Peak bagging or hill bagging is an activity in which hikers, climbers, and mountaineers attempt to reach a collection of summits, published in the form of a list. The activity was popularized in Scotland in the 1890s with the creation of the Munro list by Sir Hugh Munro. Peak bagging was brought to the United States by Robert and George Marshall in 1918. Since then, the activity has been popularized around the world, with lists such as 100 Famous Japanese Mountains, the Sacred Mountains of China, the Seven Summits, and the eight-thousanders becoming the subject of mass public interest.
There are numerous lists that a peakbagger may choose to follow. A list usually contains a set of peaks confined to a geographical area, with the peaks having some sort of subjective popularity or objective significance, such as being among the highest or most prominent of the area.
A central part of peak bagging is the list, which details all the summits one must obtain to complete or finish the list. In some cases, a climber who finishes a list may receive some form of award, such as an emblem or badge. In the case of the eight-thousanders list, some mountaineers may become famous within the mountaineering community.
Clubs are often formed to gather climbers who share an interest in bagging peaks on a list. Some clubs are specialized; these include the Sierra Peaks Section, the Hundred Peaks Section, and the Adirondack Forty-Sixers. Alpine clubs may include peak bagging as one of the activities in which its members may participate; notable alpine clubs that maintain peak bagging lists include the Scottish Mountaineering Club, the Mazamas of Oregon and the Mountaineers of Washington. Other clubs may promote the climbing of peaks on a peak bagging list they do not maintain; a reflection of this is the relationship between the Colorado fourteeners list and the Colorado Mountain Club.
Clubs maintain listings of people who have completed peak bagging lists, and also provide opportunities for social interaction, such as through outings and club events.
Reaching a summit
A topic of discussion within peak bagging circles is under what circumstances a climber may consider a peak summited. Generally, the summit block has to be reached and the climber must touch or be within a few horizontal meters of the highest point. However this convention is not universal, due to the varying objectives of individual peakbaggers. Furthermore, many summits have flat tops that make discerning where the highest point is very difficult. Still other summits may be mostly technically easy, but contain relatively small obstacles on top that nonetheless cannot be easily negotiated without being subject to exposure. Many clubs have special rules that attempt to address these considerations.
Some peak baggers increase the challenge of summiting a list of peaks in various ways, such as by requiring a minimum vertical climb per peak, climbing within a time limit, climbing in different seasons (such as winter), or climbing the same peak multiple times by different routes.
Various organizations have adopted rules for what to do when a peak is on private land or otherwise inaccessible, whether off-road vehicles may be used, etc.
Peak bagging is distinguished from highpointing. In peak bagging, the targets are the peaks of mountains or hills, and the popular lists usually require that the target pass some threshold of elevation or prominence. In highpointing, the goal is only to reach the highest point in some geographic area (e.g. county, state, or country), whether or not it is a peak.
In some parts of the world, a summit register or summit log may be located in a watertight container such as a jar or can, stashed in a protected spot. Peak baggers often will write a note or log entry and leave it in the "summit log" as a record of their accomplishment. Increasingly, peak baggers are also logging their summits online by signing virtual summit logs.
Arguments for and against
Traditional climbers or adventurers may argue that peak bagging devalues the experience of climbing in favour of the achievement of reaching an arbitrary point on a map; that bagging reduces climbing to the status of stamp collecting or train spotting; or that is seen as obsessive and beside the point. For example, in explaining why he chose to remove some minor peaks from his guidebook, climber Steve Roper wrote:
Most of the peaks had as their first ascenders those who in a former day would have been called explorers but now could only be thought of as peakbaggers, interested primarily in trudging endlessly over heaps of stones, building cairns, and inserting their business cards into specifically designed canisters especially carried for this purpose. But perhaps I am being too harsh. They’re having their fun.
Some baggers say peak bagging is a motivation to keep reaching new summits. For mountain range peak lists, attaining the goal provides the peak bagger with a deeper appreciation for the topography of the range. For example, each peak is typically enjoyed from multiple aspects as the peak bagger also climbs the major neighboring summits.
There is also concern that encouraging the climbing of certain mountains has caused trail damage from erosion through heavy use and, where mountains have no trails, created trails. Proponents note that many peak baggers become active in maintaining trails and more aware about mitigating damage than casual hikers.
- "Hill Bagging". www.hill-bagging.co.uk.
- Lew, Alan A. and Han, Guosheng (2015). A World Geography of Mountain Trekking. In G. Musa, A. Thompson-Carr and J. Higham, eds., Mountaineering Tourism, pp. (forthcoming). Oxford: Routledge. (pre-publication copy)
- "4000 footers in a single winter season".
- Andrew Becker. "I Was Here - A High Sierra search for the voices of climbers past - Sierra Club, Sierra Magazine, July/August 2008". Retrieved 2008-10-30.
- Steve Roper, The Climber’s Guide to the High Sierra, copyright ©1976 by Sierra Club Books
- peakbagger.com Information and statistics about the mountain peaks and mountain ranges of the world
- peakbucket.com The activity tracking website for peakbaggers worldwide
- peakery.com Worldwide peakbagging community with over 300,000 peak summit logs and peak lists
- peakbook.org International peakbagging community with worldwide peak lists
- peakhunter.org Global summit log project with crowd sourced peak data