- Associated Press - Thursday, November 26, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The 11,000 pictures Jeb Bradley has snapped of New Hampshire’s White Mountains may sound like a lot, but maybe not when spread across “The Grid.”

Bradley, a Republican state senator from Wolfeboro, is among five dozen die-hard hikers who have completed “The Grid” challenge, in which hikers summit each of New Hampshire’s 48 mountains higher than 4,000 feet in each month of the year. It gets its name from the spreadsheet hikers use to track their progress toward the 576-hike finish line.

Bradley finished his first challenge in January more than a decade after he started but is already a third of the way through a repeat. In the meantime, he’s sharing his experience with less adventurous folks in an upcoming photo exhibit. Winnowing his huge collection down to the 30 that will be on display at the Tuckerman Brewery in Conway next month was a challenge, but nothing compared with actual hiking.

“What is surprising having hiked at high altitude - I’ve been to 19,000 feet - is when people say, ‘Oh, it must be so much harder to hike in the Rockies or the Alps, or the Himalayas,’” Bradley said. “No, not really. The White Mountains are so rugged.”

Those who cut paths up the mountains in the 1800s didn’t bother with switchbacks, Bradley said. “They just went straight up.”

“We’re the Granite State for a reason, and our trails are rugged,” he said. “They’re steep, and they get a lot of use, so there’s erosion, and that makes them even rougher.”

In the early 2000s, Bradley’s goal was to hike all 4,000-footers at least once. He completed that in 2004 and took up winter hiking as a new challenge after he lost his U.S. House seat two years later. Within a few years, he committed himself to tackling The Grid, one of several extreme challenges in the Northeast. (There’s the 48-in-1-winter challenge, for example, and the “Hike a 4K Everyday” challenge, which involves hiking a 4,000-footer in the region each calendar day.)

For Bradley, an Outward Bound trip at age 19 sparked his love of hiking and rock climbing, and he’s been at it ever since.

“I’ve hiked in the Himalayas and the Rockies and the Alps, and a lot in the desert Southwest,” he said. “But I can’t go anywhere I want any time I want, so the White Mountains are home, and they’re beautiful. I always say my favorite hike is the next one.”

Karen McNiff, a friend who has been hiking with Bradley for years, said he sometimes will hike faster than his companions so he can stop ahead of them and take pictures. He often sends her a handful of pictures later, and she bought several at an earlier exhibition to remember particularly special times or beautiful scenery.

“They really do capture what’s out there,” she said. “When you look up at the mountains from the road, it doesn’t look the same as when you’re sitting on the summit looking at other summits.”

In between hikes, Bradley, 63, is plenty busy at the Statehouse. On Tuesday, he was elected chairman of a task force that will spend the next month developing legislation to address the state’s heroin and opioid abuse crisis. During a lunch break, he described his most recent outing - to Mount Adams and Mount Madison the previous Saturday.

“I still feel it today, three days later,” he said. “But presumably, I’ll try to get at least a short hike in tomorrow.”

Bradley’s photos, priced at $60-$175, will be on display starting Dec. 4.

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