Rookie of the Year
Declan Kiley becomes third known hiker to complete “triple-single” winter of White Mountains 4,000-footers
Declan Kiley had always felt drawn to the mountains.
A native of West Hartford, Connecticut, Kiley had spent much of his youth outdoors. Growing up he was involved with the Boy Scouts and went camping every month, and when it came time to head off to college, he chose St. Anselm partly because of its close proximity to the White Mountains.
And yet, for reasons he could never put a finger on, he never made the hour-long drive up I-93 from Manchester during his first two years at school.
“I honestly don’t know why I didn’t go up,” he said. “I think it had been building that whole time but I never quite got past that hurdle.”
Upon his return to school last August, Kiley decided that it was finally time. He drove up to the White Mountains and hiked Mt. Moosilauke, and from that moment on he was hooked.
“That’s what opened the floodgates,” he said.
Over the past nine months or so, Kiley has likely hiked more peaks in the White Mountains than anybody else. The 20-year-old college junior completed his first round of the 48 4,000-footers in less than two months, and recently he became just the third known person to hike all 48 peaks three times in a single winter season — a feat known as a “triple-single.”
Kiley did it despite having to balance hiking with his busy class schedule, and in order to maintain his pace he hiked in all kinds of conditions, including regular trips at night.
“I went up as often as I could,” he said. “I’d head up right after class on Friday, hike over the weekend and go back Monday.”
Kiley finished his first round of the 4,000-footers on Mt. Isolation on Oct. 26, 2019. Immediately afterwards, he returned to The Notch Hostel in North Woodstock — which had become his White Mountains basecamp — in time to hear a presentation by fellow hiker Philip Carcia on his recently completed Single-Year Grid.
The Grid is a White Mountains challenge in which hikers must climb the 48 4,000-footers in all 12 months of the year, ultimately requiring 576 peaks in total. It takes most hikers years to complete, but Carcia became the second hiker ever to complete the grid in a single year, setting the fastest known time in the process.
Hearing that such a feat was possible, Kiley began considering what he might be capable of.
“It got the gears turning in my head about what was possible and gave me a lot of inspiration,” Kiley said.
Kiley decided to go back and re-hike his earliest peaks to complete a single-season fall round of the 48. Then as winter approached he decided he wanted to attempt a single-season New England 67, which encompasses all 67 4,000-footers in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.
There was only one problem. He’d never hiked in winter conditions before.
“It was completely new to me,” he said. “The only thing I was going off of was my motivation and willingness to hike in the cold.”
As it turned out, Kiley was well equipped to handle the rigors of the Whites in winter — both physically and mentally — and also had the dedication to get out on the trail every day. During winter break he hiked every day for 14 consecutive days, staying and working at the Notch Hostel to avoid unnecessary travel, and before long he’d completed the full 48 once more.
By that point, Kiley decided he didn’t want to deal with driving to and from Vermont and Maine, so instead of completing the New England 67, he shifted gears and attempted to do the New Hampshire 48 a second time.
“I’d gotten to know the peaks really well, all of my friends were still hiking in New Hampshire, and that was the biggest thing, the community in the Whites,” Kiley said. “My friends were there and I really loved the peaks I was hiking, so I kept going.
“Eventually I finished my second round and was quite a few into the third, so at that point it was crazy to do the Maine peaks,” he continued. “So I felt like this is a tough goal, but if I push I can do it.”
Kiley had his fair share of memorable hikes during his big winter. He took advantage of a particularly nice weather window by completing a pair of Presidential Traverses on back to back days. He also had a fun trek out to Galehead for his friend and regular hiking buddy Rebecca Schubert’s final New England 67 peak.
It all culminated on March 19, the final day of winter, when Kiley completed the lengthy hike out to Mt. Isolation and then returned to Mt. Moosilauke immediately afterwards to complete his triple-single winter.
“It was pretty relieving,” Kiley said. “I was really proud of my achievement but I’d say I was most looking forward to sleep.”
With his spring semester cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, Kiley has been back in Connecticut since winter’s end. While his plans for the coming year are now largely up in the air, when things do eventually go back to normal he hopes to get back into the Whites and find new challenges to pursue.
“I’m really looking forward to getting out there as much as possible,” he said.
N.B. Since the launch of this post, there is some exciting news. Declan has accepted a job at The Notch Hostel -- where he will be living in "The House of Grid" where Philip Carcia lived while completing his Single Year Grid. The House was built by Justin Walsh, the operations manager at Burgeon.
Declan Kiley’s Triple-Single Stats
- 144 peaks
- 733 miles (approx.)
- 250,000 feet of vertical (approx.)
- 50 hiking days
- 3 Presidential Traverses (two on consecutive days)
- 1 Super-Extended, 12-peak Pemi Loop
- 1 Wildcats-Carters-Moriah Traverse
Thank you to Mac Cerullo for his work on this blog post. He did 99% of the work!
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