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Published: September 20, 2021

Peak Experience

Spartan Spotlight

Harrison Haas ’08

Harrison Haas ’08 Harrison Haas ’08 reaching his 48th peak of 4,000+ feet in New Hampshire.

The first time Harrison Haas ’08 bagged a 4,000-foot peak in 2009, he thought he was just on a short hike with a friend. He had no idea how high he was climbing.

The state of New Hampshire has 48 peaks (the NH48) that are 4,000 feet or higher in elevation, mostly in the White Mountains. Since 1957, the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) has awarded a hiking patch for making it to the top of all of them. At this writing, 15,207 hikers have become members of AMC’s 4,000-Footer Club — including Haas.

His passion for a healthy and active lifestyle began at UT when he dated a member of the women’s soccer team. “She was really into physical fitness,” he says. When Haas moved back home to New Hampshire after graduation, he started venturing outdoors, hiking up to waterfalls and small peaks. It wasn’t until 2017 that he got serious about bagging the NH48.

The NH48 hikes, which range from four to 20 miles, aren’t highly technical, but can be challenging. “In the winter, you need crampons or microspikes for the ice,” he says. “During the summer and fall, you just need good hiking boots. There’s nothing where you need ropes or carabiners or harnesses or anything like that.”

Haas finished 31 peaks by the end of 2019. Between April and June of 2020, the pandemic influenced AMC to restrict trailhead access, so his quest was interrupted. But once the mountains re-opened, he was determined to finish the last 17.

“I started this,” he told himself. “I’m going to complete it. I need to say that I accomplished this.” Sometimes hiking alone and sometimes with a friend, he pushed through to his last peak on Nov. 30, 2020. The summit was covered in snow, with an inch or two of ice in places.

The day before the climb, he had checked the forecast: cloudy, temperatures in the 20s, winds 55 to 65 mph with 80 mph gusts. But it was supposed to clear up later in the day.

“I decided just to go for it. And I’m not going to lie, it was whipping up there and I couldn’t see a thing. On the way up, I shouted, ‘Just give me a view for five minutes. That’s all I want on my last one.’”

Standing atop 5,384-foot Mount Monroe, Haas broke out a mini-bottle of Champagne to celebrate. The clouds parted and the sun came out. “It was an awesome ending to such a great journey, and I was very thankful.”

Haas, who worked as a newspaper reporter when he first returned to New Hampshire, is now a certified EMT who is training to become a firefighter. Despite having a physically demanding job, he says there are more hikes in his future. 

“The 4,000-footer list is the keystone that you need to do before you can get to the other ones,” Haas says. “There are two other New England area lists I have going right now — the 52-with-a-view, and the terrifying 25. I like challenges.”

By Catherine O’Neill Grace
Photograph: Courtesy of Harrison Haas ’08

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