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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Spokane resident first to bag all 247 peaks in Sierra Peaks Section list in calendar year

By Matthew Callaghan The Spokesman-Review

Spokane resident Nathan Longhurst recently became the first person to climb all 247 peaks in the Sierra Peaks Section list in one calendar year. He did so in 138 days, covering 1,800 miles and ascending 700,000 feet.

Longhurst, 22, climbed all 247 mountains that make up the Sierra Peaks Section list between February and July. The SPS is a list compiled by the Sierra Club of the most intriguing and interesting mountains to climb in the Sierra Nevada range.

While talking about his experiences during an event at The Magic Lantern Theater on Sept. 14, Longhurst described his adventures skiing, rock climbing, mountaineering, traversing through the wilderness and living in his van .

“I learned that being in the mountains is where I sort of feel the most comfortable and the most like myself,” he said. “And the most like fully present in my own body and in my mind. It’s where I feel like the most focused and the most clear-headed.”

Longhurst’s mother, Maren Longhurst, said her son has devoted his life to mountaineering, rock climbing and skiing from a young age. Maren Longhurst said people always ask if she is worried about his safety. Her answer is no because she believes in her son’s risk-management abilities and outdoor expertise.

Longhurst has a long history of exploring the outdoors in the Pacific Northwest. Longhurst said that a lot of his rock-climbing experience comes from practicing at a popular rock-climbing gym in Spokane, Wild Walls.

Prior to his Sierra Peaks project, Longhurst became the youngest person to complete the Bulger list. The Bulger list is a list of the 100 tallest peaks in Washington. He climbed all of them in 94 days. He also completed a 107-mile journey around and up Glacier Peak in 55 hours, his parents said.

Last October, a local outdoor enthusiast, who preferred to stay anonymous, became interested in Longhurst’s successes and offered to sponsor his next big project. With that support secured, Longhurst decided his next project would be to climb all 247 mountains on the SPS list.

Before beginning, Longhurst had to plot out and plan his ascents, which took almost as long as the actual trip. He said he spent hundreds of hours looking at maps, reading accounts and getting a layout of the area he was set to explore. While these hours may seem grueling, he “enjoyed the headspace of focusing on one thing” and said planning was one of his favorite parts of the whole project.

In February, Longhurst was ready to begin his journey. With the backing of his sponsor, he set out on his adventure starting first in the Lake Tahoe area. For the initial part of the project, Longhurst mainly skied. He wanted to summit as many mountains as he could via skis while the weather permitted.

“It’s a weird style of skiing that looks like it shouldn’t be fun, but it is,” he said.

Longhurst said that for a mountain that took 3 hours to summit, he could ski down it in about 10 minutes. For the first two months, he didn’t see anyone while traveling in the mountains except his younger sister, who climbed the first two peaks with him.

Several months into the project, Longhurst met up with his partner, Travis Soares. Longhurst said their rule was that both feet had to be on the highest point of the mountain in order for it to count. For certain peaks, Longhurst and Soares would take turns climbing on one another’s shoulders in order to reach the top .

The majority of the mountains they climbed were between 12,000 and 14,000 feet tall. Because of the height and physical fortitude required, he had to eat about 6,000 calories a day. After a while, eating this much became more of a chore than anything, he said.

At one point, Maren Longhurst and her husband, Larry Longhurst, flew to Las Vegas, drove to their son’s van and then climbed up the mountain he was on to give him the supplies he needed.

Around the 80th day, Longhurst said he knew that it was more than possible for him to complete what had become the most arduous and physically demanding journey of his life. He had reached the summit of a particularly challenging peak and watched the sunset when he realized that he was actually going to complete what he set out to do.

Longhurst went through all kinds of terrain while on his journey, from steep snow made of “bullet-hard ice” to bush-whacking through thick foliage. He said he saw a variety of wildlife including bears, bobcats, bighorn sheep and large toads.

Wild animals weren’t the only thing he had to worry about during his trip. Longhurst had to consider nearby wildfires, falling rocks, thunder storms and even a snow storm that struck on his last day skiing.

In July, Nathan Longhurst reached the last mountain. Longhurst and some of his friends climbed the top of Mount Agassiz and ate victory cupcakes in the dark. The next morning when he woke, he immediately wondered what peak was next. He was disappointed, yet relieved, to know his project had come to a close.

Shortly after setting the record for the fastest person to climb all 247 mountains, his partner, Soares, beat him. Soares climbed all 247 mountains in 113 days because, as Longhurst said, “he’s a machine.” While Longhurst is not sure what his next grand outdoor adventure will be, he hopes to travel to Alaska in the spring to climb more mountains there.

“Just don’t be afraid to dive all into your passions, and dedicate as much time, as much energy as you possibly can,” Longhurst said. “Take all your extra little scraps of time and energy, bump them all together and do something that’s important to you, something that you care about. Because you know when I did, I had this amazing experience, it changed my life, helped me grow as a person, and I’m just so grateful I was able to do it.”

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