The north peak of Kennebago Divide rises to 3,775 feet in remote Seven Ponds Township in northwestern Maine, a couple of miles shy of the Canadian border. A check of the DeLorme Atlas confirms what I’d suspected: It’s going to take some work to navigate the maze of logging roads just to get to the mountain, never mind the potentially nasty bushwhack over rough terrain to find its high point. But as one of only 10 peaks remaining in my quest to reach New England’s 100 highest summits, I am motivated to check it off.

The New England Hundred Highest is one of three peakbagging lists administered by the Four Thousand Footer Club, a hikers’ group established by the Appalachian Mountain Club in 1957. The White Mountain Four Thousand Footer list includes all 48 peaks over 4,000 feet in New Hampshire, from 4,003-foot Mt. Tecumseh to 6,288-foot Mt. Washington.

Complementing this list are the New England Four Thousand Footers, which capture the remaining 19 peaks higher than 4,000 feet in Vermont and Maine, including Baxter Peak on Katahdin.

Finally, to complete the New England Hundred Highest, you must climb 33 additional peaks — many of them trail-less — scattered across the three states. These range in elevation from 3,774-foot Fort Mountain in Baxter State Park to 3,980-foot Sandwich Mountain in New Hampshire.

Over the years, the club has not only encouraged many thousands of hikers to seek out the lesser-known peaks and trails rich in beauty and solitude, but has advocated for the preservation and wise use of these fragile mountain environments as well.

As a mark of its success, the White Mountain Four Thousand Footer Club recently welcomed its 10,000th member. And there are now 2,500 members in the New England Four Thousand Footer Club. In contrast, just 750 members belong to the New England Hundred Highest Club.

To complete any of these lists, a hiker must climb, on foot, to and from the summit of each mountain on the list. This can be done in any order and at any point during a hiker’s life; there is no time limit.

Once all the peaks on a particular list have been reached, a hiker may apply for membership in that particular “club.” After review by a committee of volunteers, intrepid hikers are awarded an official scroll and colorful shoulder patch in recognition of their achievements.

With the exception of Maine’s Mt. Redington, there are established trails to the summits of all mountains over 4,000 feet in New England, so the hiking is straightforward for the most part. When you get to the New England Hundred Highest list, however, the task gets more complicated.

According to the club’s thick information packet (complete with maps and available for a small fee) the main purpose of the New England Hundred Highest Club “is to promote the development of wilderness navigation skills by experienced hikers.” A lengthy sermon implores those in pursuit of these peaks off the beaten path not to mark their route in any way, so as not to diminish the wild experience, or worse perhaps, confuse subsequent hikers.

Further, without any varnish whatsoever: “We regard trailless peaks as a resource, not an obstacle to the easy completion of the official list by those who are unwilling to acquire the needed skills. … Learn the skills, follow skilled leaders, or abandon the goal of climbing the New England Hundred Highest.”

Heed these practical warnings, my hiking friends, but do not be dismayed. Rather, in the spirit of outdoor adventure, boldly accept the challenge. But be prudent.

Brush up on your map reading and compass skills. Dust off the GPS unit and take it for a test hike (with extra batteries). Consider buying an altimeter watch. And go with a friend you can complain to when the black flies are swarming, the way ahead is uncertain and the sun is setting. That’s my plan, anyway. Care to join me?

For more information on the AMC Four Thousand Footer Club, go to www.amc4000footer.org.

Carey Kish of Bowdoin is editor of the 2012 AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Comments are welcome at: [email protected]