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Two sisters aim to conquer New Hampshire’s 4,000 footers with charity in mind

  • Sage (left) and Alex Herr, 11 and 13, summit Mount Moriah recently. The sisters are working to complete the “New Hampshire Grid,” which involves hikers reaching the summit of each of the state’s 4,000-footers during each month of the year, or 576 ascents. TRish ELLIS HERR / Courtesy

  • From left: Sage and Alex Herr and their mother, Trish, stand on the summit of Mt. Hood in Oregon. Mount Jefferson is in the background to the right. Courtesy



Monitor staff
Thursday, September 15, 2016

On the trail, Alex and Sage Herr are focused on reaching the summit. At home, their hearts and thoughts are still in the mountains. They’ve summited all of New Hampshire’s 4,000-footers, touched the sky from atop Mt. Hood in Oregon, and traversed the 500-mile Comina de Santiago in northwestern Spain. 

And they’re only in middle school. 

Alex and Sage have reached the highest points of 46 states and hiked the 211-mile John Muir trail in California and parts of the Great Wall of China. But the girls don’t hike simply because they enjoy it, not because every summit makes them feel as though they’re on top of the world, and not because the passion they share has brought them closer together as siblings and with their mother, Trish, who joins them on their journeys. 

There’s another reason, a desire that probably every parent wishes their child had; a desire to help others. 

Alex and Sage have used their frequent expeditions – they hike just about every week – to raise money for various charities, but now they’re embarking on a journey with a new goal for a charity they have supported before. 

They raised $5,000 for the Global Fund for Women when they crossed the Comina de Santiago in 2013 (Sage turned 8 in the middle of that hike). Now, Sage and Alex are working to complete the “New Hampshire Grid,” a daring feat that involves hikers reaching the summit of each of the state’s 48 4,000 footers during each month of the year. If you’re keeping score, that’s 576 ascents.

It’ll take a few years to complete. Don’t forget, Alex and Sage still have to do their homework in between snowy climbs through the presidential range.

“I’m always excited to hike each week,” said Alex, 13. “It’s something really great to be doing.”

Simple as that. Like the way most of us go to the grocery store every week, Alex and Sage summit a mountain or two. The family lives in Thornton, putting the mountains just about in their backyard.

Alex has already done almost 42 percent of the grid with 240 ascents. Sage, 11, who did not begin hiking until a few years after her older sister did, has completed 34 percent of the grid.

“I saw my sister doing it, and it looked fun,” Sage said. “She always liked it and I joined them.”

But quickly a conversation about hiking turns to social justice and equality for women, showing the real motivation behind the girls combination of hiking and fundraising.

“I thought it would be a good idea to start giving to others,” Alex said. “I really care about human rights for everyone, and it’s especially important females have these rights.”

The Global Fund for Women is a public foundation that supports community-based groups around the world. So far, the Herr sisters have raised just more than $2,000 through a combination of small contributions and a few $576 donations (each dollar represents one ascent on the New Hampshire Grid).

“It’s important for the girls to start doing things for other people,” said Trish, who recounted some of the climbs she first shared with Alex in a book published in 2012 called Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure. “We have the opportunity to do cool things with hikes, we should do it to help other people.”

Sometimes they’ll hold bake sales to bring awareness to their cause. But as their fundraising effort spreads through the hiking community and reaches people outside of it as well, Alex and Sage are having an easier time finding supporters.

“The women’s fund stood out to me because the change it brings is really good,” Sage said. “Women shouldn’t be forced to do anything, shouldn’t be told what to do. They help women all over the world.”

Trish has documented every hike she has done with her girls on a blog and Alex recently began a blog of her own.

When Sage is 13, she’ll start a blog as well. The blogs serve two purposes, Alex said. Of course one purpose is to spread attention about their fundraiser. The other, Alex said, is to consistently improve her craft as a writer.

Contributions can be made to the Herr sister’s Crowdrise project at https://www.crowdrise.com/sistershikingforequality.