Sophomore Joshua Brooks grabs his goggles, hat, stove and facemask. He loads his crampons onto his shoes, grabs an ice ax, a rope and slings his backpack over his shoulder. He drives by himself to a mountain in the middle of the winter and begins climbing it on his own. This is completely normal for Brooks, as he’s been hiking mountains by himself since he was young.
“I think the first hike I ever did was when I was 7 with my dad,” Brooks said. “Then, eventually, I just started doing bigger and bigger things, and I think when I was 17, I did my big first solo climb up Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire, in the winter.”
Mike Brooks, Joshua’s father, said ever since Brooks was young, he has always been determined and accomplished whatever he set his mind to.
“He’s very thorough. He does all his research on his trails and routes and is very conscientious of the weather and trail conditions,” Mike said. “It’s a sport he got into when he was younger and completely embraced it.”
Brooks said he prefers hiking alone rather than with a group of people because it gives him a greater sense of accomplishment. He is currently working on his biggest goal, which is to climb the highest points in all 50 states of the United States by himself. If he accomplishes this, he’ll be the youngest person to have done so unaided. He’s had this goal in mind for a few years but didn’t begin it until November 2015. Since then, he’s solo-climbed all 5,000–foot mountains in the Northeast.
“Ever since then, I’ve been stepping up my game a lot more,” Brooks said. “I’ve been doing bigger and bigger mountains in the winter because it’s a harder challenge and a bigger sense of accomplishment.”
Brooks has already traveled up and down the East Coast, where trips have lasted up to a week at time. One of his longer trips was when he traveled down to Florida and stopped in every state along the way to hike a mountain this past January.
Even hiking individual mountains has taken more than a day at times. Brooks said that when he hiked Mount Katahdin in Maine in December 2015, it was one of the longest and most difficult hikes that he had taken.
“During the winter, the park is closed. You have to park 30 miles away. By the time you’ve reached the mountain, it’s midday, and you have to start in the middle of the night,” Brooks said. “I climbed to the top, and it was blowing almost 80 mph, and I was alone in the most remote spot on the East Coast, but I made it though.”
When Brooks is back at school for a semester, he said, it becomes harder for him to train for hiking due to schoolwork, but he hikes on weekends when he gets the opportunity to.
Sophomore Marshall Hendlin, Brooks’ friend and roommate, said Brooks is very collected but still outgoing. Hendlin said he can see Brooks going far with his hiking ambitions.
“He always talks about his adventures, going out there,” Hendlin said. “Being his roommate, I can see him on his computer always planning out routes either around Ithaca or other places.”
During the summertime, Brooks plans to head out west for a month so he can continue hiking in states he’s never hiked before, with a goal of hiking every western state. Once he’s accomplished this goal, he plans to travel to Alaska so he can hike Denali by himself. Denali is over 20,000 feet high and is the highest peak in North America. Brooks said it’s arguably harder to climb than Mount Everest.
“Denali as a solo climb is one of the hardest,” Brooks said. “After that, I really want to keep doing harder and harder mountains because it’s what I want to pursue as a career, as a guide or working for a bigger company.”
Brooks is an outdoor adventure leadership major. He said he chose to come to Ithaca College because of the program it offered and that he hopes to combine it with his climbing experience as a part of his career.
Brooks has only hiked in the United States but hopes that when he gains enough experience after college, he can hike international mountains such as Mount Everest.
The thrill of climbing mountains and the sense of accomplishments is what drives Brooks to work so hard for what he does.
“If you get to the top of a mountain and you know you did it all yourself, it’s just a great feeling and kind of what motivates me,” Brooks said. “It’s the sense of accomplishment, and you’re somewhere that most people couldn’t possibly go. The amount of work it took to get there and succeed in that climb is definitely worth it.”