The month of January is often filled with goal setting and new experiences. Eyeing your first marathon? Thinking about getting into a different sport? Team Injinji Athlete Peter Mortimer had his sights set on one remarkable feat in 2023: hike to the summit of Humphreys Peak, 52 times in 52 weeks. This lofty goal took planning, dedication, and an unwavering spirit of adventure. Discover Peter’s goal setting tips and tricks and follow along as we dive into his major 2023 accomplishment!
Q&A With Peter Mortimer
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and your background as an endurance athlete?
I’m a 42-year-old ultra runner based in Flagstaff, Arizona. Although I love to compete at the Elite level, I do have a full-time job working in Orthopedic Surgery Medical Sales. I started running in 2010, completed my first Marathon in 2012, and my first 50-mile race in October 2014 at the Man Against Horse race. I completed my first 100-mile race three weeks later and I was hooked. Since then, I have run some of the toughest races in the world including the UTMB, Hurt 100, Montane Spine Race, and Montane Dragon’s Back across Wales.
Could you share a bit about the main goal you worked towards in 2023?
Although my A-race for 2023 was the Spine Race (where I took second overall), the 52 summits have been a main yearly goal of mine since 2018. I was determined to finish it this year as I completed 40 summits in 2022 and 39 in 2021.
What factors did you consider in setting such an ambitious goal? Do you have any advice for goal setting in the new year?
The trouble with finishing the 52 summits year after year has always been about balance. Between family, work, racing, and traveling, it can become quite difficult to fit in the time. Travel to and from the mountain is about 30-40 minutes each way. In the summer, I can tag a summit up and down in just over two hours. In the winter, it can take over four hours. The mountain is also covered in snow for about seven months of the year. That combined with fires or forest closures has made it difficult the last few years. I also only had six summits by the beginning of July, so I knew that time management and recovery were going to be key.
Could you share a bit about the planning and preparation process for this type of challenge?
Summiting Arizona’s highest peak is no joke. Although it’s not a 14’er (a mountain that exceeds an elevation of 14,000 feet above sea level), the main Humphreys trail (12,637 feet) is one of the most taxing, technical, rocky, high alpine trails in the state. You can never let your guard down, or the mountain will eat you up. Above the tree line, the last mile can be a scramble in sections with loose volcanic rock tundra falling apart under you. For many, that final mile climb from the saddle is harder than the first four miles up. My secret has been flow and efficiency. I’ve been up over 177 times since my first summit in 2014, so I like to think I know that trail better than anyone. That being said, I always prepare with the appropriate gear.
Can you provide some tips for choosing the right gear for these challenges? What is your go-to pair of Injinji socks?
Anything on a mountain of this caliber is about safety. Gear during the summer months is generally about weathering the monsoons. The mountain can create its own weather system, so it can go from bright and sunny to hail and snow (even in July) in a matter of an hour. It's always smart to bring a rain jacket, and I generally wear the Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew Wool socks because of the shifting weather. Winter is a whole different beast. Multiple layers, poles, spikes, snowshoes, ice axe, and a beacon are always smart. I love my Injinji Liner Crews with an extra wool layer to keep my feet warm in the snow. It can get waist deep up there, even in snowshoes.
What helps you to feel most motivated when chasing goals? Is there anyone you look up to for inspiration?
Goal setting is something I learned at a young age, and it really clicked with me. The trick is to have many short-term goals to reach your ultimate long-term goal. If you just lean into the long-term goal, it’s easy to get discouraged with setbacks, which are going to happen. Having multiple short-term goals to achieve along the way boosts motivation and keeps you engaged in the bigger picture.
For the 52, I started the season way behind schedule, so I knew I would need to break up the summits over a series of weeks to avoid burnout. I would plan adventures with friends, sometimes go up at night, and approach the top from multiple different routes. Some days I would incorporate a nice long run around the peaks with a summit. For others, I would just bang out two or three summits on a Saturday just because I enjoyed engaging with all of the friends and visitors I’d meet along the way. The Forest Service and I are now well acquainted.
For inspiration, I really look to the ultra-running community in general. There are so many people conquering FKT’s and seeking insane challenges. I think, if they can do it, why can't I?
What was your favorite summit of this experience? Which challenged you the most?
I have so many memorable experiences up there at this point; I don’t know if I could pick just one. When I took my son to his first summit, that was pretty special. We also ran into Rob Krar, who was hosting his running camp at the time. I guess number 52 was pretty great too. I mean, it was cold as hell, and a few of us (not me) may have been underdressed, but it made for an epic finish. I think the most challenging for me was when I attempted my 10x summit in July. It was far too hot that day, so I unfortunately bowed out after five summits, but that 50 miles easily felt like 100. I was pretty torn up after.
Looking back on 2023, what did you learn throughout the 52 summits in 52 weeks project?
It’s funny. As much as I’ve accomplished over the years, I still find it easy to tear myself down and fall into the failure mindset. I had a lot of time to process myself as an individual and how I can improve: how to be better at work, be a better father and partner, volunteer more, not stress the little stuff, and really enjoy life to its fullest potential. Most importantly, though, I had to tell myself that I could achieve these things and that I needed to embrace the fact that I’m an ultra-runner. I’m good at this.
What are your athletic or personal goals for 2024?
My athletic calendar for 2024 is shaping up to be another big year. I should be kicking off the year with UTMF in Japan. I’ll be in Ouray for the 100-mile in July, and I’m also putting in for Tor De Geants, which has been a long-term goal of mine for about six or seven years. Dragon's Back and the Spine Race were my self-made prerequisites. I’ll also attempt my 10x summit again during some nicer weather to get that checked off as well. Personally, I’m working towards leaving medicine over the next few years, so I’m gradually putting the pieces into place with my coaching, and maybe I’ll go and work for an outdoor company and travel.
Peter’s journey reminds us that ambitious goals are often within reach with the right mindset and determination! Let Peter’s accomplishment inspire you to get out the door (in a pair of Injinji socks!) and conquer new challenges this year.