We’ve all heard of prodigal athletes—the seven-year-old ripping free skier, the two-year-old boulderer, teen mountaineers, the baby who starts skiing before she can walk, and the 12-year-old skateboarder who becomes the first athlete ever to land a 1080. Some of these wunderkinds stumble into their adventure prowess by chance, while others develop it through years of dogged determination.
In the case of Alex Herr, a New Hampshire–based girl who hiked all 48 of the White Mountains’ 4,000-foot peaks by the time she was six—before she lost her first baby tooth—it was a little bit of both.
Alex had only been hiking a couple of times when her mother, Patricia Ellis Herr, asked her on a whim if she wanted to climb a “grown up mountain.” What followed was a 15-month quest to tick off every peak over 4,000 feet in elevation—in summer and winter. “The drive to get out there every week, or every other week, came from Alex,” writes Patricia Herr in her new book, Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure. That’s pretty impressive, considering that five-year-old Alex climbed each mountain without once being carried. It’s even more mind-blowing when her mother tells you, somewhat emphatically, that she never whined.