The First Recorded American Mountain Climber Saw a Majesty No One Else Did

In 1642, You Had to Be a Little Nuts to Think Mountaineering Was a Good Idea

Thomas Cole (American, 1801 - 1848 ), A View of the Mountain Pass Called the Notch of the White Mountains (Crawford Notch), 1839, oil on canvas, Andrew W. Mellon Fund

In the spring of 1642, in what was then the Upper Plantation of Massachusetts Bay Colony, later the colony, and still later the state of New Hampshire, Darby Field, a 32-year-old Englishman of Irish descent, was doing something unprecedented in England’s newly-established North American colonies—climbing a mountain.

Field, a resident of the community of Pascataquack (present day Durham, New Hampshire), left no written record of his climb or indication of its purpose. But others, including John Winthrop, governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, took note of this odd endeavor. Mountain climbing …

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