This team backs each others’ plays like, well, how can I not say it…the Patriots back Brady. And all this during pre-season!

I’ve set my own lofty goal for the 2020 team and for myself, as fundraising manager: I want to raise enough to help raise a guide dog per mountain Randy climbs, so that 48 other people can experience the amazing world expanding opportunities a dog like Quinn provides. It costs roughly $45,000 to raise such a pup, and that cost isn’t passed on to the owners – it’s all through donations and grants and so on, so this is no small challenge. But that’s my challenge to the team and to our supporters. It’s not the one that’s foremost on my mind today.

Today, we’re officially done with pre-season and nearing kickoff of game one today – the Washington climb. The 10 member hike team is checking their packs one last time, going over the lists that have been made, taking a practice hike to stay limber and warmed up for tomorrow…and I find that the challenge has been set before me, after all.

I realize I don’t want to be ground crew for all 47 of the mountains yet to come…I need to figure out how to achieve through my own adversities and climb. It may not be this year, but perhaps the next, when I’m ready to see Quinn in action live, and hit the trails not only vicariously, but as part of one of the Team 2020 hike crews. Working with a team like this, I can’t fail. Ground control to Major Quinn…commencing countdown…engine’s on.

-Rachel Morris


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