Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Online logbook: Milestones from the mountaintop

My apologies for font and formatting inconsistencies on this page,
which seem to come from bugs in the new Google Blogger interface. 

 Congratulations to Casey Bright of the Le Conte Lodge crew, who logged his 100th climb on September 11. It was his 38th trip up this year. We now have 62 men and 20 women in the centennial club on the Le Conte Log honor roll. Excluding the Lodge crew and guides, that's 44 men and 12 women who have made at least 100 recreational climbs.

πŸ‘ Next time you climb Mount Le Conte, please let us know. If you have the opportunity to take photos of the Lodge logbook, we would be grateful if you could send them to We don't get reports every day, so if you can send a few recent days, that will help us keep up-to-date with those who came before you.

2020 Leaders

51 Kemp Stonehouse (150+ lifetime)
38 Casey Bright (100)
30+ Alan Householder (1,200+)
29 John Northrup (268)
25 Bonnie Northrup (185)
15 Dr. Ed Jones (431)
15 Larry Russell (253)
14 Timothy Massey (66)
13 ‏Phillip Clarkson (61)
10 Chris Maulden (64)
 9 Linten Atkins (109)
 8 Parker Bowling (27)
 8 Adam Gravett (65)
 7 Adam Williamson (48)
 7 Adam Ozment (40)
 6 Cade Huff (23)
 6 Wes Fortner (22)
 6 Ash Walsh (33)
 6 Adam Paul McGlothlin (11)
 6 John D. Williams (42)

Let us know your 2020 and lifetime totals. Email, or leave a comment below.

2020 Logbook with lifetime totals

Listed in order of the most recent hikes. For numerical order, see the honor roll on our web page. (On mobile devices, use full-screen mode.) Generally, the cut-off for this list is 10 lifetime climbs or some milestone. However, I make exceptions for those who send pages from the Lodge logbook—who are marked by πŸ‘. Now you know how you can get your name on this list! All you have to do is climb Le Conte and send me snapshots of the logbook.

 LARRY RUSSELL, Sevierville TN: #253 on Sept. 20, #252 on Sept. 9, #251 on Aug. 9, #250 on July 12 (his 12th trip in 2020), #249 July 8, #248 on July 2, #247 on June 16, #246 on June 14, #245 on June 7, #244 on June 3; #243 on March 19, #242 on March 11, #241 on Feb. 25. 
 RACHEL GOETZE BLACKπŸ‘ of Knoxville TN: #20 on Sept.. 20, #19 on June 6, #18 on Feb. 23 (via Alum)  
ELIZABETH HUGHES GENTRY, Salisbury NC: #18 on Sept. 18. 
 BRENDA MARSHALL: #26 on Sept. 16.
 STEVE ODOMπŸ‘, Kingsport TN: #103 on Sept. 15.
 HOWARD YATES: #29 on Sept. 14.
 JESSICA DOYLE: #10-plus on Sept. 13.
 BRIAN WILLIAMS: #10 on Sept. 13.
 KRISTEN MOSLEY, London KY: #15 on Sept. 14, #14 on July 26, #13 on June 6, #12 on Feb. 23.
 DR. ED JONES, Knoxville TN: #431 on Sept. 12, #430 on Aug. 30, #429 on Aug. 22, #428 on Aug. 8, #427 on July 25, #426 on July 11, #425 July 4 (via Bullhead), #424 on June 6, #423 on May 16 (via Boulevard), #422 on May 9, #421 on March 13, #420 on March 1, #419 on Feb. 22, #418 on Feb. 21, #417 on Jan. 26.
 JEFF WADLEY, Kingsport TN: #108 on Sept. 12, #107 and #106 on Aug. 1 (training for the Tour de Le Conte), #105 on June 6 (via Bullhead).
 J.D. SCHLANDT, Clinton TN: #48 on Sept. 12 (goal of #50 this year).
 MOHONA AUSDERAN, Lebanon TN: #32 on Sept. 12, #31 on Jan. 16.
 CAROLYN RUSSELL, AL: #20-plus on Sept. 12.
 KATHLEEN DONAIS of Nashville TN: #18 on Sept. 12, #17 on Jan. 16.
TIM WEBB, Double Springs AL: #177 on Sept. 11  (24th consecutive year), #175 on Jan. 16.
 CASEY BRIGHTπŸ‘, Le Conte Lodge crew: #100 on Sept. 11, #98 on Aug. 30. 
 STEVE GAMBLE, Loudon TN: #52 on Sept. 11 (24th consecutive year), #51 on Jan. 16.
 Dr. NANCY EAST, #22 on Sept. 11 (with CHRIS FORD as they attempt the fastest known time for completing the 900 miles of trails in the national park), #21 on Sept. 10 (via Rainbow Falls, #20 on Sept. 6 (via Alum pre-dawn). In 2019, Nancy and Chris completed the Tour de Le Conte (raising $7,000 for the Trails Forever program). This time, they are attempting to raise $60,000 to support a safe-hiking initiative in the national park. Click here to donate.
 JOHN D. WILLIAMS, Kingston TN: #42 on Sept. 10, #41 on July 8, #40 on June 24 (two days before his 71st birthday), #39 on June 18, #38 on June 8, #37 on June 2. His goal is #100 by 2025.
 SANDY MARTIN, Knoxville TN: #65 on Sept. 9.
RONNIE HOLBERTπŸ‘, Morristown TN: #65 on Sept. 9, #64 on June 18 (with grandson ANDERSON NOE #1 and RICH NOE #1).
 JULIE SEXTON, Knoxville TN: #15-plus on Sept. 9.
 ADAM PAUL McGLOTHLINπŸ‘, Dandridge TN: #11 on Sept. 9, #10 on July 14, #9 on May 26, #8 on May 17 (via Rainbow), #7 on March 9, #6 on Feb. 23 (up Rainbow and down Bullhead).
LINTEN ATKINSπŸ‘ (Newport TN): #109 on Sept. 8, #108 on Sept. 12, #107 on July 31, #106 on July 26, #105 on June 19, #104 on May 30, #103 on May 18 (via Rainbow), #102 on March 8; #101 on Feb. 22 (via Alum).
 BOB TURNEY: #57 on Sept. 7, #56 on Aug. 11 (73rd birthday), #55 on July 27.
 BILL EVANS, Knoxville TN: #25-plus on Sept. 7.
 BRIAN GREER, Morganton NC: #15 on Sept. 7.
BILL YEADONπŸ‘, Indianapolis IN: #79 on Sept. 5, #78 on July 4 (up Alum in a personal record 1:40), #77 on July 3 (via Alum), #76 on July 2. At age 71, his goal is #100 by age 75. Bill hiked his age at 69. He's the first this year to report climbs on three consecutive days.
 MATT JOHNSON: #12 on Sept. 5 (up Alum in 58:45).
 ASH WALSH (GA): #33 on Sept. 5, #32 on Aug. 18, #31 on Aug. 3 (bear sighted on Cliff Tops), #30-29-28 on June 26 while completing the Tour de Le Conte (51.2 miles in 14:30).
 ROBERT HIRCHE: #40+ on Sept. 4.
 TIMOTHY MASSEY (Tallassee TN): #66 on Sept. 3 (up Alum, 14th of #20for2020), #65 on Aug. 31 (up Alum in 1:25, averaging 3.4 mph), #64 on Aug. 18 (up AT/Boulevard in 2:12:09), #63 on July 16, #62 on June 10 (up Boulevard in 2:15:40), #61 on May 24 (up Trillium, down Bullhead), #60 on May 11 (2:43:05 up AT and Boulevard), #59 on March 9 (via Alum in 1:31:05, or 3.4 mph), #58 on March 8 (via Alum, 4:04 round trip), #57 on Feb. 27, #56 on Feb. 22 (up Boulevard and down Alum), #55 on Feb. 9 (up Rainbow and down Bullhead), #54 on Feb. 1 (1:50:56 up Alum), #53 on Jan. 23 (2:06 up Alum). "I keep thinking I'll grow tired of Le Conte," Timothy wrote on Facebook, "but part of it is becoming a way of life—always finding something new and exciting no matter how many times I go up the same mountain."
 RADD DAIGLE, Oak Ridge TN: #32 on Sept. 3.
 DAVID GUMP: #30 on Sept. 3 (with  TAMMY GUMP #10).
 JEANNIE HOOVER: #27 on Sept. 3. 
JOHN NORTHRUPπŸ‘, LeConte Lodge: #268 on Aug. 31, #260 on Aug. 4, #259 on July 21 (21st of 2020), #240 on March 13, #239 on Feb. 23.
 CASEY MAJNI, Knoxville TN: #33 on Aug. 29.
 BRADY COLEMAN, Blacksburg VA, Aug. 29, completing his Smokies 900-mile map.
 DREW AKIN, Pleasant Valley TN: #19 on Aug. 27. BILL HOLDEN: #50-plus Aug. 25 (with GREG HOLDEN #40-plus and STEVE HOLDEN #30-plus).
 DRU & ENNIS JAMES: #31 on Aug. 23.
 TOM LAYTON (Boone NC): #8 on Aug. 22 (with ROGER KNIPP #1).
 ADAM EVANS (Cincinnati OH): #35 on Aug. 22.
 JERRY RHYNE (Statesville NC): #110+ on Aug. 21, also July 17.
 RIC CHANDLER: #68 on Aug. 21.
CHRIS MAULDEN (Knoxville TN): #64 on Aug, 21 (51st birthday), #63 on Aug. 13, #62-61-60 dates missing, #59 on May 9 (via Bullhead for sunrise), #58 on March 15, #57 on Feb. 29 (via Rainbow in 13 inches of snow), #56 on Feb. 23 (via Alum), #55 on Jan. 1. "Started off 2020 with a sunrise hike to Myrtle Point," he wrote on Facebook. "It was right at 10 degrees with an hour to go before sunrise. The wind was wicked and whipping in the wait for the sun. I did not get frostbite but I was close. Did the hand shuffle and took pics with alternating hands. Pretty morning with four others before sunrise."
 LLOYD BRYANT: #32 on Aug. 21.
 AMY SLIFKO (Cleveland TN) #27 on Aug. 21.
 NANCY ESKEW (TN): 27 on Aug. 21.
 DAVID & DEBBIE RAHINSUL: #25+ on Aug. 21.
 BRENDA PITTS & BOB PITTS (Raleigh NC): #12 each on Aug. 20.
 CAROLYN CASH (KY}: #11 on Aug. 19.
 DEWEY SLUSHER (Blue Ridge GA): #350-plus on Aug. 18 (with SEBNEM PERVAR #15), Aug. 11, Aug. 5 and June 12.
ADAM GRAVETT (Sevierville TN): #65 on Aug. 17 (sunrise), #64 on July 2 (sunrise via Alum), #63 on May 9 (sunrise via Rainbow), #62 on Feb. 29 (via Bullhead), #61 on Feb. 28, #60 on Feb. 22, #59 on Jan. 25 (overnight via Bullhead with Williamson and Ozment), #58 on Jan. 5.
 ROBERT EMORY (Knoxville TN): #27 on Aug. 17.
 BARRY & DONNA WILSON: #10 on Aug. 17.
ADAM WILLIAMSONπŸ‘ (Seymour TN): #48 on Aug. 16, #47 on July 2 (sunrise via Alum), #46 on June 6, #45 on May 31 (with son Parker #1), #44 on May 9 (via Rainbow for sunrise), #43 on Jan. 25 (the third of the Adams to hike his age), #42 on Jan. 5 (via Rainbow before dawn with Ozment).
 MICHAEL WALDROP: #41 on Aug. 16.
ADAM OZMENT (Mascot TN): #40 on Aug. 16 (6th sunrise hike of 2020, but socked in by clouds): #39 on May 9 (via Rainbow), #38 on Feb. 29 (via Bullhead), #37 on Feb. 9, #36 on Feb. 2 (via Rainbow for sunrise), #35 on Jan. 25 (sunrise), #34 on Jan. 5 (sunrise). As he posted a wildflower photo on Hike #40, he commented, "I never get tired of this mountain—different every time you're up there."
 MINDY WHALEY (Knoxville TN): #15 on Aug. 16.
 CINDY TANNER #14 and SHIRLEY ARGOBRIGHT #14 on Aug. 16 (4-generation hike).
 ANDY WOLFEN (Kingsport TN): #25 on Aug. 16.
 MEGHANN BENN: #16 on Aug. 16 (with MICHAEL BENN #6)
 NICK STEINKAMP: #14 on Aug. 14.
 CAROLYN CASH: #11 on Aug. 19.
 LINDA KARON (Knoxville TN): #10 on Aug. 10.
 STEVE OLIPHANT (Spartanburg SC): #54 on Aug. 9.
 BRAD GIBSON (Morristown TN): #44 on Aug. 6, #42 on July 3, #41 on May 16, #40 on April 10.
 KEVIN GRIMAC: #30 on Aug. 6.
 DICK NORTHRUP, Tecumseh MI: #44 on Aug. 4, #43 on March 13.
 PAT NORTHRUP, Tecumseh MI: #40 on Aug. 4, #39 on March 13.
 BART NORTHRUP (MI): #38 on Aug. 4.
 ELIZABETH ROSE (Kingston TN): #15 on Aug. 4.
 RICHARD WILLIAMS (Gatlinburg TN): #46 on Aug. 2.
 PARKER BOWLING, Knoxville TN: #27-26-25 on July 31 (completing the Tour de Le Conte), #24 on July 19, #23 in July, #22 on June 28, #20 on June 14, #19 on June 6.
 CADE HUFF, Knoxville TN: #23-22-21 on July 31 (completing the Tour de Le Conte), #18 on July 19, #17 on June 28.
 WES FORTNER, Knoxville TN: #22-21-20 on July 31 (completing the Tour de Le Conte), #19 on July 19, #18 on June 28, #17 on June 14.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

'They tell me it is beautiful up here'

Stephen and Beth Winkler (showing her LSU pride)

 Beth Winkler arrived at LeConte Lodge on Sunday afternoon, September 6, to applause from hikers she had met on the trail.
 "They tell me it is beautiful up here," she had joked to one of the them along the way.

Beth's T-shirt says it all
 Most of us enjoy the panoramic views while climbing Le Conte, but Beth is not so fortunate. She describes herself as visually impaired. "I can see—just not well at all," she said. She has a rare condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa Inversa, which has blinded her right eye, diminished what she can see in her left eye, and eliminated the depth perception that is so crucial for hiking on a mountainside. Her vision can fluctuate day-by-day, and the bright sunshine on the mountain caused what she called "a bad eye day." For all practical purposes, she was hiking blind.
 Her husband Stephen said that she had set a goal of climbing Mount Le Conte before she loses her sight.
 She researched the trails and thought that the Trillium Gap Trail might be easier. "But the more I read about Alum Cave, the more I wanted to go up. And to be honest, I did not want it to be easy. I wanted it to be something I earned."
 Coming from her home in Louisiana, there was no way she could prepare for the rigors of a 10-mile round trip that climbs nearly 3,000 feet. The longest hike she had done was about 4 miles. So her family  started at dawn and took their time. "It was a difficult strenuous hike," she said. "I could not have done it without the support of my husband and two sons. They would describe the terrain and tell me where to step." It took over 14 hours. That meant the last mile down was after sunset.

'The ledge at the top was terrifying'

The Alum Cave Trail involves a single-log footbridge as well as exposed ledges near the top. "The bridges didn't bother me," Beth said. "The ledge at the top was terrifying. I was not sure if I could do it. But my family told me that I could and gave me the support I needed to make it across. It is also scarier on the way down for some reason."
 I am aware of two other nearly blind hikers who have climbed Le Conte. Rev. Rufus Morgan hiked the Rainbow Falls Trail on his 93rd birthday in 1983, and in 1969 a South Carolina hiker known as "Cousin Joe" did it. Both of them hiked with a hand on the shoulder of their guides.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Where is 'America's most climbed peak'?

Larry Davis (left) has climbed New Hampshire's Grand Monadnock over 7,450 times.
 Click here to see his video.

 Promoters of Colorado's Pikes Peak say it is the most visited peak in North America and second in the world. (They don't identify the world champion, but it must be China's Tai Shan or Japan's Fuji.) Pikes Peak boasted up to 500,000 visitors in a year, though that number has declined while the famous cog railway is closed.
 New Mexico's Sandia Crest may also be in the running, with up to a half-million drive-ups each year, plus another 200,000 who ride the spectacular Sandia Peak Tramway from Albuquerque. New Hampshire's Mount Washington averages more than 250,000 visitors by foot, car, or cog railway.
 Closer to Le Conte, Tennessee's Clingmans Dome averages 600,000 visitors per year, according to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and North Carolina's Mount Mitchell State Park counted 375,471 in 2019. We can assume that many of those visitors stopped at the parking-lot overlooks and never climbed all the way up the paved trails to the summits.
 An average year at Le Conte Lodge includes about 11,000 overnight guests and 25,000 including day hikers. (Pikes Peak averages 15,000 hikers annually, not counting the drive-up traffic).
 If you Google "most climbed mountain," you may find claims for New Hampshire's Grand Monadnock. Actually, Monadnock's greatest claim to fame is Larry Davis, who climbed the mountain for 2,850 consecutive days in the 1990s and made his 7,450th climb on January 6, 2017. From what I've heard, Davis has moved and no longer regularly climbs Monadnock.
 Garry Harrington, author of Chasing Summits, told me in January 2020 he has climbed Monadnock about 1,200 times.
 On California's Mount Baldy, Richard Tufts has logged more than 1,000 climbs. Seuk Doo Kim, 78, was aiming to match Tufts and made over 700 climbs before he fell to his death in 2017. 
 Other than Davis, I have found no one in the nation who has climbed one mountain more often than Le Conte's all-time leaders, Ron Valentine (estimated 4,000) and Jack Huff (about 2,500). According to Multiple Repeats by a Member on the peakbagging site, the national leaders (as of September 21, 2020) are Mark Nichols with 1,870 climbs on an unnamed 5,529-foot peak in Cochise County, Arizona; Rick Baugher with 1,156 ascents on 6,805-foot Kelly Mountain, Idaho; and John Prater with 1,010 on 8,144-foot Green Mountain in Boulder County, Colo. 
 Speaking of ListsofJohn, the webmaster John Kirk has 975 climbs up 6,482-foot Stafford Hogback in Colorado, and his wife Alyson has 923. She also has 969 trips up Green Mountain in Jefferson County, Colo., so they are destined to become the first couple with 1,000 ascents.
On the east coast, aside from Le Conte, the most persistent climbers on one peak are Rick Shortt with 127 trips up Sand Mountain, Va.; yours truly, Tom Layton, 122 on Elk Knob, N.C.; and Peter Barr, 86 on Bearwallow Mountain, N.C. Those totals exclude unranked peaks (less than 300 feet of prominence). Rick told me he has over 200 ascents on High Rocks, the unranked but spectacular viewpoint on the eastern shoulder of Sand Mountain. 
 The Le Conte leaders are not represented on that list because none of them have logged their hikes on the ListsofJohn website.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

So you want to be the next Ed Wright?

May 6, 1992: Ed Wright #500, Paul Dinwiddie #727, Margaret Stevenson #527,
with Oak Ridge TN reporter Piper Lowell (an Auburn graduate like Wright)

 Sept. 1 marks the 95th birthday of the late Ed Wright. Of the seven men who have climbed Mount Le Conte more than a thousand times, Wright is the one who left us the best records. His book, 1,001 Hikes to Mount Le Conte, has details for each of his 1,310 climbs. (You can buy a PDF copy of Wright's book for $4.99, and sales benefit Friends of the Smokies). 

 If you want to be the next Ed Wright, you can learn a lot from his journals:
First, become the next Margaret Stevenson or Paul Dinwiddie. Their lifetime totals, 750 for Dinwiddie and 718 for Stevenson, are more within your range. She started hiking Le Conte at age 48, and he made 708 climbs after 65. They both inspired Wright, and they still rank among the top 10 on our all-time honor roll. When Wright first set foot on Le Conte in 1983, Stevenson already had 179 trips and Dinwiddie 124. The three of them had a spirited competition and celebrated each other's milestones. Wright caught up with Stevenson—he called her "this grand lady" and "bright eyes"—at #615 in 1993 and surpassed Dinwiddie with #751 in 1995. While Dinwiddie was hospitalized in 1992, Wright slowed down to just one or two hikes per month, out of respect. "I didn't want Paul to think that I was taking advantage of his condition," he wrote.
 Do the math and take a reality check. If you climbed Le Conte every day for two years, you would still be 20 behind Dinwiddie. Keep it up for a third year, and you would still be 215 behind Wright. And don't even think about hiking every day. Unless your name is Larry Davis
➤ Keep a journal. Or even better, log your climbs on,, or, sharing your journey with the rest of us. Wright's journals (and the Lodge blog) are quite helpful when I research stories about Mount Le Conte.
➤ Enjoy the walk. Wright wrote: "I never really had a goal in mind for hiking, except the year that I retired in 1991: I decided to set a mark for hiking Mount Le Conte, in one calendar year, which would only be broken by someone with lots of determination. I hiked the mountain a total of 230 times that year. I also managed to spend several weeks visiting the National Parks in Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Canada and the Dakotas with my son, Bob."
➤ Squeeze the most out of every month. In 1991, his record-setting year, Wright made 8 climbs in January, 11 in February, 10 in March, 12 in April, 28 in May, 27 in June, 16 in July, 26 in August, 28 in both September and October, 23 in November, and 13 in December. Not only did he climb Le Conte for 160 consecutive months, but he made at least 10 climbs in 44 of those months. I don't know anybody who is climbing Le Conte 10 times a month nowadays, except maybe the llama wrangler, Alan Householder.
Ed Wright with his grandson at Alum Cave Bluff in 2002.
 This was hike #2 for 3-year-old Austin and #1,292 for his 77-year-old granddad.
Get a head start while you're young. Wright was 57 the first time he climbed Le Conte, and he didn't become an obsessive Le Conte pilgrim until he was 61. The first time I heard about him, I actually had more climbs than he did at my age, but that didn't last long. Wright logged #100 at age 63, #200 and #300 at 65, #400 and #500 at 66, #600 at 67, #700 at 68, #800 at 69, #900 and #1,000 at 71, #1,100 at 73, #1,200 at 74, #1,300 at 81, and #1,310 at 83.
Don't think of Le Conte in terms of an overnight stay at the Lodge. Wright was frugal, and if he ever spent the night at the Lodge, it's not mentioned in his book. Even if you could get reservations, it would cost you close to $250,000 to stay 1,310 nights. Speaking of "day hikes"—there were 125 days when Wright climbed Le Conte twice. Three of those days, he actually went back for a third lap—a 33-mile day on the trail.
Make no excuses. In 1999, at age 73, Wright was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Still, he hiked up on April Fool's Day and then went into the hospital to have five bypasses and a mitral valve replacement. Five weeks into his recovery, he hiked to Inspiration Point, and the next week he returned to the summit. In 2000, he was sidelined by double knee replacement, but he returned in 11 months, and he accumulated another 43 summit hikes over the next seven years. He eventually moved from Tennessee to Florida, so each hike required days on the highway. After #1,275 in 2002, he wrote: "Some folks think that I should take up a hobby instead of driving 1,500 miles to hike a 6,500-foot mountain in the rain."  
Realize that even if you are the next Ed Wright, you are never going to be the next Ron Valentine, who has made the climb about 4,000 times since 1946. I don't have documentation on Valentine's climbs, but I am grateful to Wright for taking time during his last hike to quiz Valentine. "I again asked him about his total hikes," Wright wrote in his journal. "My hearing is marginal at best, but I think that he said that he had made 798 hikes to LeConte since January 1, 2000. I think that he said that he had about 3,000 hikes before that. I asked him when he was going to come clean and tell the world of his accomplishments. He replied that he would give the number after I died. I told him that I was not half dead yet.”

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Jack Huff's great-grandsons complete the Tour

Parker Bowling, Cade Huff, and Wes Fortner—completing 3 trips over Le Conte

 Following in the footsteps of their great-grandfather Jack Huff, Parker Bowling and Cade Huff—along with their friend, Wes Fortner—made their own history on Mount Le Conte when they completed the Tour de Le Conte challenge, which involves hiking all six trails in 24 hours.
 Parker, Cade, and Wes started at 4:10 a.m. on Friday, July 31, and went up Rainbow Falls, down Trillium (yielding to the up-bound llamas), up Bullhead, down Alum, up Boulevard despite a thunderstorm, and down Brushy Mountain, finishing at 3:12 a.m. on Aug. 1. That's a total of 45.7 miles, which they completed in 23 hours and two minutes. Jake Agee did the first two legs with them, so there are four in their video.

 Jack Huff (1903-1985) founded LeConte Lodge in 1926 and climbed the mountain thousands of times, including the famous day in 1929 when he carried his mother to the Lodge in a chair strapped to his back. Jack and Pauline were married at Myrtle Point in 1934, raised their children on the mountain, and ran the Lodge until 1960. He built the original buildings, including the dining hall in 1939. Jack stopped counting hikes after he surpassed 1,000 in 1937, but we have estimated that his lifetime total was about 2,500. Parker has climbed Le Conte 27 times (eight this year), Cade 23, and Wes 22.
 Cade is the grandson of the late Phillip Huff. Parker is the grandson of Cookie Bowling, Jack's daughter. Cookie once had a piggy-back ride up the mountain, too—when she was three months old.
 "Jack would be so proud!" says a Facebook post from the family-owned Jack Huff's Motor Lodge in Gatlinburg. Parker said, "This challenge is very personal to us and was an amazing and challenging experience." Parker, Cade, and Wes all are 19 years old and students at the University of Tennessee.

 We have documented 31 hikers who have completed the Tour de Le Conte, including five this year. They are listed in the sidebar on the left side of this page (If you are reading on a mobile device, you will need to switch to full-screen mode to see the list.)
Back when you could keep a reservation for years, Jack Huff's descendants had a reunion hike each May. This one was in 2012. On the second row, Cookie Bowling is second from the left, and Cade is wearing a stocking cap. On the third row, Wes is on the left and Parker in the center.  

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Life in the llama lane: #250 for Larry Russell

Larry Russell and Clifford have a combined total of more than 1,000 climbs

 Since I started tracking the most relentless climbers of Mount Le Conte, I've always wanted to include the llamas. So I was glad to find a post on the Lodge blog that estimated that Clifford Cliff Tops made close to 800 trips up the mountain before he retired in November 2017. "We are all so very proud of his accomplishments," the Lodge blogger wrote in 2017. "Years of grazing and sweet treats are in his future, and well deserved."
Cliff began working for the Lodge in 2002, about the same time that Alan Householder became the llama wrangler. Alan has more than 1,200 trips up the mountain since 1980. He alternates trips with his wife Chrissy, who also has over 100 ascents.
 "Cliff was my favorite," said Larry Russell. Llamas seem to like Larry, too, and if they could count, they might be impressed to know that he just made his 250th trip up the mountain on July 12, hiking along with Householder and the llamas up the Trillium Gap trail. It was also Larry's 12th summit hike of 2020, tying him with Phillip Clarkson on the yearly leaderboard. 
 Larry was 68 in 2012 when he first made it to LeConte Lodge, and in eight years, his lifetime total has surpassed the legendary Gracie McNicol, who started hiking at age 62 and made her 244th and final trip to the Lodge on her 92nd birthday in 1983.
Many of Le Conte's most famous hikers have logged most of their miles in their golden years. Ed Wright started climbing regularly at age 61 and retired at 83 with #1,310, including 1,222 after he turned 65. Paul Dinwiddie counted #42 on his 65th birthday but then made 708 more trips to finish with #750 at age 78. Margaret Stevenson first climbed Le Conte at age 48 and finished with #718 at 84. 
 It's worth noting that the year Wright turned 66 (in 1991), he set the Le Conte one-year record with 230 climbs. If Larry wants to aim for an age-group record, Wright made 957 climbs past his 68th birthday, and Dinwiddie 617.
 The llama trains have been supplying Le Conte Lodge since 1986, when they replaced the pack horses that were wearing out the trails. Cliff hauled an average of 50 pounds each way, so he toted about 40 tons of eggs, laundry, and other supplies up and down the Trillium Gap Trail. 

Anderson Noe made his first climb with
 grandfathers Ronnie Holbert #64 and Rich Noe

We're counting on you. 
This website is a personal project that I began in 2012, and it is not officially associated with LeConte Lodge. The Lodge staff have been quite helpful, but they are busy and it is not their job to send me updates. Instead, I count on hikers like you to keep this honor roll up-to-date. If you climb Mount Le Conte, please send snapshots of recent pages from the Lodge logbook to I try to update on a daily basis. 
 The honor roll is still a work in progress, and we look forward to adding new names. If you know someone we have overlooked, please let me know.
 Much of my older information comes from the the journals of Ed Wright (who climbed Le Conte 1,310 times from 1982 to 2008, including 230 times in 1991, 132 times after heart surgery in 1999, and 43 times after double knee replacement in 2001). I also have researched the journals of Paul Dinwiddie and Margaret Stevenson, as well as Gracie McNicol's book. I've also gleaned information from old logbooks, social media posts, news media, and other sources. 
 The Le Conte Log operates on an honor system. I will use the total you report unless I have a reason to question it. I prefer exact numbers, but I also welcome good-faith estimates, since some hikers don't keep detailed records.
—Tom Layton,

Do you see the honor roll over here? If you are reading this on a mobile device, you are probably missing the left-hand column of our page. Switch to full-screen mode ("View Web Version" on the iPhone) to see the honor roll, milestone dates, and our list of those who have completed the Tour de Le Conte.

Friday, June 26, 2020

New route, record pace for the Tour de Le Conte

Ash Walsh after 51.2 miles

 Congratulations to ultra-marathoner Ash Walsh for pioneering a new route for the Tour de Le Conte that eliminates the shuttle between the Alum Cave trailhead and Newfound Gap.
 Starting at Newfound Gap at 5:02 a.m. on Friday, June 26, Ash went up the Boulevard, down and back up Alum Cave, down Bullhead, up Rainbow, down Trillium, and then returned to Trillium Gap to descend the Brushy Mountain trail. She finished at 7:32 p.m., completing 51.2 miles in 14:30:26. Even considering the extra mileage on Alum and Trillium, that's the fastest known time for a female and among the 10 fastest times by the 28 completers we have on record. Her route had a cumulative elevation gain of 10,705 feet.
 Ash said she has been running the trails of the Smokies for several years and calls Le Conte "my favorite mountain." A few years ago, she decided it would be "so fun to tackle all the trails on Le Conte in one day. I had no idea quite a few had already done it. I should have known!" She is the second to complete the Tour this year and the sixth female to accomplish all six trails in 24 hours.
 The way the six trails on Le Conte are laid out, most hikers who attempt the Tour use a car to get from Alum to Newfound Gap. In 2019, Nathaniel Klumb did it in reverse and rode a bike down from the gap to the Alum trailhead, which he said took just one turn of the pedal.
 Ash studied the possibilities and realized she could avoid the shuttle if she did Alum both ways. Her route still covered all the trails to the roadside trailheads and included three trips past the Lodge, which we count as a summit hike. The Tour does not have written rules, but by tradition, hikers are not expected to go to High Top on every ascent.
Ash is 33, lives in Georgia with her husband and two children, and has completed nine 100-mile footraces. 
 She hasn't kept count of her LeConte climbs but estimates more than 30. "Being able to enjoy this mountain is truly a gift, and I thanked God for it the entire day. I really enjoyed Bullhead, as I had not visited the trail since the fires. Wow, what a change! But clear evidence that beauty can grow from the ashes."
Ash's route: Started at Newfound Gap, up the AT and Boulevard, down and up Alum, down Bullhead, up Rainbow, down Trillium to Cherokee Orchard, back up to Trillium Gap, and down Brushy Mountain.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Linton Kerr #33-34-35: All 6 trails in 1 long day

Linton Kerr with Melanie Salas as they reached the Lodge for the second time. 

Congratulations to Linton Kerr of Kingsport, Tennessee, for completing the Tour de Le Conte on Saturday, June 13. 
Actual mileage was 48.5, subtracting
 the shuttle from Alum to Newfound  Gap
 Starting at 4:40 a.m. in Cherokee Orchard, he went up Rainbow and down Trillium in 4:48, up Bullhead and down Alum (two laps complete in 10:06), shuttled to Newfound Gap, and went up the Boulevard and down Brushy Mountain, finishing at 9:26 p.m. in Greenbrier.  He covered 48.5 miles in 16:46:27, sustaining a pace near 3 mph. He went out of his way to tag High Top on each climb and also went by Myrtle Point and Cliff Top, which made his route a little longer than others. Beyond the finish-line gate, he had to hike two more miles, because the Porters Creek road is closed because of a washout. 
 He now has 35 lifetime climbs of Mount Le Conte. With two exceptions, he's been to the mountaintop every year since 1994.  
 Linton had high praise for Melanie Salas, who ran 37 miles with him before stopping because of the heat. "I could not have completed this without the support of a wonderful friend," he said. "I am so proud of what this lady accomplished in her first day ever on Le Conte."
 Linton is the first Tour completer reported in 2020 and the 27th since it was first accomplished in 1993. We have a list of completers in the sidebar of this page. Mobile viewers will need to switch to fullscreen mode to see the sidebar.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

64 years ago: 'Junebug' snow on Mount Le Conte

* In the reference to Crossville, remember that in 1956, Alaska was not yet a state.

 LeConte Lodge posts weather records in the office that date back to 1978. The latest snow on those charts is flurries on June 1, 1983. While researching old-time hikers, I found this reference to snow on June 2, 1956, in the Knoxville-News Sentinel. This clipping was in a year-end wrap-up of wacky news.

Spring snow is not uncommon. May 9 was the seventh time since 1978 that Le Conte Lodge has had snow on the ground on Mothers Day weekend. The biggest snow ever in North Carolina was May 5-9, 1992: close to 50 inches on Mount Pisgah and 30 on Mount Mitchell. The same storm left 3 inches on Le Conte, 28 years ago on May 9. Le Conte also got 5 inches of snow on May 6, 2016.
 On June 15, 2020, the temperature dipped to 34 and the Lodge received close to an inch of hail

➤Here is a link for weather at 2,010 meters (6,593 feet) atop Mount Le Conte. 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Fastest known time for the mile-high climb

Luke Bollschweiler's track on his mile-high challenge

 Are you up for a one-mile vertical climb? Mount Le Conte stands ready to test you. At 6,593 feet, High Top stands more than 5,280 feet above the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River in downtown Gatlinburg.

Luke climbing the Bullhead Trail
 Trail runner Luke Bollschweiler of Maryville, Tennessee, made that climb on Saturday, May 23. Starting on River Road in downtown Gatlinburg, Luke ascended the Sugarlands Trail and Bullhead Trail up to High Top, and then returned via Rainbow Falls Trail, Twin Creeks Trail, Cherokee Orchard Road, and Airport Road. That's 23.1 miles horizontally (plus a mile vertically) in 3:46:54.
 It's not a record he expects to last forever. As he wrote on Facebook: "I'm sure I have a FB friend reading this that could beat my new record—so go for it! I could see someone I know cranking out a 3:35!"
 The challenge was previously completed in 4:33:57 last Dec. 14 by Christopher Hanlon. Chris proposed these rules:

  1. Start anywhere on River Road in Gatlinburg north of LeConte Creek. This ensures you start below 1313' MSL and gain a vertical mile to the summit.
  2. Dip your hand or foot in the river and start your watch. Run to the summit of Mount Le Conte (High Top at 6,593) and back via any route of your choosing.
  3. Stop your watch when you touch the river again at the bottom.
     Luke also has the fastest known time for the Tour de Le Conte—running all six trails that lead to the mountaintop last Dec. 27. He estimates he has 20 summit trips to Le Conte. 
    To see other fastest known times for Mount Le Conte, click here and then click on route tabs below the map. 

    The vertical mile: There are a few other places in the Southeast where it is possible to climb a vertical mile.
    Clingman's Dome (6,643 feet) could be approached by three long routes: 20 miles via the Sugarland Mountain Trail from Gatlinburg; or 25 miles via Tremont from the Little River in Townsend* (1,120 feet); or 32 miles via the Appalachian Trail from from the foot of Fontana Dam (1,276 feet). Luke ran most of this route (from the top of the dam to the top of the Dome) in 6:52 on March 30, 2019. That was the first leg of the Smokies Challenge Adventure Run, which follows the Appalachian Trail through the Smokies. He completed the SCAR in 14:28:33 for 71.4 miles. That race is featured in the documentary film Ultraman.
    ➤Mount Guyot (6,621) from the vicinity of Cosby High School (1,280). That's about 17 miles one-way.
     ➤Mount Mitchell (6,684) could be climbed from the town of Old Fort, where the Catawba River falls to 1,400 feet. There are two possible trail routes (via Graphite or Montreat) that would be about 25 miles one-way. Another option is the annual Assault on Mount Mitchell bicycle race, which starts in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and involves cumulative ascents of 11,000 feet (about 5,800 net) over 102.7 miles. 
    Richland Balsam (6,410, the highest point along the Blue Ridge Parkway) via 35 road miles from Lake Jocassee (1,100) in South Carolina.
    Grandfather Mountain (5,946). This would be a real stretch. Grandfather stands 4,746 above Lake James at the mouth of the Linville River. To get a full mile of climbing, you would need to start 78 miles away in Shelby, N.C., where the First Broad River falls to 666 feet. 
     * The lowest point in the national park is Abrams Creek at Lake Chilhowee (normal pool 874 feet). That would be a climb of 5,769 feet to Clingman's Dome, but there is not a practical route to hike it. The Abrams Creek campground is at 1,160 feet. From there, the hike to Clingman's Dome would be 35 miles. 

     The New England alternative would be climbing Mount Washington (6,288) from the town of Gorham, New Hampshire (800 feet), which is 15 miles away. If you run the annual Mount Washington Road Race, you'll be 630 feet short of a vertical mile. 
     In Colorado, the Pikes Peak Marathon climbs 7,800 feet to the 14,115-foot summit.
     Arizona has the Hole-to-Hump Challenge, which involves a 70-mile jaunt from the bottom of the Grand Canyon (Hance Rapids at 2,600 feet) to the top of Humphreys Peak, the state's highest point at 12,633 feet. The total climb is over 10,000 feet. 
    In California, the lowest point in the U.S. (Death Valley at minus-280 feet) and the highest peak in the Lower 48 (Mount Whitney at 14,495 feet) are both in the same county, so some hikers attempt the Lowest to Highest Route, a 135-mile-long, nearly 3-mile-high journey that usually takes almost a week.