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Mission on the Mountains: Enfield Man to Bike the Hills for Prominent Charity

  • Matthew Steinberg is attempting to raise $10,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation by committing to bike 500 miles and summit seven mountains between August 26 and September 2. Steinberg works out to prepare for the trip on Methodist Hill in Plainfield, N.H. Wednesday, August 20, 2014.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Matthew Steinberg is attempting to raise $10,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation by committing to bike 500 miles and summit seven mountains between August 26 and September 2. Steinberg works out to prepare for the trip on Methodist Hill in Plainfield, N.H. Wednesday, August 20, 2014.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Matthew Steinberg works his way up Methodist Hill from Plainfield to Enfield on the return trip to his car during a workout to prepare for his seven summits bike ride Wednesday, August 20, 2014.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Matthew Steinberg works his way up Methodist Hill from Plainfield to Enfield on the return trip to his car during a workout to prepare for his seven summits bike ride Wednesday, August 20, 2014.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Matthew Steinberg is attempting to raise $10,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation by committing to bike 500 miles and summit seven mountains between August 26 and September 2. Steinberg works out to prepare for the trip on Methodist Hill in Plainfield, N.H. Wednesday, August 20, 2014.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Matthew Steinberg works his way up Methodist Hill from Plainfield to Enfield on the return trip to his car during a workout to prepare for his seven summits bike ride Wednesday, August 20, 2014.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Lebanon — Matthew Steinberg says he has a soft spot for children. He sure has a lengthy, arduous way of demonstrating it.

Steinberg, 40, will soon embark on a 470-mile uphill bicycling journey that will send him over a total of nine summits in Vermont, New Hampshire and New York — including each of the Twin States’ highest peaks. Using each mountain’s paved auto roads, the Enfield resident will log approximately 43,000 feet of vertical gain along the way over an eight-day period.

It’s all for a cause. Steinberg is using the mission as a vehicle to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a national nonprofit that grants wishes for children facing life-threatening diseases.

Steinberg’s target figure is $10,000-$15,000, the minimum range to fund a child’s wish. He’d raised $760 as of Wednesday morning, and is hopeful more donors will contribute as he spreads his message via word-of-mouth, emails and a Facebook page.

“I hadn’t even been on Facebook until three weeks ago, so needless to say I haven’t yet mastered the art of posting,” said Steinberg, a CT Scan tech who’s lived in Enfield for eight years. “It’s kind of a tough time to be fundraising because it’s not long after The Prouty, and you’ve got the ice bucket challenge (ALS fundraiser) going on, but it’s the perfect (time of year) for this.”

An avid mountaineer who’s climbed high summits both in the U.S. and overseas, Steinberg knows how satisfying it can be to accomplish a long sought-after goal. He hopes his Make-A-Wish campaign will help provide even one sick child with a similar experience.

“I just have a soft spot for children, and want to do anything I can to help kids,” said Steinberg, who has a 9-year-old son named Sam. “If I can help them reach a goal they’ve had their entire lives, while dealing with a bad condition, that’s something that can really make a difference.

“A lot of (the Make-A-Wish children’s) wishes involve traveling, and traveling is a big thing for me in my life. When you get to where you want to be, you just get this moment of clarity, where you can push everything stressful to the side and just have the opportunity to experience what you love.”

Steinberg had never seriously considered road cycling until he was bed-bound three years ago after sustaining a serious leg injury while mountaineering. Having summitted France’s 15,781-foot Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, Steinberg was skiing down a glacier during the descent when he swerved to avoid a crevasse and crashed, fracturing his tibia and tearing his ACL.

Bedridden following grafting surgery, Steinberg watched the Giro d’Italia stage race — Italy’s version of the Tour de France — on television and was fascinated. After recovering, he participated in Newton’s Revenge, a race up the Mount Washington Auto Road that accommodates overflow demand from the course’s main race.

“A lot of cyclists consider Mount Washington the world’s most difficult climb, pound-for-pound,” Steinberg said of the 7.6-mile auto road that averages a 12 percent grade and features 4,700 feet of vertical gain. “When I did Newton’s Revenge last year, it was 90 degrees in Gorham (N.H.) and 45 degrees with no visibility at the top.

“The hardest part is the first five minutes. Everything in your body starts hurting, and then you realize that you’ve still got over an hour to go.”

When it comes to his Make-A-Wish ride, Steinberg has a long way to go just to get to the bottom of Mount Washington. The mission begins Tuesday, when he’ll depart his home on his bike for Mount Kearsarge, which he’ll pedal up twice — once along the Warner auto road and once on the one in Wilmot — before ending his day at New London’s Colby-Sawyer College.

On Wednesday, he’ll be dropped off back at Colby-Sawyer and ride through Sunapee, Newport, Claremont and Weathersfield to Mount Ascutney, featuring a 3.7-mile auto road with an elevation gain of 2,300 feet.

Next Thursday, Steinberg will cycle from Ascutney to Ludlow, Vt.’s Okemo Mountain (4.5 miles; 2,200 feet of elevation gain on the auto road) before traveling by car to Lake Placid, N.Y. the next day. On Aug. 30, he’ll climb Whiteface Mountain’s auto road (eight miles, 3,400 feet) and continue to Stowe, Vt., with a climb up Bolton Valley Ski Area (seven miles; 1,700 feet) along the way.

The next day Steinberg takes on Vermont’s highest summit — 4,393-foot Mount Mansfield. Mansfield and Mount Washington were the only mountains he needed to seek permission to climb on his bike because of the popularity of their auto roads. Mansfield’s auto road is 4.5 miles and includes 2,600 feet of elevation gain.

“I have to do it before the park opens, so it’s going to be an early morning,” Steinberg said. “But at least that will allow me to get a lot of miles in that day.”

Immediately after Mansfield, Steinberg will pedal across Smuggler’s Notch to Burke Mountain, where he’ll pedal up either the same day or in the early-morning hours of Sept. 1.

After Burke he’ll pedal to Gorham, N.H., via Jefferson Notch, then take on Washington and the Kancamangus Highway on Sept. 2.

The final day is the biggest undertaking: a total of 61 miles and 9,500 feet of climbing between the Washington auto road and the highways of the White Mountains.

“My friends and family think I’m crazy, that’s definitely their initial reaction,” Steinberg said. “But it’s something I really want to do, and I think everybody knows it’s for a good cause.”

But Steinberg is far from finished pushing himself. In February, he plans to take part in the Canadian Ski Marathon — a 100-mile cross country trek from Ottawa to Montreal — to raise money for the Upper Valley Haven food pantry.

“We’re thinking of calling the campaign, ‘100 Miles for 100 Meals,’ ” Steinberg said. “I let my wife (Amanda) handle the marketing side. For me, it’s just a way to get out there and do what I love for a cause.”

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