Commentary as to why Tim has been up to such wintry wackiness
I have been climbing voraciously in the White Mountain region since I was three years old. I finished my first go-round of the four thousand footers when I was fifteen -- with my younger brother, Roger, in tow. By my fortieth birthday, I'd done the complete list again three times -- and Mt. Washington and some of its grand brethren (because they were "there") over 200 times. But I'd never climbed any of them in winter. Then, in 2002, I had major back surgery. During my recuperation I happened to be reading Mike Dickerman and Steve Smith's wonderful guide, The 4000-Footers of the White Mountains, and stumbled across a single luminous paragraph, tucked away in the book's appendices. It reads as follows: "In the winter of 1994-95, Cindy DiSanto, Cathy Goodwin and Steve Martin became the first to scale all the high peaks in one calendar winter -- a feat which requires favorable weather and snow conditions and an understanding boss. They made it even though it took them three tries to reach the summit of Mt. Isolation." To say the least, I was both smitten and intrigued, not to mention a little envious. (And that worried my wife a good deal, as the last thing she wanted was to have her overly obsessive husband traipsing around by himself all winter in mountains that can be, well, less than hospitable in any season.) Moreover, the small aside about the group's three tries at Mt. Isolation became something of a goad, even a talisman. (It haunted me, in fact; I couldn't get it out of my head.) In October of 2003, then, just after I was cleared by my surgeon to resume my hiking career, I happened -- isn't it funny how life seems to hinge sometimes on sheerest coincidence? -- to bump into a quiet, athletic, humbly intelligent climber about my age on Carrigain's Signal Ridge Trail. I was coming down, she was going up. She had a big Doberman for a companion, and her name, it turned out, was Cath Goodwin. The Cath Goodwin, I wondered, the one I'd read about in the Dickerman/Smith guidebook? A shy person by nature, I wasn't about to ask her -- but I was pretty sure she was who I thought she was. And from that point forward (and I've bumped into her several times since, on both winter and summer trails) Cath became for me something of a muse, an inspiration. My first "Winter in the Whites" (I wrote an essay by that title for the Winter 2006 edition of Appalachia) was so terrifying and lonely I never thought, on any of my solo treks, I'd come through it alive, particularly after sustaining frostbite on my face and several fingers and toes during a perilous twenty-below, late-January trek from Pierce to Eisenhower and then back over Pierce to Jackson. But I survived, albeit a wee bit worse for the wear, and the rest, as they say, is history. I've done the "solo 48" in winter four more times in succession since that first wackily innocent experience, and each year has brought new surprises, new beauties, new terrors. And this August I summitted Washington for the 300th time, and recently completed (with a friend's dog) a ninth go-round of the Four Thousand Footers. I'm hoping to write another article for Appalachia sometime soon, and a book about my hiberal experiences sometime in the near future. In the end, though, I owe all my winter foolishness to Cath. As I told her on Carrigain this year -- when we crossed paths on a cold, though lovely, January day -- "You know all of this craziness is all your fault, don't you?"