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Reaching new heights


Winnisquam junior tackles New Hampshire's 4,000-footers


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by Joshua Spaulding
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Sports Editor - Salmon Press Newspapers

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Lucas Robdau poses at the summit of Mount Washington during his Presidential Traverse this summer. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
November 26, 2020
REGION — What did you accomplish during the pandemic?

Whatever it may be, it's a safe bet that Lucas Robdau took it a step (or several thousand steps) further.

The 16-year-old Winnisquam junior decided in May, after a few months of remote learning amidst the lockdown, that he was going to try to hike all of New Hampshire's 4,000-foot mountains.

And, less than six months later, he reached that goal, hitting all of the 4,000-foot peaks.

A soccer player at Winnisquam, Robdau saw his summer soccer season cancelled, so in addition to working, he was looking for something to do to stay active and break the doldrums of quarantine.

"It definitely felt good to say that I did that," Robdau said. "It's pretty cool."

Hiking is nothing new to the teenager, who grew up hiking with his father, and he started looking at the 4,000-footers as a possible option last year and the cancellation of seemingly everything in the spring and into the summer gave him the chance to tackle them.

So, he asked his father if they could go hike a 4,000-footer together in May and the duo set out to hike Mount Tecumseh in Waterville Valley. His father thought it would be a good place to start and while snow forced his father to turn around midway into the hike, the teenager pushed through and reached the summit.

"I just fell in love with being out there," he said.

From there, he started putting in longer hikes, including his third and fourth peaks, which were Passaconaway and Whiteface. That involved a 10-mile day, which was a challenge out of the gate, but became easier as he moved along.

"I was tentative starting out, but as I did more and more, I got more and more into it," Robdau said. "I knew some of the trails and my dad taught me how to navigate, so I was pretty comfortable going out there alone."

Since he liked being out there all alone, he started getting up really early in the morning, driving to his mountain of choice and then starting out on the trail to catch sunrise at the peak. Usually, the only people he would see were on the way down.

The times he was hiking was also timed perfectly with when Appalachian Trail thru-hikers were on the trail, so he met a lot of them, including one woman he met who was an ultra runner and was going northbound, finishing the trail in 51 days. Because she was injured, she was walking but in her first few days, she was doing more than 65 miles in a day.

"That was the most impressive hiker I've met," Robdau said.

Robdau noted that his most memorable day was probably doing the Presidential Traverse, which he did in one day. He started at 5:30 a.m. after camping in Gorham the previous night and started at the Appalachian Trail head. He made it up Mount Madison by 8 a.m. and continued on, hitting Mount Adams, Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, Mount Monroe, Mount Eisenhower, Mount Pierce and Mount Jackson.

"It was a perfect day," Robdau said, noting the only thing he didn't like was the massive amount of people at the top of Mount Washington. Since everyone was looking for ways to beat quarantine, there were a lot of people driving to the summit. His mother actually hiked up to meet him and his father drove up, just in case he wasn't feeling ready to keep going.

"But, I felt good to go and kept on going," he said.

Another highlight was the final trip, which took him over the Zealand-Bonds traverse and was the only overnight trip.

Robdau started on Route 302 north of Crawford Notch and hiked up Zealand and across Mount Guyot before staying the night at a campsite just ahead of West Bond. He hiked up West Bond to watch the sunrise, then came back to the site and spent the night before hitting up Bond and Bondcliff the next day, coming out in Lincoln. He also encountered his first snow of the season on that hike, which ended on Oct. 4.

He prepared for the overnight hike by carrying more weight earlier in the summer to get used to a heavier load.

After all was said and done, Robdau looked back with fondness on what he accomplished but noted he wasn't done yet.

"There's a lot of times I'd be done the hike and have to drive back to go to work," he said. "But it was worth it, it paid off, it felt good.

"And I'm not done hiking," he added, noting that since he finished the 4,000-footers, he's hiked Mount Cardigan at sunrise and also has done Baldface.

Robdau is also looking at doing some sections of the Appalachian Trail in the coming year. Over April break, he's hoping to do a section of the trail in the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, a seven-day overnight. He's also planning on hiking the Long Trail, which runs the length of Vermont, next summer and after graduation, he's hoping to possibly tackle the Appalachian Trail in its whole.

"I look at it as more than just checking peaks off a list," Robdau said, noting that his father gave him some solid advice. "It's not about what you see when you get there, it's about how you get there. It's the journey, not the destination."

Needless to say, it's a safe bet that Robdau's journey is going to have plenty of peaks.

Sports Editor Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 279-4516, ext. 155 or josh@salmonpress.news.

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