Famed mountaineer and guide Melissa Arnot and college senior and guide-in-training Maddie Miller recently broke the 50 Peaks Challenge world record by summiting the highest point in all 50 states in 41 days, 16 hours, and 10 minutes. The previous world record was 43 days, 2 hours, and 8 minutes. Over the course of the project the two hiked 268 miles and ascended more than 84,000 vertical feet. Their Sprinter van driver and cook accompanied them over the 19,594 miles across the U.S., including mechanicals and a re-route in Wyoming due to wildfires. Arnot – who is not officially the record holder on the 50 Peaks Challenge because she joined Miller after Denali on June 27 — has summited Everest six times and holds the record for the most American Everest summits by a woman and the first female summit of Everest without supplemental oxygen.
The Gear Institute was able to catch up with Miller after Outdoor Retailer where the duo took time to appear with some of their sponsors before bopping off to complete their mission on August 7 atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
Miller said she first got into mountaineering after climbing Mount Rainier with Arnot and her dad after high school. “This particular trip lit a passion within me for climbing. The 50 peaks challenge was greatly inspired by Melissa but also my need to keep lighting this passion every chance I could get,” said Miller, currently finishing her last year at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. “I hope when I graduate I can continue to inspire other people, especially young women, to keep pursuing their dreams. This could be in the form of a school or camp for young girls!”
GI: What’s in your peak bagging pack?
MM: Justin’s maple almond butter packets for fueling up, an SOL first-aid/repair kit for the little emergencies, a Steripen for sterilizing water, an Eddie Bauer microtherm jacket for colder temps, an Eddie Bauer squirrel sleeping bag for emergency bivvies, the Zamst LC-1 calf compression socks for reducing muscle fatigue after really long climbs, and an Avex double- wall water bottle for keeping drinks hot or cold depending on the day. Currently I use the Bacon pack from Eddie Bauer for just about every peak bagging adventure, but I’ve also used the Deuter ACT trail 22-liter pack for some climbs.
GI: What are your most essential items for each climb?
MM: My first essential item is the La Sportiva Trangos because they are the most durable, light, and grippy hiking shoes I have ever used. Any surface, rock, snow or ice they are able to do it all! My second essential item would be Smartwool liner gloves. They are breathable, light, and stay dry for the climbs that are a little chilly to begin with. The third essential item would be my iPhone for both maps usage and photos. Using a paper map is good and I try to always bring one along, but the new technologies that apps bring like the GPS tracking in Gaia and Strava are unbeatable.
GI: What are some of your sponsors’ gear items that you find essential?
MM: My first essential item is the collapsible Leki Trekking pole. Not only is it super light, but it’s very sturdy, keeping me upright on the longer climbs. The other essential item would be the Eddie Bauer Buff. It’s breathable and keeps my face and neck sunburn free on the hot climbs, while also keeping my face and ears warm on the colder climbs.
GI: Anything that you couldn’t live without?
MM: The Eddie Bauer Alpine Front jacket has changed the way I experience weather in the backcountry. This jacket is good for wind, rain, sleet, snow, it keeps everything out while still being breathable. Not to mention it is very light and easily packable while still being a big source of warmth for me on big peaks. The other piece of gear that has been a game changer is the Zamst EK-3 for medial lateral support — I put my knees through a lot of abuse and this piece of gear in particular is able to keep me climbing just when I thought knee pain would stop me.
—Photos courtesy of Jon Mancuso