576 Peaks in a Year – FKT – Philip Carcia 

White Mountains New Hampshire USA
Philip Carcia
August 23, 2018
White Mountains, NH, USA
July 7, 2019
White Mountains, NH, USA

Philip Carcia hiked all of New Hampshire’s 4,000-foot peaks every month for a year.

To complete it, one must summit all 48 peaks higher than 4,000 feet on the Appalachian Mountain Club’s White Mountains list 12 times in a year (completing each set of 48 once per calendar month). That adds up to 576 total peak summits in a year, and over 2,700 miles of hiking, with more than one million feet of elevation gain.

The vast majority of those who complete the project take years, often decades. Prior to Philip’s attempt, only 84 people had ever done it, and the only person who had completed the grid in a single year was Sue Johnston, the legendary ultrarunner and hiking pioneer, in 2016.

He started in August 2018, hiking all 48 peaks over the last nine days of the month. Then he did a round every month from September to June and finished with another big push over the first week of July 2019.

Philip had spent years planning the project. Between January and August of 2018, he hiked Mount Wachusett in Massachusetts 300 times, running up and down the peak anywhere from two to six times per day to prepare himself for the rigors of the Whites. He lived in a tiny house and worked in a hostel for most of the hours he wasn’t hiking.

Philip not only became the second to accomplish the feat but, more significantly, he set the fastest known time (FKT) for completing the grid with 319 days of elapsed time, beating the previous record by five weeks.

His first significant exposure to the outdoors occurred on a field trip to nearby Mount Wachusett, in Massachusetts, at age 16. Reaching the top and seeing the expansive view of the surrounding landscape was an eye-opening experience. He’d never imagined he could summit a peak. What more was he capable of?

That question drove him to keep pushing the envelope further. Between 2006 and 2013, he completed a thru-hike every year, starting with the Midstate Trail in central Massachusetts and eventually tackling the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. The pursuit became an obsession that he structured his entire life around.

“I’d come home, and I’d deliver pizzas, I’d clean houses, I’d edit videos, I would literally do anything to make a quick buck and put some money in my pocket to get this adventure fund a little bit beefier,” Philip said.

When his father suddenly died of cancer it was a turning point in his life. Entering his thirties, he began considering his own mortality and how he wanted to look back on life when his time came. He knew he couldn’t rest until he felt he’d given himself fully to the mountains. He also discovered that he didn’t have to travel thousands of miles from home to accomplish that. He could find it in the White Mountains, the peaks he grew up with and that meant the most to him.

Philip began on August 23, 2018, with the White Mountain Direttissima, a continuous, 240-mile thru-hike of the 4,000-footers.

In order to whittle the grid down to its minimum time, he needed to hike all 48 peaks as quickly as possible at the end of the first month of his grid attempt. He’d have to knock out another fast completion of the ascents again at the beginning of the last month. The Direttissima offered the most efficient way of doing that.

The Direttissima pushed Philip to his limit. He endured long days and soul-crushing climbs and was repeatedly drenched by torrential downpours. But he was also rewarded with beautiful views, and after one particularly rainy and challenging day, from his perch atop Mount Jefferson, he looked out and saw the sun set above an ocean of clouds, with the peaks of the northern Presidentials poking out like islands.

He finished the Direttissima in nine days and took a week off from hiking to recover before restarting in September.

It wasn’t all sunshine. Philip was stuck with two long traverses at the end of October.
In late November, his truck got stuck in the snow near Mount Cabot, one of the most remote peaks on the list. That foiled an attempt to beat an oncoming snowstorm, forcing him to return for another last-minute slog on the final day of the month.

Whenever he got low, the tattoo of his father’s name helped remind him of how lucky he was to get to to chase his dreams.

It wasn’t until April—when he was nearly through the worst-weather months and could see the end in sight—that he finally spoke publicly for the first time in an appearance on the Trail Tales podcast, which features interviews and conversations with thru-hikers, peak baggers, and others.

Four years after he’d first thought about the single-year grid, Philip’s dream had come true. His year in the White Mountains was the best of his life, and after focusing on the next peak for so long, now he finally had a chance to look ahead.

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