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Getting High & Sometimes Low: A Hikers Quest to Reach All 50 USA High Points

Mount Mckinley aka Denali in Alaska United States in Early Summer

Getting High & Sometimes Low: A Hikers Quest to Reach All 50 USA High Points

This is the first of our Getting High Series where hiker and outdoor enthusiast Michael Putnam aka Putty (our first sponsored adventurer) documents his journey of bagging the highest peak for each of the 50 United States.

 

As of this writing he’s conquered 9/50 (will update this total with the summiting of each new mountain peak).

 

I’ve known putty for a few years now, and he had an immediate impression on me when we first met back in my real estate days. Michael is a successful father, husband and business man, he’s also an accomplished adventurer, having put in thousands of miles on the ground, through the air and in the water over of the years.

 

Quite frankly, I don’t know where he gets the energy, as many of the peaks he’s conquered so far have been in between flights on business trips with little to no sleep. 

 

This site was created as a side passion project and as a way for me to get some affiliate commissions. Since then it has grown a legitimate following, and thousands of unique visitors each month read our content and use our products and recommendations on their adventures. I, my family and my team appreciate all of you, and hope that you’re finding our stuff as valuable as we do. 

 

We’ll kick off the Getting High series with an interview I recently did with Putty so you can get to know him and why adventuring is so important to all of us. 

 

We love hearing from you! Please join the conversation in the comments section below this post. 

When and why did you start hiking the tallest peaks in the USA?

Michael Putnam aka Putty standing atop Mount Whitney, Californias, tallest mountain peak.

View from the top of Mount Whitney in California

In August of 2021 I participated in a private 2-day mastermind called “The Experience Series” hosted and led by a mentor of mine, Cody Gibson. During this he asked the group to think about a goal of theirs that would do two things:

  1. Speak to their heart
  2. Challenge them.

Being a lover of the outdoors and adventuring, it did not take me long to decide on touching the highpoint in every state in the U.S. as this goal brings with it a lot of fulfillment. I’ve always wanted to see more of the U.S. and especially since my twin sons, Jack and Max, were born and began seeing things for the first time that I may have begun to take for granted.

 

For example, I took each of them camping at a lake no more than 3 miles from our home and realized during those two overnighters that they were experiencing it for the first time, I was re-experiencing it from a different perspective, and that my previous pattern of having to go further and further for new adventures, experiences, and sights was no longer valid. There is so much locally, regionally, and definitely within our nation that deserves attention and will provide amazing experiences. 

 

Since I made the decision, I’ve been able to achieve 9 of the high points (California’s Mt Whitney, Nevada’s Boundary Peak, Colorado’s Mt Elbert, Delaware’s Ebright Azmuth, Maryland’s Hoye-Crest along Backbone Mountain, Arkansas’ Signal Hill on Mount Magazine, and Louisiana’s Driskill Mountain), as well as D.C.’s Fort Reno.

 

There are week’s I will spend virtually no time on this other than thinking and planning. Then there are week’s, such as this week as I train to summit Mt. Hood, where I will spend 10-20 hours of physical and mental training. Some of the peaks have required some specific logistical planning that smashed a lot of things into one or two days, like Mt Elbert, where I flew into Denver late one night, summited the next morning, and flew home that night to not be away from work and family for more than 30 hours. That was a beast of a day!

 

RELATED: 9 Benefits of Training for a Hiking Trip

 

My personal motto is:

“Make a habit of going places not easily reached”

 

This shows up in my personal and professional life. I’m always striving to set a good example for my family and those I lead in business that centers around pushing ourselves to realize our potential and then continue growing. I’d rather look back and say I gave it everything I had, made a ton of mistakes and stupid decisions, had fun and some success, than look back and wish I had done more, given more, and experienced more. So this is as a spiritual and character-driven quest as it is a physical one for me. 

 

Having a family that I adore, would do anything for, and want to be with as much as possible, as well as a demanding career, fitting this goal into that requires real focus, commitment, and execution. I will push harder than most when I truly want something and I’m unwilling to quit, so to me the goal is already achieved and I just have to walk the path now to finish it.

Quick Fire Questions

Michael Putnam aka Putty standing atop his 6th peak, Mount Elbert in Colorado

Putty standing atop of Colorados tallest Peak, Mt. Elbert

  • Book Your Currently Reading? Two books currently: The Push – A Climber’s Search for the Path, by Tommy Caldwell; The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clayton M. Christensen
  • Best Adventure Purchase? Aside from the neck pillow (that gets used on planes and as a pillow when I sleep in a car or a bench or wherever) it would be my Garmin InTouch. It gives my wife piece of mind that I can communicate that I’m alive virtually wherever I end up. I’ve used it a lot to keep her calm and comfortable. Haha
  • Favorite Adventure Resource? Most definitely my Sawyer in-line filter. Getting stuck without water is the worst. Everything else is just layering and comfort (except in more technical situations). I’ve needed the filter many times and without it some situations would have been really hairy.
  • Biggest Inspiration? My Uncle Dave. The dude is 72 years old and currently tackling the entire CA stretch of the PCT. He’s always had an apparent and deep love of the outdoors and adventure, from ice climbing in the U.S. and Canada, to rock climbing, to spending weeks on the trail. He was a big part of why I fell in love with the outdoors and also why I go to Yosemite every year to take in its wonder and energy. In addition, my commitment to following through on a big goal to prove to myself I can, as well as be a potential example of dedication for my sons.
  • Favorite Adventure Website or piece of digital content? Adventure Hacks because of its real desire to help humans and nature convene and for us to get the most out of it without hurting it. Also, The Planet D blog. It shows how you can be an average person without massive skill, physical gifts, etc and still go adventure and enjoy this planet to its fullest.

1. What inspired you to undertake this challenge, how do you motivate yourself to keep going?

I’m an all or nothing type guy. When I make a decision to pursue something, it becomes an obsession. Combine that with my love of seeing new places, taking on new challenges, and experiencing or sharing them with those I love, this is an easy decision to keep going. 

2. Comparing to adventures past, what has allowed you to expand your endeavors?

Putty's view from top of Mt. Elbert in Colorado USA

Putty’s early morning view from the top of Mt. Elbert Colorado

I heard a leader/speaker I respect say once to a question he received about how he can have a conversation in front of 5,000 people like he’s talking to his closest friend, “Preparation and repetition”. That stuck with me. And as I’ve grown in what I’m willing, able, and wanting to take on with regard to adventure, it applies still. I’m still at the beginning, in my view, of my adventure skills and journey.

 

Though with each new endeavor, the previous experiences and learning plays a big part. Confidence grows as we do something more often and better. So I take that confidence into a new zone and expand the comfort level purposely and safely (most of the time ;). I believe that the human mind and body can do so much more than we often give it credit for and I aim to continue pushing them both so I can hopefully see what mine can do.

3. What’s the best part of this adventure challenge, and why? How can others apply this to what they’re doing?

Anyone can do what I’m doing if they truly want to. And it may be the farthest thing from what they actually desire. That’s cool! The lesson I am learning that may apply to anyone’s goals is that it’s important to find something that truly speaks to your heart, then give it everything you have. If we do that in life, love, relationships, health, business, etc, we can and will live some pretty amazing lives. Not without their challenges, though most definitely with some epic successes and fun too.

4. How do you approach these adventures?

Michael and Jayme bagging another tallest mountain peak in the United States

The Putnam’s grabbing a breather and some water about 2.5 miles in, 10,000 feet up and around zero degrees Fahrenheit

This adventure is proving to take more planning than I am normally good at. I like to wing it. And this doesn’t always or exactly lend to that approach. So I’ve learned to be better at the details through this. I have a map on my wall with all of the high points on it. I use it to plan trips that allow me to make the most of my time and hit as many high points (or a single, harder one) as fast as I can without sacrificing the fun of it. It also allows me to minimize the time I spend away from my family, as well as the impact to my career.

 

I get up early to train (5am), am very intentional about family time, and focus hard on work so I can do as much as possible during the time I have available to it. Then I do what needs to be done late at night, earlier in the morning, and on weekends. It’s not uncommon for me to be in a coffee shop at 6am on a Sunday (I am right now) working on things that need to be done for my coming week/month in my job, so that I can be back to the family by the time my sons wake up so we can have breakfast and have a great day together along with my amazing wife, Jayme. The point is this- I have a few things in my life that are truly important to me so they get the majority of my time. The other ‘stuff’ that needs to get done will get done, though not to the detriment of what matters most. And that makes it all easier.

5. When did you realize you accomplished your goal for this adventure?

Haven’t yet. Though every high point/peak I touch I feel an absolute feeling of progress and joy. It’s already provided me with some experiences I will cherish and for that I’m grateful and excited about what’s next.

6. Looking back, what could you have done sooner to reach that point quicker?

Nothing. The timing was right for me to make this decision and I wouldn’t change that. 
Well, that’s not entirely true…I wouldn’t have ditched my snowshoes on the trail while attempting a winter ascent of Humphreys Peak in Arizona in February 2022. Ended up post-holing to my waist for a half mile and still had 3 miles to go. I flamed out and definitely regretted that decision. Haha. Though, I have plans already to go back and tackle that one this year. There’s another lesson there- failure doesn’t mean you’re done, just means you haven’t achieved the goal YET.

7. What should other aspiring adventurers focus on to expand their own horizons to connect with themselves and nature?

Jayme(Putty's wife) posing on one of their snow hikes last winter

Mrs. Putty (Jayme) in Feb 2022 posing for the camera during what Putty calls a “failed summit bid” of Humphreys Peak, AZ

Enjoy it! The old cliche “enjoy the journey” is so true. Slow down and take in what’s around you. Let it in. Give yourself grace and patience. Some of my favorite moments have been on the trail, not necessarily at the summit/peak. The summit is the destination, sure, though the whole journey is the experience.

8. What do you consider the main difference between people who made adventuring second nature, vs those who view it as a chore?

There’s a specific example in my own life that resonates with me around this question. Because of my love for adventure and the outdoors, I tried really hard to get my sons into it early, as well. Too hard. I forced it. And it was apparent that it was becoming a chore for them, so I’ve backed off. I want them to develop a love for whatever is important to them.

 

RELATED: 20 Questions To Entertain Your Kids While On Adventures

 

I hope this will be one of those things and I can’t want it for them more than they want it for themselves. It’s their life and their decision and it’s my job to support them in what matters most to them. I won’t stop exposing them to it, though I also don’t want them to dislike it because I pushed too hard to force them into it. 

 

You have to really want to do something to find joy in it. Otherwise, it does become a chore. Chores aren’t a bad thing in many areas of life. Though when it comes to things like adventure, if it’s a chore, you won’t get nearly as much out of it as you could and you may even resent it. Then, what’s the point?

 

Also, here are the elevations for each – i created a scale of difficulty for them too…

 

Difficulty:

 

😂 laughably easy
😃 easy
😅 moderate
😮‍💨 hard
🥴 very hard
🤯 extreme

✅ Arkansas – Signal Hill, Magazine Mountain 2753’ 😃

✅ California – Mt Whitney 14508’ 😮‍💨

✅ Colorado – Mt Elbert 14440’ 😮‍💨

✅ Delaware – Ebright Azimuth 447’ 😂

✅ Texas – Guadalupe Peak 8751’ 😅

✅ Nevada – Boundary Peak 13146’ 😮‍💨

✅ Maryland – Hoye Crest 3360’ 😃

✅ Louisiana – Driskill Mountain 535’ 😃

✅ DC – Fort Reno 409’ 😂

I'm David Aston, Founding Nomad of AdventureHacks, Inc. My mission is to inspire adventure on the ground, in the water and through the air. If I also happen to inspire you to purchase gear, my team and I plant a tree in its native environment for every order.

[email protected]

Comments
  • Michael Putnam

    I appreciate the AH crew so much. Thank you for doing this with me. It gives me extra motivation to go out there and make it happen. I’m loving every second of it, even the painful ones, of which there have been plenty and are sure to be plenty more. Let’s all do something big and have a hell of a time while doing it.

  • Jean Wells

    Thank you for this great article! I’ve known Putty since he was a baby. I can tell you that I’m as proud of the man he’s become as if I was his own mother…who is my best friend.

    Putty is an inspiration and I love this dude! Keep going!!! You’ve got this!

  • Noah Solis

    Thanks for the read! Rooting for you!
    I’m gunning for my own peak goals!

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