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Esper boys

Galen Esper, second from left, with his brothers Josiah (left), Hansel (right) and Brecken (far right) on Mount Colden, one of the 46 4,000-foot peaks in the Adirondacks.

 

Hiking

Another Esper Reaches 46 While Still a Boy

On Oct. 3, 2005, 7-year-old Galen Esper of Long Lake, N.Y., finished his 46th (really 47th since he also climbed the MacNaughton Peak in the Adirondacks) and Northeast 116 4,000-foot peaks. He finished on Dix and Hough Peaks in the Adirondack Mountains of New York state on a warm and sunny fall day with the foliage in full bloom in the mountain valleys. The leaves in the upper reaches of the mountains had already fallen a few weeks earlier.

Three of his brothers were with him to celebrate on the summit of Hough Peak. Mom and Dad came along, too! The only one missing was his oldest brother, Johnathan, the first Esper boy to complete the 46 and 116, who was on a two-day canoe trip down the Racquette River.

Galen first ascended all the High Peaks when he was just 18 months old in his mother's child-carrier backpack. His twin brothers, Brecken and Josiah, had climbed the 46 peaks when they were 5 years old – becoming the youngest to do – and Galen went along to be with them. It wasn't easy all the time hitching a ride, especially when it was rainy and cold or snowing. By the time Galen was 3, he climbed his first mountain, Hale Mountain in New Hampshire, all by himself. His new baby brother, Hansel, had permanently ousted him from the backpack, so he had no choice but to hike on his own.

Since Mom and his twin brothers were hiking in the mountains of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont to work on the Northeast 116, Galen started hiking in those ranges. There were some reclimbs to do, as we called them. Those mountains where Galen had hiked some but not all on his own, when he was just too sleepy in the afternoon on a long hike and needed a nap, so Dad scooped him up and let him sleep in his arms while we still hiked on.

Then during the summer of 2005, we again focused our attention on the mountains in our backyard, the Adirondacks. Galen had 35 more to do, having done some during the winter months and when he was younger. We planned weekly trips, many of them 2-to-3 days in length so that we could do ranges of the mountains. All the boys carried packs, including Galen; Dad was in charge of the tent and stove, and Mom staggered under the weight of 41-pound Hansel, who turned 4 during one of the trips, plus some gear. It was a team effort with everyone contributing!

The memories that are Galen's fondest are ones where we would set up the tent, everyone would jump inside and put on their wickers, cover up with the downy, and wait for Dad to cook out in the dark and hand in delicious hot food. He also remembers a rock, which was like a king's chair on the slide going up to the summit of Owl's Head Mountain in the Whites of New Hampshire. When he sat in it, he discovered a "fountain of water right next to it." So much for the comment that Owl's Head wasn't worth the effort to climb – it was this 7-year-old's golden treasure!

Galen also has 42 state highpoints to his credit. Alaska, Hawaii, and the glaciated peaks will have to wait for a few years for Galen to increase in stature before he attempts their summits.

As a member of Climbing For Christ, Galen strives to bring glory and honor to the Lord when he climbs. His conduct on the trail, interactions and conversations with other hikers who stop to talk with him, and opportunities to witness to fellow hikers are all very important influences. We always give praise to God for His strength and guidance throughout our sojourns in His mountains.

- Cheryl Esper, Long Lake, N.Y.

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