The Over The Hill Hikers began, modestly enough, in the summer of 1979 with a handful of friends hiking past Jose's Bridge to the rocky ledges at Great Falls for a picnic lunch..In later weeks they moved on to stiffer climbs of nearby peaks in the Sandwich Range of the White Mountains.
Lib Bates, the "Den Mother", and her late husband Charlie Crooker, retired to Sandwich a couple of years later and quietly stepped forward to organize the group and to broaden its reach. As the daughter of one of the first AMC hut masters, Red Mac Gregor, Lib had been hiking in New Hampshire all her life and looked forward to taking her friends on favorite trails.
Under her leadership the Sandwich hiking group literally took off, bagging 4000 footers week by week, nearly always on Tuesdays. Overnights at the huts and the Glen in Pittsburg were thrown in from time to time..recently ski groups have visited the Balsams and Bethel Inn. In 1986 the schedule was expanded to include a fall trip outside of New Hampshire..recent trips to do the 4000 footers in Maine, excursions to Montana and the Alps have been well received..
There are now over 100 members on the roster plus some non hiking spouses.. Currently 66 have climbed the New Hampshire 4000 footers...25 have done it twice..10 three times...Jocelyn Gutchess and Pat Russell 4 times and Mary Cullen at last count 8 times.
In 1990, with some of the older members tiring of the 4000 footers, Lib Bates came up with another list, the "52 with a View"..a list of shorter but in some cases quite difficult hikes to splendid viewpoints in the white Mountains.. To date..17 have completed this list.A special "100" patch was designed to go with the AMC's 48.
The group is not exactly a club.. more a loose collection of people who like to hike and prefer the common sense approach of hiking with friends. Dues are a modest $5.00 to cover postage needs for those without email. There are hikes scheduled each week with A, B, and C groups available...The A group typically does the 4000 footers at a moderate, beat book time pace. The B group does some 4ks, many of the 52 with a view, at a somewhat more relaxed pace. . The C group would be a slower pace to shorter hikes of interest in the whites such as Greeley Ponds, Mount Willard, and Blueberry..(excellent hike).. Each hike has a leader who plots the route, carries the first aid kit, keeps track of fellow hikers with proper pace and etiquette, and , make decisions to go-no go based on weather and trail conditions.
In 1984 a companion group, the Friday walkers was formed for a more leisurely pace. There is a cross country ski group in the winter and also snow shoe hikes. In 2006, an informal group started getting together on Wednesdays and Thursdays to explore the 100 highest of New England...This is a faster paced group with some longer days on the trail...In August 2007 the group went over to Maine and bagged 10 4000 footers in a very fine hiking week..in August 2008 a trip to Baxter was planned and several completed their NE67 4000 footers this year with thesetrips to Maine as well as Vermont.... In 2007 a winter hiking group was formed and we now have a regular group of 6 people or so hiking every tuesday year round..
There have been , of course, some ups and downs, cuts and sprains, hikers who strayed from the path, leaders who went too fast or too slow..hiking in the Whites one must be open and prepared for fast changing weather conditions...by and large a scheduled hike goes unless the leader of the day determines the conditions are dangerous.
When Lib Bates stepped aside in the late 90's, a "Life after Lib" committee first named Bill and Claire Smith as leaders..Bill Glenday and Jocelyn Gutchess are prior chairs and Pat Russell currently serves that post. Dave and Marion Blackshear run the Friday group, Mark Tuckerman the NE100 group and winter hiking group,..In 2007 Charlie Kuehn turned over the task of communications and website development to Mark Tuckerman...Mary Cullen acts as treasurer and keeps the roster up to date ... Sharon Vittum handles the very important task of social director...in 2009 Ginny McDonald and Nancy Leighley organized the succeesful winter awards banquet.