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Foolkiller 2010 Complete!

This is the story of the Team FARA Foolkiller climb as told by FA parent Tom Hopkins.  If you'd like, here's a little background

Now, on with the post:

One of the ways we decided to contribute to Team FARA is through an idea my neighbor, Web Barrett, came up with. We had been hiking the White Mountains every summer for the past few years – Web, myself(Tom), Web’s son, Kyle, and Francis. We started with Mount Washington and have covered a few additional 4,000’ + peaks since. (Web’s done most of them already a few times over). This year, we decided to turn the climb into an opportunity to raise awareness and fund research for a cure for FA, by raising the FA banner over at least five 4,000’ peaks. We decide to name the climb the “FoolKiller 2010,” after one of the peaks. This year Clare will round out our five member Team FARA. Our five member team will be hiking 5-8 mountains, all over 4,000 feet, within five days and four nights.

I think none of us realized what we were getting ourselves into.  Even Web.  And he’s a veteran White Mountains hiker.  We’d done some two to three day hikes the past few years, hitting a few 4,000 footers, including Washington, the big daddy of the Whites.  But these treks were scant preparation for what we’d bit off, though we did not know it till we got into it.  We wanted to do something with a bit of an edge to it – something that in some small way respected the incredible achievement of the Team FARA RAAM triumph, our source of inspiration - and which honored the courageous lives of all our FA-ers and families.

It was preceded with signs that I now realize I should have more carefully read – starting with the weather report.  One of the driest New England summers in memory was about to get very wet.  Then my son, Francis’ persistent cough, diagnosed as pneumonia two days before our start date, caused his reluctant withdrawal.

On start day – Wednesday – we headed up in two vehicles, with a plan to drop one at the end point of the hike.  Turns out we dropped it a bit earlier than planned – in the middle of Interstate 93.  I was driving my 10 year old Durango with tires balding worse than I am.  We hydroplaned, spun out and did a “360,” bouncing off a guard rail across traffic and into the breakdown lane.  About 40 minutes of standing in the rain waiting for the police and wrecker followed.  We were soaked before putting a foot to the mountain.  Left the ‘rango at a garage and piled into Web’s car, getting to our start point about two hours behind schedule.

Started out in the pouring rain, going up Mt.Liberty, with full packs – tents, gear and five days of food – about 40 pounds.  By the time we reached our camp just below the summit the rain had let up, but we had to scrap our plan to get to the summit of Mt. Flume the same date.  We raised the FARA banner over Liberty in a menacing sky with quick moving clouds that allowed just enough of a view of the surrounding mountains to get us pumped for the next day, Thursday.

And what a day – possibly the longest ever for some of us.  From Liberty to Little Haystack, Lincoln, Lafayette and Garfield.  This was mostly ridgeline hiking, where, if the weather is good, the views are spectacular, but if the weather is lousy, there is no place to hide.  Well, the weather got real lousy – sleet and freezing rain after we reached the ridge line.  The exposed wet granite cropping made the going very slow and treacherous.  Several hikers near us went down and stayed down.  With gear soaked and boots filled with water, we pressed on across the summits, the last portion of the hike from Lafayette to Garfield being the longest and most difficult leg of the trip, by far. 


The extremely difficult terrain, the fatigue, the pain, the cold, the rain and the thought of three more days of the same played with our minds.  We hiked for a good while in silence, each bearing his own private burden.   As we learned from one another later, our thoughts at this time were often on our FA-ers and families, who confront difficulties and hardships and personal challenges on a daily basis and who persevere with resolve and courage.  Amazingly, it was at this low point that the “Team” in Team FARA really came into play.  Near exhaustion, Clare and I struggled far behind Web and Kyle who went ahead to try to secure shelter for the night.  As we both neared what we thought to be the end of our endurance, Web came back down the mountain to us to announce that he had reached the summit, and to take my pack up the remaining distance.  I took Clare’s and the three of us hiked with renewed determination to the top of Garfield, where Kyle was waiting, and unfurled the FARA banner in the icy winds.


We reached a shelter just after dark, cold, wet and tired.  We got right into our sleeping bags without supper, paying little attention to the snoring hikers and busy mice who shared our lean-to.  We’d raised the FARA banner over four additional 4,000 footers.


We slept in the next day, Friday, dried out our wet gear in the sunshine that finally came, got some food into us and revived our bodies and spirits.  We had some good company in the shelter.  You meet the most extraordinary people 5,000 feet in the air.  Some of them are “through hikers” – going the entire distance of the AT (Appalachian Trail) from Georgia to Maine.  More than I care to even contemplate.

Saturday we started out early after breakfast, rested and dry.  The hiking was even more extreme, with steep downhills and uphills requiring all four “points” (hands and feet) at times, but it was dry and much more agreeable than Thursday’s ordeal.  The views were spectacular.  We hit two more 4,000 footers – Galehead and South Twin.  We raised the FARA banner over each, and drew a good deal of curiosity and encouragement from the hikers who were out on the sunny weekend.  We directed them to the FARA website.



On Sunday, we hiked out, hitting the summits of Guyot and Zealand – making a total of nine 4,000 + peaks.  Web took the hiker’s shuttle to his car and came back to pick us up - with cold Mountain Dews for Clare and Kyle and cold Budweisers for me and himself.  Tasted real good. 







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