A View from the Summit
Ron Bleday and his wife Maureen summit Mt. Moosilauke, achieve their goal of climbing eight 4,000-foot peaks in 2012.
A favorite part of summer camp for Ron Bleday, MD, section chief for the Division of Colorectal Surgery, was ascending mountains in the wilderness. As Bleday's days as a camper morphed into long shifts as a resident, his passion for summits got sidetracked by surgeries, and for the next couple of decades, his life revolved around his work and his young children.
When Bleday and his wife became empty nesters a few years ago, they went searching for activities they could enjoy together. Bleday's wife had a similar love of hiking during her childhood, and over the last several years, they've spent their summers pursuing summits with an ambitious goal: climbing all 46 peaks over 4,000 feet in New Hampshire.
How did you decide to set your goal of climbing the 46 peaks in N.H. over 4,000 feet?
It's always talked about, and I know other people who have done it, so we thought it would be great to get them all done over the course of four or five years. And then there are all the 4,000-foot peaks throughout the rest of New England to think about next. But right now, we're working on just N.H. We've done 23 already. You can do a lot of the 4,000-footers as day trips, but some of the mountains really have to be done in overnight trips. This year, we're doing the northern Presidentials, and we'll probably also do one trip in the Pemigewasset Wilderness.
What is your favorite memory from climbing the first 23 peaks?
My wife and I first set a goal to climb eight 4,000-footers in 2012, and on Columbus Day weekend, we reached that goal with Moosilauke. We got someone to take our picture at the summit, and I realized what a great way this was to spend time. It's fun, it keeps you healthy, and New Hampshire is just so beautiful.
Do you have a favorite season for climbing?
I only climb in the summer and autumn. People say it's great in the winter, and on a nice day I imagine it's terrific, but I ski in the winter so I haven't tried that yet.
Can you recommend a good book about climbing?
If people want to scare themselves, there's a great book called "Not Without Peril." It talks about all of the people who have died on Mt. Washington and in the Presidential range because they tried climbing these mountains in wintertime or late in the day. If you have any common sense at all, you're not going to fall into that group. But it's a wonderfully entertaining book.
Which 4,000 footer would you recommend to someone new to this hobby?
Lafayette and Liberty in the Franconia Range are beautiful and easy to access for a day trip. There's an event each year on the weekend closest to Sept. 11 called "Flags over the 48", where teams of people bring big flags to the top of each 4,000-footer, raise them at noontime, and a helicopter flies around and takes pictures of all the people on top of all the peaks. We did this last year on Mt. Osceola, and it was great.