The Summit Scaling Subculture of Highpointing

Highpointing is a sport, or hobby, in which people aim to climb the highest point in different geographical areas, like the highest point in all 50 states, or the highest points in one’s home country or continent, or even the world. There’s even a club for highpointers where they can share adventures and advice. But for American highpointers who wish to scale the highest peaks of all 50 states, be aware that some are higher than others. Thomas Harper explored some of those peaks and reported his experiences at Atlas Obscura.

To take part in the journey, one does not have to be an expert mountain climber or outdoorsman. Of the 50 state highpoints, 30 are simple drive-ups and/or require a hike of less than two miles. However, since most of the points are “off the beaten path,” a guidebook or article and a good sense of direction are necessary.

Reaching the loftier and more remote highpoints, though, requires longer hikes. However, most of them can be done in one day by someone in good shape. For people getting fit, these hikes make great goals to measure one’s progress. While climbing Mount Marcy in New York’s Adirondacks, I nearly gave up at mile 6 of the 7.2 mile hike, but I saw the summit just one mile away and 500 feet up. I did say to myself, “You should have eaten more vegetables.” Now 30 pounds lighter from that day, I wish to conquer even more challenging peaks.

Mount Marcy is 5,343 feet above sea level. In contrast, it’s not so hard to visit Mount Sunflower, which is the highest point in Kansas. We all know that Kansas is flatter than a pancake, and Mount Sunflower, on the western edge of the state, is close to the lowest point in Colorado.

See more state highpoints, and read about the people who do this, at Atlas Obscura. The sidebar has individual articles about many of the peaks.  

(Images credit: Thomas Harper)

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