Storm-force winds knocked her to her knees and blood seeped from her blistered feet, but Jane Pike was happily in her element — crouched on the face of a cold New Hampshire mountain in the dead of winter, striving to climb higher.
“I loved being up there! I loved it!” wrote Pike, 46, a veteran ice and rock climber, to a bevy of friends and supporters in the aftermath of her February 22 attempt to ascend the Northeast’s highest peak, 6,288-foot Mount Washington. While the mountaineering expedition — a first for the adventurous Woodstock resident, who works as a physical trainer and serves in the local fire department — fell short of the summit, it whetted her appetite for future assaults on snowy slopes.
Pike’s email concluded: “I was grinning from ear to ear the entire hike, even as my calves were burning and my heart was pumping! If we could have stayed, I would have done it all again today! I have been dreaming about this for so long! I can’t wait to try again! I can’t wait to go for bigger mountains! I am so excited and happy!”
While she plots her next escapade, life is unlikely to get dull for Pike. With her husband, Gregory (who grew up in Woodstock but is unrelated to the noted artist John Pike), she is raising the couple’s three sons, Finnegan, 14, Ronan, 12, and Cade, 9. She serves as an emergency medical technician with Fire Company No. 5, the rescue squad, and is also a member of Zena-based Company No. 4. She is a peace officer with the fire police and is certified for low-angle rescue, ice rescue, and search-and-rescue operations.
And then there’s the Gal Group, a network of local-area women that Pike and a friend founded in 2007. Annually, between March and September, Pike organizes six or seven participatory events, ranging from instruction in skydiving and archery to workshops on bread making and beekeeping, for subsets of the more than 300 women on the network’s email list.
“I try to pick things that get the women out of their comfort zone,” said Pike in a recent interview, noting that affordability — as well as the potential for excitement, stimulation, camaraderie, and education — guides her choices. The Gal Group typically receives a discounted group rate from an event’s vendor, yielding a per-person fee of no more than $50 (or a maximum of $100 for each year’s “big” event, such as the skydiving outing). Pike provides her organizational services free of charge.
In separate interviews, two mainstays of the Gal Group extolled Pike and the adventures that she concocts for the group. “Jane is amazing,” said Jodee Keller, a Kingston resident who has participated in hiking at Mohonk Mountain House; bread making taught by a master baker (who happens to be a physician involved in fundraising for clinics in Tibet); the beekeeping workshop; and a “couponing” class aimed at promoting savvy consumerism in the supermarket. “Jane is very well-connected. I have met some amazing people. I’m a mother of three and have found that these events are a wonderful way to meet people and do ‘adult’ things that are stimulating.”
Grace Murphy lives in Woodstock, where she serves on the volunteer Comeau Stewardship Advisory Committee. She has been a Gal Group participant since 2009. “It’s an amazing thing,” said Murphy. “There is such a variety of events: crewing on the Hudson, ziplining at Hunter, an entire day or bread making or paella cooking. Some are exciting, some are tough, and some are relaxing and instructive.”