Every fall for the past 19 years, Hamilton students have flocked to the Adirondacks for 46 Peaks Weekend. Their goal – to have a Hamilton student summit every peak above 4,000 feet in the Adirondacks in the span of a weekend. From September 26-28, beautiful weather aligned with a talented group of leaders and scores of strong participants and for the first time ever, they succeeded – a Hamilton student stood atop every one of the 46 over the course of the weekend.
Throughout the mountains of the Northeast, special significance is given to peaks rising above 4,000 feet in elevation. In the Adirondacks, there are 46 such mountains; hikers try to climb them all with the goal of becoming a “46-er.” In 1995, Hamilton Outing Club (HOC) officers Brett Straten ’96, Ned Stankus ’96, John Slack, ’96 and Erik Jacobson ’97 imagined a special event that would encourage Hamilton students to get out into the fantastic resource that is the Adirondack Park and so 46 Peaks Weekend was conceived. The event has grown over the years but inclement weather, navigational mishaps, or other obstacles have prevented students from climbing all 46 peaks. The previous record stood at 43 peaks summited, a mark first set in 2010 and then repeated again in 2013.
This year more than 170 students took part in 22 different trips. Some left Friday night and returned Sunday, spending both nights in the wilderness and tagging multiple peaks while others went out for day hikes on Saturday or Sunday.
While the weekend is geared toward summiting all 46 peaks, there is much more to it than that. Regardless of whether or not it is successful, “it’s a great opportunity to get as many Hamilton students out in the great fall foliage as possible” said Andrew Jillings, director of outdoor leadership. The weekend also provides students with a chance to meet new people and bond with friends in a very different setting from the normal rhythm of campus life.
The success of the weekend also speaks to the tremendous organizational skills of the HOC officers and the many dedicated student leaders who made the event a possibility. 46 Peaks Weekend is “a truly unique event. No other college has a student event like it. The weekend is run by students, led by students, and made up entirely of student participants,” said Jillings.
As students return to classes, gear is washed and packed away, and pictures are uploaded to Facebook, the Outing Club is already looking ahead to the future. This coming weekend a group of enthusiastic students will take part in leader training, preparing the next generation to lead trips of their own for the next 46 Peaks Weekend and beyond.