A chat with John Swanson, molehill-bagger extraordinaire

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Outside magazine, November 1997

Because There’s
Lots of Them

A chat with John Swanson, molehill-bagger extraordinaire
By Katie Arnold

It used to be that to really wow your friends and neighbors, all you had to do was scale a measly Seven Summits. Now, thanks to the tireless work of intrepid mountaineers John Swanson and Dennis Crispo, there’s a new standard for peak-bagging prowess: 770. The duo spent more than ten years scaling every hill of 3,000 or more feet in the
northeastern United States, knocking off the last one, Pennsylvania’s Mount Davis, this August — and even sprinting the final 100 yards in a defiant show of man over scree. Duly impressed, we checked in with Swanson, a 35-year-old New Jersey engineer, to find out more.

It’s the obvious question, but we have to ask: Why?

Well, I started with the Catskills and then went on to work on the big peaks of the Adirondacks and White Mountains. At first I thought I’d just do all of the 3,500-footers — but I knew in my heart that they wouldn’t fully satiate me. I figured 770 would hold me over for a while.

Might you have overlooked a peak or two?

We spent 50 hours scouring topo maps to come up with this list. I don’t think we could have missed any. I’d like to think we did, though. It would be nice to know that there are other mountains left to climb.

So what’s next? Any new lists on your list?

My goal now is to climb the 3,500-footers in winter. I originally thought I might try all 770, but let’s face it, that would be a little obsessive.

Illustration by Gary Baseman

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