On the trail, Philip Carcia’s days sometimes blur together. No wonder. This summer, Carcia set a speed record for New Hampshire hiking. But after nearly a year of elevational—and emotional—highs and lows, Carcia is ready for more.
Gazing out a car window, Carcia first felt the pull of New Hampshire’s White Mountains as a toddler. By his 20s, hiking consumed him. He tackled the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and others. He couldn’t seem to climb enough.
New Hampshire boasts 48 mountains with summits over 4,000 feet. More than 10,000 people have climbed all of them. But fewer than 100 have completed “the Grid.” That involves reaching every summit in every month of the year: 48 mountains in January, 48 in February . . . You get the idea.
That’s 576 climbs and 2,700 miles. Crazy, right? For most people, the mission takes years—even decades—to achieve.
Not Carcia. He spent three years prepping for the Grid. He scaled the White Mountains over and over and climbed one Massachusetts mountain 300 times in six months.
This summer, he became the second hiker ever to cram the Grid into a single year. On top of that, he completed the feat in 319 days—beating the previous record by five weeks.
During his Grid effort, there were days Carcia woke up dreading that day’s climb. He says he both loved and loathed every mountain at some point along the way.
To finish in under a year, Carcia bookended his quest with a 240-mile route connecting all 48 of the peaks. He covered about 40 miles per day on mangled feet and two hours of sleep. Strange visions popped up along the trail—a cluster of rocks became a refrigerator, a tangle of trees an ironing board. Worse yet were the faces. “My brain would identify the textures on the ground, the textures on the rocks, and the roots as faces,” he says.
But Carcia also found those last grueling days rewarding. They reinforced his belief that he’s a pioneer, not a conqueror. He says, “I was still walking on those trails not feeling like I should be puffing my chest out but feeling genuinely small.”
Carcia’s reaction is part of God’s plan. Humans are supposed to feel small when they see God’s power and glory revealed in the heavens—and the mountains. (Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20)
Carcia is already considering his next adventure. “I see myself . . . trying to raise the bar,” he says. “I still don’t think I’ve quite reached my potential.”