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Denver Teacher Reaches America's 50 State Highpoints

From mountains like McKinley in Alaska, and Whitney in California to lower highpoints like the summits of Florida and Delaware, Denver schoolteacher Mike Haugen was on a nonstop quest.


Zach Price, Mike Haugen and Lindsay Danner at the top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

At 11:55 a.m. local time on Friday, July 25, when he reached the top of his 50th state highpoint, 13,796-foot Mauna Kea in Hawaii, Haugen established a new record for the fastest ascent of America’s highpoints with a time of 45 days, 19 hours and 2 minutes. The clock started when he reached the summit of McKinley on June 9.

Haugen, 31, and his climbing partner, Seattle architect Zach Price, 30, who shares the highpoint record with Haugen, were threatened by a bear on Idaho’s Borah Peak, hiked with a Girl Scout troop on Oklahoma’s summit, hid heavy rocks in each others’ packs as a prank, were pelted by hail on Whitney and ran to avoid turning “crispy” from nearby lightning strikes on Arizona’s Humphreys Peak.

But for Haugen, who previously summited Mount Everest and Vinson Massif, the highest mountain in Antarctica, the 50 States in 50 Days project sponsored by The Coleman Company, Inc. was not about reaching the top of some lofty peak.

“This has never been about a record. Don’t get me wrong, we have definitely been working to make sure we finished in 50 days, but it has been more about the personal challenge in order to get kids more interested in the outdoors,” Haugen said.


Haugen at the summit of Borah Peak in Idaho.

“I think the more people we can get involved in outdoor recreation the more people will embrace conservation and outdoor activities in their lives and daily routine.”

He told the Seattle Times on July 20, “From backyard adventures, to schoolyard games, to state and national parks – nothing beats experiencing what nature has to offer. Once they (kids) get outside, they’ll be hooked.”

The lower, flatter peaks were coined “flip flop” highpoints because, it didn’t take much to summit them. Just park the car and pose by a sign in sandals. Even though some highpoints weren’t very difficult to scale, Haugen still enjoyed the uniqueness of each one. “Each highpoint has had a special beauty that usually leaves us speechless on the way back to the car,” Haugen blogged after summiting the Kansas highpoint (4,039 feet) known as Mount Sunflower.

Phase Two Launches Aug. 21
The second phase of the project, the Coleman 50 States in 50 Days Challenge, begins when online registration opens on Aug. 21. Children and adolescents from upper elementary to high school will record and track their outdoor physical activity in minutes and/or steps in order to virtually reach the summit of the highest point in each of the 50 states. Participants will progress online from one state’s virtual highpoint to another, but only by first spending at least 60 minutes participating in one of dozens of suggested outdoor activities – from bicycling and jogging to hiking and camping. What’s more, teachers will be encouraged to include the challenge in their curricula so that entire classrooms can participate together as a team. The online challenge will link from www.coleman.com/50states and continue through Dec. 31.

Haugen, Price and team member Lindsay Danner, 24, of Denver, spent most nights camping using Coleman equipment and gear. The team drove approximately 15,000 miles across the continental United States in a Highlander Hybrid SUV provided by Toyota. Total distance traveled, including plane trips to Alaska and Hawaii, was 23,684 miles. The public followed the project in real-time thanks to a SPOT Satellite Messenger GPS that pinpointed their exact location every 10 minutes. The team was also supported with donated apparel and gear from Marmot and K2 Skis.

A video cameraman spent approximately 35 days with the team shooting a documentary that will be submitted to various film festivals in 2009.

The previous highpoint record was set in 2005 by Ben Jones of Lynnwood, Wash., with a time of 50 days, 7 hours and 5 minutes, according to the records maintained by the Highpointers Club (www.highpointers.org).

Information about the American highpoints collected by Haugen will help update the Highpoints display at the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum (www.bwamm.org) in Golden, Colo., which hosted Haugen’s kick-off on May 20.

Filed under: People & Organizations, Places

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