Climbing Mountains and Walking Across America with Raynor Memorial Libraries Staff

“Looking for a new challenge to kick off your New Year’s health and fitness resolutions?  Consider one of these two, or both if you really want to show off.” With this simple e-mail the Raynor Memorial Libraries began two group challenges in mid-January. Together, any interested staff or student employees would combine their physical activity to virtually climb mountains and/or walk across the United States in sixteen weeks. Individuals could join the group for however long they wished, some remained for the entire sixteen week challenge, others came for a week or two, throughout the challenge.

The first challenge was called the “Climb Every Mountain Challenge,” based on Richard Bass’ achievement on April 30, 1985 of reaching the summits of the seven highest peaks on each of the seven continents. Thirteen staff members took part in this challenge

Using the average U.S. stair height of about seven inches, the height of each mountain was converted to inches and then determined about how many seven inch high stairs it would take to reach the top. [Everest, 49,764 stairs, Aconcagua 39,156 stairs, McKinley/Denali 34, 837 stairs, Kilimanjaro 33,156 stairs, Elbrus 31,731 stairs, Vinson 27,514 stairs, and Kusciuszko 12,531 stairs]. Each individual interested in taking part of the challenge would tally the number of stairs they climbed during a week, then submit their numbers each Monday. A simple Excel table was used to track the numbers. Some people used their Fitbit, while others kept track by counting the number of stairs in their most commonly used staircases and used hash marks to tally their climbs. The fitness levels and challenges of each group member varied. There were some individuals who could run from the lower level of Memorial Library to the fifth floor with an arm full of books and fully loaded backpack and not break a sweat, while others found it difficult to make a full flight of stairs. Those who needed to work on their stamina would use the 4 stair rise between Memorial Library and the Raynor Bridge to increase their strength and stamina, or concentrate on rarely used stairs and work on going part way up then adding to that each week. Other group members were not able to climb stairs at all. For those there were substitutes, four standing or seated “marching steps” would count as one stair step. Not able to move their legs? Then four straight arm lifts counted as one step. The important goal was to move more, not follow a precise, measured stair climb.

Each Tuesday morning, any individual interested in seeing the results would get a summary email. These emails might also include “fun facts” on the climb, such as the first recorded successful summiting of the peak, or the temperature at the peak compared to the temperature in Milwaukee that day. There would also be a challenge for the upcoming week, such as try to climb one extra flight of stairs each day of the week, or a hyperlink to the most challenging staircases in Milwaukee, and individuals were challenged to try an outdoor stair climb. A search of MARQCAT would also alert group members of any books or videos related to the mountain we were climbing, in case they needed a bit more encouragement. Every time the group finished an individual mountain challenge anyone who participated in that mountain climb received an email certificate of accomplishment.   We averaged anywhere from a group low of 8,000 stairs for a week, to a group high of 18,500+ stairs. And yes, the climbers did complete the Seven Summit Challenge with 1,913 steps to spare!

The second challenge was called the Walk across America Challenge, a total of sixteen staff and student employees took part in this challenge. We began our walk determined to reach New Orleans by Tuesday February 17, Mardi Gras! And why not? Milwaukee recorded a high of 22 and a low of -3 on the first day of the challenge, New Orleans 49 and 37, which some in Milwaukee consider shorts and flip flop weather! Googling the walking distance between points the group set out for our first mini goal – Chicago, and of course listed some fun activities and sites walkers could visit. We reached New Orleans in time to celebrate and imagined where we would could go, and as a reward each challenge member received a string of beads to get in the mood. Because it was a virtual activity we had the best places to view the festivities and best restaurants with standing reservations. The group next decided to head over to Arizona to watch the Brewers Spring training. But for a state to count the group had to take a walk through the state capital. So we took a meandering route for our walks, with an ultimate goal in mind, but we didn’t mind taking a side trip to see fun places, even if the state didn’t count because we didn’t go to the capital. Among the places we visited: Chicago; Memphis, to see Graceland of course; Jackson, MS, Baton Rouge, LA, Austin, TX, Roswell and Santa Fe, NM, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Napa Valley, CA [we were so close after all] to name a few. We finished our walk through Seattle, WA with enough miles left to go stick our heads over the Canada/US border to say hello, and wound up just 32 miles from Boise, ID, completing nine states total.

As with the climbing challenge, group members submitted their numbers on Monday and then received the group results and new challenges on Tuesday. Again there were hyperlinks to unusual sites, or books or videos the library owned related to our walking goals for encouragement. The lowest mileage for a week 182 miles, the highest 356. In all the group walked a total of 4951.1 miles over the sixteen week challenge.

For both challenges the challenge was against your own numbers. No member of the challenge ever knew what the other members climbed or walked, unless they shared those statistics.

The results of both challenges? A lot of fun places “visited,” and challenges met. But there were health improvements. One member was able to stop taking blood pressure meds, a few lost weight, others improved their stamina, such as being able to climb to the 5th floor of Memorial without running out of breath, and others improved their balance. Everyone had a lot of fun. So much fun, in fact, that there has been a request for more challenges in July, where we will: 1. Climb the highest point in every state in the U.S. and the District of Columbia, 2. Walk the perimeter of the United States or 11,279.4 miles, and 3. The new challenge of a bike ride following the Great Lakes Circle Tour, that’s about 6,500+ miles!

Why not make your own challenge and join us? Because with just a few extra steps or stairs each week you can climb mountains!

1 Response to “Climbing Mountains and Walking Across America with Raynor Memorial Libraries Staff”


  1. 1 Laura Kestner-Ricketts May 12, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    Great job libraries staff! i love this story!


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