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Climbing to the top: Hanson family has a goal of climbing highest point in each state

The Diane and Kim Hanson family of Jamestown recently climbed Humphreys Peak in Arizona on July 24. Pictured are the Hanson climbing party, which includes, from left, Ben Hanson, Cliff Craig (Diane’s brother), Nancy Craig Hopkins (Diane’s sister), Diane Hanson, Zachary Hanson, Kim Hanson and Sherry Perry Jones. Photo courtesy / Diane Hanson

The term “highpointing” has special meaning to one Jamestown family.

Diane and Kim Hanson, along with their sons, Ben, 17, and Zachary, 6, have been climbing the highest point in several states as part of a goal to reach the peaks in all 50 states.

“It started because of my father,” said Diane Hanson. “He had a hankering for it when we grew up in Alabama. We climbed the highest point there because it is where I’m from.”

Diane has reached the summit of the highest peak in 15 states. Her enthusiasm for the activity has spread to her husband, Kim, who has reached 12 peaks, Ben, who has reached 11, and Zachary, who has climbed six.

Kim said the family plans vacations and then sees if there is a high point nearby.

“The planning is part of the fun,” Diane said. “Some are easy and some are hard.”

The peaks of a few states don’t require a lot of effort.

“You can drive to the tops of some,” she said. “But most take a hike.”

Private ownership is another obstacle for highpointers. For example, the highest point in Illinois, Charles Mound at 1,235 feet, is located next to a house. The homeowner only allows people on the property during limited times and prohibits people from parking in his driveway. So far this has not been a destination for the Hansons.

Other peaks are mountains that require technical climbing gear including ropes and harnesses. Some, like White Butte here in North Dakota, require a bit of a hike.

“We did White Butte the day after Christmas a couple of years ago,” Kim said. “It was beautiful with frost on everything.”

The family’s most recent climb was Humphreys Peak — the highest point in Arizona.

“The boys reached the top before us,” said Diane. “The older we get the tougher they (the mountains) get.”

Humphreys Peak has an elevation of 12,637 feet. The last mile of the hiking trail to the peak includes the only tundra naturally existing in Arizona.

“You’re supposed to be off the peak by noon,” Kim said. “The lightning storms can be nasty in the afternoon.”

Climbing peaks has become a family affair. Ben usually takes the responsibility of carrying the water for the family.

“There is a sense of accomplishment when you reach the peak,” he said. “Hiking down is not as much fun because you don’t have a goal.”

Diane and Kim hope their children continue climbing. They would like to see them take on the highest peak in Alaska, which is also the highest point in North America.

Mount McKinley is 20,237 feet high and requires several days to climb to the peak from base camps at lower elevations.

“The boys can climb that one when Zachary is older,” Diane said. “We’ll stay in camp.”

Kim said the activity is important to the family.

“It’s something to do as a family that is not associated with video games or computers,” he said.

Diane said the view from the top makes the effort worthwhile.

“There are some truly beautiful views,” she said. “It is usually the best view in the state, and on a good day you can see the other peaks and even the clouds and storms are below you. That is true of all of them except Nebraska. There, all you could see is a lot of corn.”

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at