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Highpointers: Peak Baggers of a Different Sort

Written by Alan Ritter February, 2002 

Highpointers: Summits of the States
Logo used by permission of the
Highpointers Club

Everyone, it seems, has his or her ìlist.î† Whether the PCS, SPS, DPS, Colorado Fourteeners,
or the Seven Summits, there are lists for every climber.† Highpointers have
their own, the geographic high points of the fifty states.† The state summits
range from Britton Hillís 345í (Florida) to the summit of McKinley/Denali at
20,320í, the high point of Alaska and of the North American continent.† Of the
fifty state summits, only four are taller than 14,000í (Alaska, California,
Colorado and Washington) and thirteen are higher than 10,000í.† At least half
are ìdrive ups,î involving less than a quarter mile of walking, generally on
paved or graveled paths.

Highpointers Club ( href=""> was founded
by Jack Longacre and now boasts 2,372 members.† The current club chairman, Roger
Rowlett, maintains an excellent reference site (
for looking up highpoints, trip reports and various related trivia, like the
lowest points of the states.† According to club records, a handful over
100 climbers have completed the list of the fifty state highpoints.† The club
holds an annual meeting at one of the state highpoints, rotating among the four
geographic regions.

What is the appeal of a list of mostly ìeasyî (one
might arguably say ìtrivialî) hummocks, hilltops and only a handful of true
mountains?† A certain wanderlust, combined with curiosity about the odd corners
of the United States, is a big part of it.† You definitely see areas of the
country you would never otherwise think of visiting when you embark on a highpointing
expedition.† Fortunately, the eastern 2/3 of the highpoints cluster well enough
that combining anywhere from four to a dozen in a week long car trip is feasible.†
Quite a few involve pleasant day hikes through some picturesque terrain.† There
is always the element of risk to add some adrenaline to the mix.† The highpoint
of Delaware, although the second lowest at 448í, is frequently referred to as
the second most dangerous (after Denali, of course).† Why?† It lies within an
intersection in suburban Wilmington, so taking your summit photos requires dodging
traffic as well as facing the rigors of extreme elevation.

There are three ìdefinitiveî guidebooks to the 50
state highpoints:† Fifty State Summits, by Paul L. Zumwalt, Highpoint
Adventures: A Pocket Guide to the 50 State Highpoints
by Charlie and Diane
Winger and Highpoints of the United States, by Don W. Holmes.† The Winger
and Holmes books are more current and are available through† All
three are available through the clubís website.† Paul Zumwalt also distributes
his own book and at age 90 is still active in the club.† An earlier book, Highpoints
of the States
, by Frank Ashley, was published in 1970 and is long out of

Who were the first to climb all of the state summits?†
According to Zumwalt, Arthur H. Marshall completed all 48 summits in July 1936,
long before there were 50 States in the Union.† The first 50 state completer
was John V. ìVinî Hoeman.† Hoeman perished in an avalanche on Dhaulagiri in
1969, and the Vin Hoeman Award is a club service award used by the Highpointers
Club honor membersí activities for the club.

Of course, if a short list of 50 summits seems too
easy, you can always start checking off the county highpoints of each
state!† (Trivia question:† What is the county highpoint of Madera County, CA?†
Hint:† There is a certain connection between it and the author of this articleÖ)

Alan Ritter (29 state highpoints and counting)