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. This 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. In the UK, the Marilyns have become popular.
Although peak bagging is a fundamental part of the sport of mountaineering, the term is strongly associated with hiking and other non-technical activities like snowshoeing. Most people who bag peaks lack technical mountaineering skills, and in fact often avoid peaks that require such knowledge. A handful of lists, such as the eight-thousanders and the Alpine four-thousanders have an extremely high reputation amount mountaineers, but in general the term "peak bagging" is a pejorative to many climbers.
During the Silver Age of Alpinism in the late 19th century, most of the unclimbed major mountaineering objectives were reached. With the "closing" of the age of discovery of mountain peaks, interest shifted towards finding enjoyable ways to climb already-ascended mountains. In the 1890s, Sir Hugh Munro created Munro list of the highest peaks of Scotland; summiting the peaks on such lists soon became known as peak bagging. Peak bagging was brought to the United States by Robert and George Marshall in 1918.
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 people who share an interest in bagging peaks on a list. Some clubs are specialized, such as the Sierra Peaks Section or 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, or they may create an authoritative version of a list that is already popular; 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 someone 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 peak baggers; most peak baggers are not traditional climbers, but rather hikers who have no technical skills. Thus, a common pain point are summits may be mostly technically easy, but contain relatively small obstacles on top that nonetheless cannot be easily negotiated without being subject to exposure. Furthermore, many summits have flat tops that make discerning where the highest point is very difficult. Many clubs have special rules that attempt to address these considerations.
Alternatively, some climbers and mountaineers may consider a route to be unworthy if no technical skills are needed.
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. Traditional mountaineers and climbers may elect to only go up routes with certain climbing grades
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
The term "peak bagging" can have a negative connotation among traditional mountaineers. 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 peak 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.
- Eight-thousanders, summits above 8,000 metres
- Seven Summits, the highest mountain on each continent
- Seven Second Summits, the second highest mountain on each continent
- Volcanic Seven Summits, the highest volcanos on each continent
- List of mountain lists, list of all peak bagging classifications
- Munro, first peak bagging list
- "Hill Bagging". www.hill-bagging.co.uk.
- David Reuther; John Thorn (1 October 1998). The Armchair Mountaineer. Menasha Ridge Press. ISBN 978-0-89732-092-4.
- Meyer, John (2019-11-21). "Colorado woman first to climb all 846 peaks above 13,000 feet in every state but Alaska". The Know. Retrieved 2020-03-29.
- Frick-Wright, Peter (2019-01-15). "The Mad, Obsessive Quest to Summit the World's Highest Points". Outside Online. Retrieved 2020-03-29.
- 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
- hill-bagging.co.uk Database and logging of British and Irish hills