Climbing the highest peak on every continent — the “Seven Summits” — presents a worthy challenge for serious mountaineers. If traveling around the world seems a little daunting, you can try to scale the “Seven Summits of Scouting.” Choose any of the following destinations (most of which are in America), and you and your Scouts will be in for some towering adventures.
Rising more than 9,300 feet in the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles, Calif., Mount Baden-Powell is the most accessible of Scouting’s Seven Summits. Follow a 4-mile trail up 40 switchbacks, past the 1,500-year-old Wally Waldron pine tree (named after an area Scout executive), to find a mountaintop monument honoring the founder of the worldwide Scouting movement. The peak offers 360-degree views of the surrounding mountain range and Mojave Desert.
The Pacific Crest Trail passes near the summit, making it an easy side trip for long-distance hikers. A little more than a mile west along the Silver Moccasin Trail stands Mount Burnham, named for American adventurer and Silver Buffalo Award recipient Frederick Russell Burnham. He is credited with sharing woodcraft skills with Baden-Powell and introducing him to the broad-brimmed Stetson that became the hat of choice for generations of Scouts.
Ernest Thompson-Seton’s name graces the annals of Boy Scouts of America history as the organization’s first Chief Scout. His name also graces a 7,820-foot-tall mountain near Montana’s Glacier National Park. Set off from the end of Whale Creek Road in Flathead National Forest for the rugged 12-mile roundtrip hike. You’ll know you’ve completed the 3,000-foot vertical ascent when you find the remains of an old fire lookout and terrific views of Whitefish Range, which stretches to Canada.
Mount Dan Beard
A craggy, snow-clad mountain in Alaska’s Denali National Park serves as a great tribute to Daniel Carter Beard, who wrote and illustrated much of the BSA’s early literature. You can’t drive up to the base of this one, but you can fly a ski-equipped aircraft from the Talkeetna, Alaska, airstrip into the park, home of Denali, North America’s highest peak. Your pilot can drop you off with gear and provisions for a week or more of camping on glaciers and exploring the region.
Alpinists skilled in climbing vertical rock and ice will find plenty of technical demands on Mount Dan Beard’s imposing flanks. Just as enjoyable can be cross-country skiing vast expanses of the Ruth and Sheldon Amphitheaters in the shadows of the more than 10,000-foot mountain.
Conservationist William Temple Hornaday brought a strong sense of environmental stewardship to the BSA. He also helped save American bison from extinction, so it is fitting that a mountain in Yellowstone National Park, home of many bison, is named after him.
The 10,000-foot Hornaday summit in Wyoming can be reached by experienced backcountry travelers coming over Druid Peak several miles to the south. You can also discover one of Yellowstone’s best hikes with a 20-mile backpacking trip that circumnavigates Mount Hornaday. Follow Pebble Creek upstream, climb over Bliss Pass and descend the Slough Creek watershed to enjoy unspoiled valleys, a taste of the high country and fine vistas of the mountain.
Eagle Scout Peak
A windy July day in 1926 found Sierra Club board director Francis Farquhar leading three young Eagle Scouts up a gorgeous granite mountain deep in California’s Sierra Nevada Range. Their journey had involved days of hiking and nights camping under the stars, which culminated in being the first to stand atop a peak that had no name. To celebrate their ascent, Farquhar saw to it that the mountain would be known as Eagle Scout Peak.
The trail has improved since 1926, but you’ll still need at least three days to backpack in and scramble up the 12,000-foot peak. Contact Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks to get wilderness permits and to learn about the challenges you should be ready to encounter.
Baden-Powell Scout Peak
If you ever make a trip to the Himalayas, consider scaling the 19,000-foot mountain once known as Urkema. The Nepalese government renamed it Baden-Powell Scout Peak in 2007 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Scouting movement.
Scouts from Australia, China, Korea, Nepal and Singapore embarked that year on expeditions to climb the peak. To follow in their footsteps, do plenty of lesser ascents first and master the technical skills of mountaineering.
An iconic Scouting landmark is 12,441-foot Baldy Mountain, the highest point on Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. By far, more Scouts have climbed “Old Baldy” than have reached the tops of all the aforementioned summits combined.
If you are among those who have made the spectacular ascent, you were probably on a Philmont backcountry trek. You might have passed through Baldy Town or French Henry before climbing the switchbacks through thinning forests until you were above the tree line. The last steep pitch got you to the top, where you could see much of northern New Mexico and far into Colorado. Philmont has plenty of other peaks to conquer, including Black Mountain, Mount Phillips, Big Red and the Tooth of Time.
Before you climb
Not yet had the joy of scaling the Seven Summits of Scouting? Then start dreaming, getting in shape and making your plans. Mountaineering is appropriate for older Scouts, Venturers and Sea Scouts. Be sure to visit go.scoutingmagazine.org/cope for climbing guidelines.
If scaling a mountain sounds out of reach right now, search for more manageable sites nearby to start. Depending on where you are, the highest point in your state could be achieved during a day hike, which is suitable for all Scouts. Lofty times await!
Robert Birkby is author of three editions of The Boy Scout Handbook, two editions of the BSA’s Fieldbook and the latest edition of the Conservation Handbook. Find him at robertbirkby.com