Peak Bagging: the what and why

Peak bagging is the practice of climbing to the summit of a hill or mountain in an attempt to collect ‘peaks’ in a particular region. People do this because the peak is the tallest peaks in the world, country or state, or because they are attempting to summit a group of peaks within a particular area. For many hikers this provides the ‘why’ for their hiking.

I must admit that from my perspective, the whole concept of peak bagging is just plain strange. When I hike I follow the designated trail and if the trail goes over a summit, I will follow it, but if it doesn’t there needs to be a really good reason to head up hill. I’ve done some trails that have gone over summits and the views have been spectacular and well worth it. In other instances it appears that the trail designers have just decided to walk hikers up the tallest peak they can find and the views end up being pretty ordinary.

I’m a big believer in the path of least resistance but in practice I’m in the minority – it seems the majority of hikers I come across choose the uphill route. But why is that? Why do people choose to collect summits? In the following article we look at the main reasons hikers choose to ‘peak bag’ as well as some of the options available if that’s what you’re into.

Why do hikers peak bag?

We recently asked our Facebook community why they love to climb peaks and there really weren’t any surprises with the responses for going up hill being as expected. The majority of people who choose the summit route did so for one of the following reasons:

Fitness

Prior to a hike one of the main reasons people choose to go uphill is fitness. Climbing hills works the muscles in a way that walking on flat ground doesn’t and for me, this is the main reason I choose to summit hills and mountains.

It’s on the trail

The first and most obvious reason for climbing uphill on a hike is that the peak in question is on the trail. Many trail designers these days when provided with a choice, will put a trail up and over at least one summit. Sometimes it makes sense, and sometimes it doesn’t.

The view

Many hikers will choose to go uphill even if it’s not on the trail because these optional peaks can provide some amazing views. I have seen some amazing things from some summits but sometimes the best view isn’t at the summit. The problem is, you don’t know unless you go!

Photographic opportunities

While the views from a summit can be amazing they can also provide excellent photographic opportunities that you can’t get from anywhere else.

A goal

Sometimes you have a peak in mind that is currently beyond your ability or is something you have always wanted to do. For most Australians, climbing Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest peak, is on most people’s bucket list.

List ticking

More common than not but there are those who climb peaks to tick off lists. Climbing the highest peak of every Australian state, climbing Australia’s 10 highest peaks, climbing all the peaks in a local area are all common activities worldwide.

Australian peak bagging options

From a hiking perspective here are some goals you may choose to set to provide some motivation for getting out there. Do the:

  • Aussie 10, Australia’s ten highest mountains. It’s actually easier than it sounds!
  • Tallest peaks in each Australian state and territory
    • ACT – Mount Bimberi
    • NSW – Mount Kosciuszko
    • NT – Mount Zeal
    • QLD – Mount Bartle Frere (South Peak)
    • SA – Mount Woodroffe
    • TAS – Mount Ossa
    • VIC – Mount Bogong
    • WA – Mount Meharry
  • Highest peaks in your local area
  • Peaks along your trail for example there are many side peak options along The Overland Track

View from the summit of Mount Abbott with Mount Townsend in the background on the Aussie 10 hike

Final thoughts

As already mentioned I find the whole concept of peak bagging strange and reasons like ‘because it’s there’ just doesn’t cut it with me. For me to climb up a hill or mountain there has to be some valid reason; a good view, different vegetation, fitness training or most importantly because it’s on the trail.

Ultimately what it comes down to is hike your own hike and don’t let anyone tell your choices are wrong.

If hiking up every hill in sight is what makes you happy then go for it; if it gets you out into nature that’s all the reason that anyone needs.

 

Listen to our peak bagging podcast here

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