Jason Hardrath climbs ever upwards through the surrounding haze. The swirling clouds leave a cool dampness on his skin. He moves fluidly; focus dialed down to only that which is in front of him. Foot here, hand there, grab this rock, the other foot moves. His world is quiet. It’s just him and the rock.
He breaks above the clouds before he reaches the summit, but still, his focus is honed in on the task in front of him. The earth falls away to a sea of clouds as he crests onto the summit. The puffy white layer below seems almost thick enough to walk on. His awareness widens and he breathes it in, this world that seems to only belong to him.
This is not Hardrath’s first peak, nor is it his last. This is peak number 44, Sinister Peak, in what was a 50-day push to summit all of Washington State’s 100 highest peaks, called the Bulger List. This astounding feat took him across 869 miles of the state’s roughest terrain and totaled over 411,000 feet of climbing. Hardrath bushwhacked, hiked, scrambled, and climbed through dense vegetation, boulder fields, glaciers, talus fields, and scree. He met incredible people along the way, and connected with nature and himself.
The Bulger list is an iconic list of peaks put together by a mountaineering group of the same name in 1980. Since its inception, the list has only seen 84 finishers, most of whom took four years or more to complete. In 2018, Eric Gilbertson set the speed record in 410 days, climbing peaks in between life’s usual responsibilities. But Hardrath saw the possibility of completion in 100 days or less, and being a school teacher, he would only have a summer available to give it a shot.