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White Mountains Hikers Aim Higher and Higher

  • Cynthia Walthour of Enfield and Georg Feichtinger of Plainfield in the Hurricane Hill Town Forest in Hartford on Dec. 3, 2013. Both Walthour and Feichtinger recently completed "The Grid," the successful completion of each of New Hampshire's 48 4,000 foot peaks each month for 12 consecutive months (576 climbs total). <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Cynthia Walthour of Enfield and Georg Feichtinger of Plainfield in the Hurricane Hill Town Forest in Hartford on Dec. 3, 2013. Both Walthour and Feichtinger recently completed "The Grid," the successful completion of each of New Hampshire's 48 4,000 foot peaks each month for 12 consecutive months (576 climbs total).
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cynthia Walthour of Enfield, N.H., in the Hurricane Hill town forest in Hartford, Vt., on Dec. 3, 2013. Walthour is only the 41st registered person to complete "The Grid." <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Cynthia Walthour of Enfield, N.H., in the Hurricane Hill town forest in Hartford, Vt., on Dec. 3, 2013. Walthour is only the 41st registered person to complete "The Grid."
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Georg Feichtinger of Plainfield, N.H., in the Hurricane Hill town forest in Hartford, Vt., on Dec. 3, 2013. Feichtinger, who is 73, is only the third person registered in the over 60 age group to have completed "The Grid." <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Georg Feichtinger of Plainfield, N.H., in the Hurricane Hill town forest in Hartford, Vt., on Dec. 3, 2013. Feichtinger, who is 73, is only the third person registered in the over 60 age group to have completed "The Grid."
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cynthia Walthour of Enfield and Georg Feichtinger of Plainfield in the Hurricane Hill Town Forest in Hartford on Dec. 3, 2013. Both Walthour and Feichtinger recently completed "The Grid," the successful completion of each of New Hampshire's 48 4,000 foot peaks each month for 12 consecutive months (576 climbs total). <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Cynthia Walthour of Enfield, N.H., in the Hurricane Hill town forest in Hartford, Vt., on Dec. 3, 2013. Walthour is only the 41st registered person to complete "The Grid." <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Georg Feichtinger of Plainfield, N.H., in the Hurricane Hill town forest in Hartford, Vt., on Dec. 3, 2013. Feichtinger, who is 73, is only the third person registered in the over 60 age group to have completed "The Grid." <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

White River Junction — Adventure hikers Cynthia Walthour and Georg Feichtinger remain supremely dedicated to their passion — and the accolades keep piling up.

Two years ago, Feichtinger became the 22nd person to complete “The White Mountains Grid,” an unofficial account of those who successfully climb all 48 of New Hampshire’s mountains standing at least 4,000 feet tall. Walthour, meanwhile, became the 42nd to do all 48 in a single winter in 2011.

More accomplishments came for the pair last month, when Walthour, of Enfield Center, completed the Grid at age 54, and Feichtinger, 71, joined a select group who successfully climbed all 576 combined peaks after the age of 60.

The latest milestone was relatively simple for Feichtinger to finish, since the vast majority of his Grid climbs were performed after he’d retired as a history professor and ski instructor at Kimball Union Academy.

“I only had two that I hadn’t done (after the age of 60), the north and south peaks of Mount Kinsman,” Feichtinger recalled in an interview Tuesday. “I had to wait until November to do them.”

Walthour’s task was much more substantial — last December, she still had 175 total peaks to go. Unlike Feichtinger, Walthour still works full time, but the organic produce farmer managed to pull off the feat. She completed the Grid on Nov. 16 with an ascent of Mount Tom near Crawford Notch. She was joined by about 40 fellow adventure hikers and supporters, including Feichtinger, her husband, Earl, and her children, John and Grace.

“I never thought I’d be able to do it, being a 54-year-old woman, and the fact that I still work full-time,” Walthour said. “Being a farmer is actually more than a 40-hour week, so it was a bit tough.”

Walthour’s early-bird lifestyle worked in her favor. Often planning for multiple peaks in a single day, she’d frequently leave her home well before dawn to reach the Whites in time for what adventure hikers call “first light.”

“I’m a morning person, thankfully,” she said. “It’s not uncommon for me to be up at 3:30 a.m., and be (to the trail head) when it’s still dark.”

If she wanted to complete the Grid in 2013, Walthour had a whopping 29 peaks to ascend in the month of April. Because of spring thaw that creates hazards such as partially frozen streams, Walthour had to push herself without being overzealous.

“I allowed myself to go as slow as I wanted for the second peak of the day,” she said. “When you do a 10-hour hike with a 2,500 foot climb, it’s a killer to get in the car and get back out again for another climb. You’re tired.”

A former competitive skier and soccer player — both in his native Austria as well as in the U.S. — Feichtinger is continually drawn to the mountains because of his love for the outdoors as well as the obvious physical benefits.

A fit 5-foot-5 and 125 pounds, the septuagenarian is as efficient as ever while climbing, and he still finds it plenty invigorating.

“You fell good afterwards. It pumps you up,” he said. “I keep track of my speeds, see how fast I am from one year to the next on different mountains. I went to the doctor for a checkup recently, because I hadn’t been in about 10 years. He said not to change anything I’m doing.”

Walthour, whose husband, Earl, is a pastor at an Enfield church, feels a spiritual connection with the outdoors when she’s out there.

“I love the outdoors, the beauty. It’s hard to describe, but it’s more than a workout,” she said. “It’s just as much spiritual as it is physical.”

At the behest of her husband, Walthour doesn’t hike alone. The hours-long excursions with various hiking partners allows for uniquely deep levels of communication that are hard to muster in everyday life.

“It’s hours of uninterrupted conversation, which is something you don’t get in public,” she said. “We call it ‘trail therapy,’ and it’s with people you’re trusting your life with. There are a lot of judgement calls out there where you have to decide whether or not it’s safe to keep going.”

As for the future, Walthour hopes to complete the Appalachian Trail some time within the next few years, as well as possibly do some hiking in Europe while visiting her daughter, who recently moved to England.

Feichtinger, meanwhile, has 35 more peaks to go in order to reach his next age-related milestone — having completed the entire Grid after age 65.

“The soonest I could do that would be September,” he said. “I have 13 left in July, so the only thing that might get in the way is if it’s a really rainy summer,” he said.

Do you know someone who’s completed the Grid? See the complete list at www.48x12.com.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.