A Montreal man is using a thru-hike through the High Peaks to raise funds for a local search and rescue organization.
Neil Luckhurst said he plans to start his hike on August 5 in the Dix Mountain Range and continue for 16 days until he finishes up in the Sentinel Mountain Range. Money raised through the trip will go to Lower Adirondack Search and Rescue, which is based in the southern Adirondacks.
“I felt in my case, search and rescue just sort of resonated with me,” Luckhurst said.
Luckhurst has appreciation for search and rescue groups in part because of an experience that involved his son, Dominic, who died at age 19 in an avalanche in January 2008 while ascending the east face of Mount St. Piran near Lake Louise, Alberta, on a backcountry skiing trip.
After the incident, Luckhurst received a substantial bill for the rescue operation that included the use of a helicopter.
“It was a fairly hefty bill, and what I’ve always been impressed about in the Adirondacks is how pretty much everything done there is free, whether you’re talking about parking, staying in a lean-to, or designated campsites,” Luckhurst said. “That is always something that has totally impressed me. That concept of volunteerism for lean-tos, trailwork, for search and rescue.”
Luckhurst is calling the trip project Full Deck. The name refers to the itinerary which traverses fifty-two summits, a mix of High Peaks and sub-4,000 foot peaks from the Adirondack 100 highest list. Part of the route follows established trails while a significant portion is completely off-trail.
In order to keep his pack weight down to 20-25 pounds, Luckhurst will be re-supplied several times by friends who will be joining him for sections of the hike. He will camp out every night either in lean-to’s, in designated camping spots or off-trail in completely wild settings.
Luckhurst did rough estimates of mileage and elevation numbers for the trip. He estimates that he will travel about 140 miles, including 50 off-trail. That will include gaining and losing roughly 60,000 feet in elevation, with about 25,000 of that coming off trail.
An experienced hiker, Luckhurst is very familiar with the Adirondacks. He hikes here regularly and completed all 46 High Peaks in 10 days in 2014. During that winter trek, he spent his nights at a friend’s place. This time, he plans to camp in the backcountry the entire time.
“I’ve been wanting for the last year to start overnighting in the High Peaks,” he said. “I’m starting to get sick of the long death march out.”
Luckhurst said friends will join him for parts of the hike, but he expects there will be parts when he hikes along, including during some of the bushwhacking parts.
“I think the toughest part will be the mental toughness and maintaining that calm relaxed feeling through the whole thing,” he said about hiking alone. “You can get exasperated about little things … you can make mountains out of molehills.”
For more about the trip, visit his website.
Photo by Neil Luckhurst of himself.