April 18, 2014  

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Southern Miss Student Combines Research with Scaling 58 Peaks

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Southern Miss geography and geology student James Ewing spent 40 days climbing all of Colorado's 58 peaks. (Submitted photo)

University of Southern Mississippi geography and geology master’s student James Ewing has quite a story to tell. While completing research for his geography masters degree, he climbed all of Colorado’s 58 peaks -- over 14,000 feet each.

During those 40 days, Ewing collected research data for his thesis. Ewing’s thesis research focuses on the impacts of hikers on the trails of Colorado’s famous “Fourteeners,” or peaks that reach above 14,000 feet. Making the most of his fieldwork, Ewing decided to hike every one himself. 

Experts quibble over the exact number, but Ewing scaled that height 58 times, in only 40 days, “the equivalent of hiking from sea level to the top of Mt. Everest seven times,” he said.

In 40 days, Ewing hiked over 640 miles, accompanied by faithful border collie Gemma for some of the travels. Further making the trek a family affair, his brother Michael joined James for the last four peaks in his latest quest. While undergraduates, Ewing and his twin brother Michael were baseball standouts. Both brothers graduated with bachelor’s degrees at USM, and James continued at Southern Miss for his Geography masters work.

Ewing says lifetime memories from the adventure include “treacherous handholds through narrow passes, mountain goats and skunks, electoral storms and rockslides, and a diverse collection of fellow hikers from around the world.”

Ewing hopes the most important part of the trip will be the research work published in his thesis. “I hope my research work will contribute to the restoration and preservation of the alpine environments that make Colorado such a beautiful place,” he said.

For more information about the Department of Geography and Geology, visit http://www.usm.edu/geography-geology or call 601-266-4729