Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Milestones from the mountaintop: 2020 updates

One Lodge tradition that survived COVID-19: The logbook is still open.

 LeConte Lodge reopened Monday, May 18, after an eight-week shutdown because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Social distancing has changed the experience―for example, meals are being served in cabins, rather than the traditional family-style dinner and breakfast in the dining room. Here is a description of the changes.
➤To see the 2020 "I hiked it" T-shirt design, click here
Playing it cool: Gravett, Ozment, Williamson
 Since the national park reopened May 9, we've seen lots of foot traffic on Mount Le Conte.
 It should surprise no one that the first men on Le Conte after the shutdown were named Adam—Adam Gravett on his 63rd lifetime climb; Adam Williamson, 44th; Adam Ozment, 39th; along with "honorary Adam" Chris Maulden, 59th. They climbed by moonlight to Myrtle Point, defying two inches of crusty  snow, to witness the first sunrise after the quarantine. Maulden was also there for the first sunrise of 2020, and Ozment has made four sunrise hikes this year.  
 Later that same day, Dr. Ed Jones made his 422nd climb, ranking 15th on our honor roll.
 The next day, Timothy Massey logged #60, Philip Clarkson #59, and Melissa Coatney #26.
 Also, on Monday, May 11, the llamas made their first trip of the season.  I'm assuming they were wrangled by Alan Householder, who ranks in our Top 5 with more than 1,200 climbs. (Here is a video from 2011 when Householder planned to retire. However, he's been back on the trail the last few seasons, averaging 1,300 miles a year.)
When you climb Le Conte, please let us know. Email photos, comments, and the number of trips you've made to LeConteLog@gmail.com. We especially appreciate snapshots of recent pages in the Lodge logbook.
Before the national park closed March 24, the Le Conte hiking season was off to a fast start. Clarkson, the winter caretaker at the Lodge, climbed the mountain 10 times in the first 81 days of 2020. Massey now has nine toward his goal of #20for2020.
 During the past winter, we added four names to our honor roll of those with 100 lifetime climbs, including Lodge staffers Ron Underwood with 431 (ranking 14th on the Honor Roll) and Kemp Stonehouse with 100-plus. Linten Atkins made his 100th hike on New Year's Eve. Also, on summitpost.org, I found Steve Prosseda with #101 in 2019.
 We've also had winter updates for John Northrup #240, Tim Webb #175, Greg Donahue #163, Bonnie Northrup #160-plus, Janice Charleville #102, and Atkins #102. From the journals of Paul Dinwiddie, I was able to document #141 for Ernest Luallen, who suffered a fatal heart attack at Arch Rock in 1992. (Dinwiddie ranks ninth on our honor roll with #750).
 As of March 23, we have documented 54 men and 20 women who have climbed Mount Le Conte at least 100 times. If you exclude the Lodge crew, that's 45 men and 14 women who have made at least 100 recreational climbs.

If you are reading this on a mobile device, you will probably need to switch to full-screen mode ("View Web Version" on the iPhone) to see the honor roll in the left-hand column of our page.
Chris Maulden with Philip Clarkson, 
hauling a pump to the Lodge


12 ‏Philip Clarkson (60 lifetime)
 9 Timothy Massey (61)
 7 Adam Ozment (39)

6 Dr. Ed Jones (422)
 6 Adam Gravett (63)
 5 Chris Maulden (59)

 5 Adam Paul McGlothlin (9)
 3 Diego Ferrón (21)
 3 Randy Ratliff
 3 Adam Williamson (44)

If you should be added to this list, let us know your 2020 and lifetime totals: LeConteLog@gmail.com.

Timothy Massey at the entrance to LeConte Lodge, which was closed until May 18.

The latest updates with lifetime totals: 
  • RON UNDERWOOD of Knoxville TN, #431.
  • DR. ED JONES of Knoxville TN, #422 on May 9, previously Jan. 26.
  • JOHN NORTHRUP of LeConte Lodge, #240 in March, #239 on Feb. 23
  • STEPHEN SIDBURY of Knoxville TN, has over 220 summit hikes. He was among four people who camped at the LeConte shelter on Jan. 31.
  • TIM WEBB of Double Springs, AL, #175 on Jan. 16. A longtime volunteer at the Lodge, Tim moved up to 35th on the Honor Roll, breaking a tie with the late Rev. Rufus Morgan. Busy with 911 calls during the COVID outbreak, Tim missed the airlift for the first time in over two decades. 
  • GREG DONAHUE of Pigeon Forge TN, #163 on Feb. 26. 
  • BONNIE NORTHRUP of LeConte Lodge, #160+ on Feb. 23. 
  • JANICE CHARLEVILLE of New Orleans LA, #102 on Feb. 26. 
  • LINTEN ATKINS of Newport TN, #102 on March 8; #101 on Feb. 22. 
  • KEMP STONEHOUSE of Asheville NC, 100-plus on Jan. 2.
  • TOMAS STAFFEN of Lakewood CO, #73 on Feb. 25
  • ADAM GRAVETT of Sevierville TN, #63 on May 9 (via Rainbow for sunrise), #62 on Feb. 29 (via Bullhead). Previously: Feb. 28, Feb. 22Jan. 25 (an overnight trip up Bullhead with Adam Williamson and Adam Ozment), Jan. 5.
  • TIMOTHY MASSEY of Tallassee TN, #61 on May 24, #60 on May 11 (2:43:05 via AT and Boulevard), #59 on March 9 (up Alum in 1:31:05, or 3.4 mph), March 8 (up Alum, 4:04 round trip), Feb. 27, Feb. 22 (up Boulevard and down Alum), Feb. 9 (up Rainbow and down Bullhead), 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." 
  • PHILIP "P-NUT" CLARKSON of Maryville TN, #60 on May 24, #59 on May 10, #58 on March 22. Previously: March 15, March 6, Feb. 23, Feb. 16, Jan. 18. The winter caretaker for LeConte Lodge, he was on the Lodge staff for two years and used to run the Alum Cave trail twice a month.
  • CHRIS MAULDEN of Knoxville TN, #59 on May 9 (via Bullhead for sunrise), #58 on March 15. Previously: Feb. 29 (via Rainbow in 13 inches of snow), Feb. 23 (via Alum), Jan. 1. "Started off 2020 with a sunrise hike to Myrtle Point," Chris 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 and joined (as I left) by another photographer."
  • STEVE GAMBLE, #51 on Jan. 16. 
  • ADAM WILLIAMSON of Seymour TN, #44 on May 9 (via Rainbow for sunrise), #43 on Jan. 25. Previously: Jan. 5 (via Rainbow before dawn) with Adam Ozment. "What an amazing sunrise on Myrtle Point this morning," the Adams posted on their Facebook page, Up N' Adam Adventures. "It's one of those that makes all the effort to get there worth it. Four inches of snow, eight degrees, and 30 mph gusts. No fingers and toes left. Our kind of hike."
  • LEE HARWELL of Knoxville TN, #39 on Jan. 28 (up Rainbow and down Bullhead) with snow up to 8 inches.
  • PAT NORTHRUP of Tecumseh MI, #39 on March 14.
  • ADAM OZMENT of Mascot TN, #39 on May 9 (via Rainbow for his 4th sunrise of 2020), #38 on Feb. 29 (via Bullhead), Previously: Feb. 9,  Feb. 2 (via Rainbow for sunrise), Jan. 25 (sunrise), Jan. 5 (sunrise).
  • MOHONA ANDERSON of Lebanon TN, #31 on Jan. 16.
  • MELISSA COATNEY of Alcoa TN, #26 on May 10 (up Bullhead and down Rainbow), #25 on March 18 (via Alum in 1:46).
  • DIEGO FERRÓN of Gatlinburg TN, #21 on Feb. 21, for his third summit hike of 2020. Previously: Feb. 9 with Adam Ozment. 
  • KATHLEEN DONAIS of Nashville TN, #20 on Jan. 16. 
  • LUKE BOLLSCHWEILER of Maryville TN, #20 on May 23, fastest known time for the mile-high climb. 
  • RACHEL GOETZE BLACK of Knoxville TN, #18 on Feb. 23 (via Alum) with KRISTEN MOSLEY of London KY #10.
  • CHIVONNE SMITH of Cartersville GA, #16 on May 23, up Alum in 2:47. It was her first trip since Feb. 29, when she turned back because of knee-deep snow. 
  • KERI SYMINGTON of Nashville TN, #15 on May 25. 
  • HOLLIS 'JUDD' COTTON of Knoxville TN, #15 on May 25. 
  • GLENN STEVENS of Sevierville TN, #13 on Feb. 26, his second summit hike of 2020.
  • BETH HARPER of Nashville TN, #13 on May 25. 
  • ADAM PAUL McGLOTHLIN of Dandridge TN, #9 on May 26, #8 on May 17 (via Rainbow) #7 on March 9, #6 on Feb. 23 (up Rainbow and down Bullhead). 
  • KEN BERRY and D.J. STEWART of Leicester NC, #6 on Feb. 9, up Trillium Gap to complete the lifetime Tour de le Conte. "Absolutely amazing day in the snow to Le Conte," Ken posted on Hiking the Smokies. "Temperature was perfect. Snowed on the way up. Skies cleared  up on the way down. Caught the sunset on the way down. Started at dark this morning with the full moon and ended the hike with the full moon. Took some effort today. Plowing snow the higher we were in elevation and the closer we got to Le Conte. One of my favorite winter hikes to date. This was our #6 of the 6 routes to Le Conte."
  • RANDY RATLIFF of Sevierville TN, Feb. 29 via Bullhead in 13 inches of snow, for his 3rd summit of 2020. "I have been hiking up there for years, but have never kept track of the amount of times," he said. "I wish I knew!"
  • STEVE DICKINSON of Oak Ridge TN, May 9 (up Bullhead, down Trillium). 
Click here to see the log for 2019.

We're counting on you. I don't have direct access to the Lodge logbook, so I depend on hikers to keep me up-to-date. If you climb Mount Le Conte, please send snapshots of recent pages from the Lodge logbook to LeConteLog@gmail.com. I try to update on a daily basis. 
The honor roll is still a work in progress, and we frequently add new names. Do you know someone who should be added or updated? Email LeConteLog@gmail.com or leave a comment below.
This website is not officially associated with LeConte Lodge but is a personal project I began in 2012 to research the most frequent  climbers of Mount Le Conte.
 Much of my older information comes from the the journals of the late 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, LeConteLog@gmail.com

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Fastest known time for the mile-high climb

Luke Bollschweiler's track on his mile-high challenge

 If you are interested in attempting a one-mile vertical climb, Mount Le Conte awaits 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!"
Previously, the fastest known time for the route was 4:33:57, by Christopher Hanlon last Dec. 14. As the first to complete the challenge, 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) could be approached by three long routes: Via Tremont from the Little River in Townsend (the lowest point in the national park at 1,120 feet); or via the Sugarland Mountain Trail from Gatlinburg; or via the Appalachian Trail from from the foot of Fontana Dam (1,276 feet). Luke ran most of this route (32 miles from the top of the dam to the top of the Dome) on March 30, 2019, in 6:52, during 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.
    ➤Mount Guyot (6,621) from the vicinity of Cosby High  School (1,280). That's a little less than 17 miles one-way.
     ➤Mount Mitchell (6,684 feet) 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 (780 feet) and involves total ascents of 10,000 feet 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.

     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. Also, you'll have to wait till next year, because the 2020 race has been cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions.

    Sunday, May 17, 2020

    What's your favorite 'I hiked it' T-shirt?

    Here are the "I Hiked It!" T-shirts designed by Le Conte Lodge since 2010. I found these images in the bountiful archives of the Lodge blog. Which design is your favorite? Leave a comment below.
     The 2020 design features the Lodge logo on the front (with an graphically understated "I Hiked It!" boast) and the trail maps on the back.
    2014 front
    2014 back

    Thursday, April 30, 2020

    Go viral? Not for monthly climbers

     Anyone who had a streak of consecutive months climbing Mount Le Conte was thwarted in April, when the national park was closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
    From my research, the record for consecutive months climbing Le Conte seems to be 160 by Ed Wright, from 1986 to 2000, when he was sidelined by knee replacement surgery. Significantly, Wright didn't even miss a month when he had open-heart surgery in 1999. He made his April hike before surgery and was back on the mountaintop in late May.
     Aside from the streak, Wright had an incentive to hike monthly. "One hike per month is required for maintaining my status with the park's VIP program," he wrote in his book. VIP stands for Volunteers-In-Parks, a  program that uses volunteers to patrol trails and provide other services. The monthly requirement refers to any hike in the park, not necessarily climbing Le Conte.  
    Paul Dinwiddie (750 lifetime climbs) counted 135 consecutive months with his 735th climb on June 1, 1992. Two weeks later, he had surgery for an aneurysm and double kidney bypass. He didn't return to the summit until May 1993.
     Margaret Stevenson (718) rarely climbed Le Conte in winter, so she never had a long streak of months.
     If you know of similar streaks worth mentioning, tell us: LeConteLog@gmail.com.

    Monday, April 20, 2020

    In memory of Shirley Henry

     The Le Conte hiking community lost one of our giants on April 20 with the death of Shirley Henry of Maryville, Tennessee.
     Shirley, 84, a native of Greenville, S.C., was one of the Wednesday Hikers who frequently accompanied Margaret Stevenson on her 718 trips up the mountain. The last time she was listed in Ed Wright's hiking journals was in 1998, when she had 173 summit hikes and her husband Clifford "Bo" Henry, had 107. Shirley and Bo were married for 63 years. 
     Shirley is also is remembered for climbing Le Conte seven consecutive days in September of 1991, as she prepared for 100th hike Oct. 5, 1991. 
     As a couple, the Henrys made a total of 280 climbs. Aside from Lodge staff, the record for most climbs by a couple is 416 by Mae and Roger Snyder.

    Friday, March 20, 2020

    It was a mild winter by Le Conte standards

    Several of Le Conte's most relentless climbers braved knee-deep snow for this rare Leap Day photo-op, including Adam Gravett #62, Timothy Massey #57, Chris Maulden #57, Philip Clarkson #55, and Adam Ozment #38. (Photo by Adam Gravett)

    3.5 degrees on Leap Day (photo by Chris Maulden)
     Spring arrived early—Thursday, March 19, thanks to the extra Leap Day—to end a mild winter atop Mount Le Conte.
     Snowfall was unusually light. Blame mist opportunities: Winter brought 40 inches of rain—enough to make 30 feet of powder. Had it been colder, we might have broken the 2000 record of 164 inches of snow. Average snowfall is 82 inches, but this past winter saw just 39.9 inches. 
     Since the start of spring, another 11 inches of snow has been measured at the Lodge, bringing the total to 51.1 inches. That included two inches on Mother's Day weekend—the seventh time since 1978 Le Conte has had snow on Mothers Day.
     This past winter was the first time Le Conte Lodge has not had a sub-zero night, according to 42 years of weather records. The coldest temperature in 2020 was 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit on the night of Jan. 21. That was the 35th anniversary of the alltime-record of minus-32 in 1985.

    Wrapping February in a 10-inch blanket (photo by Adam Gravett)

    Thursday, March 19, 2020

    The holy grail of T-shirts

    Airlift cargo next to the office. T-shirts on board? (Photo by Melissa Coatney)

    The "I hiked it" T-shirt is the holy grail of the Le Conte pilgrim. It is only sold at the Lodge, so you have to earn it by hiking to the top of the mountain. 
    Actually, you can pick up a classic version for free, assuming you know where to look, you're willing to bushwhack, and you're willing to put up with some stains and critter holes. 
    2007 shirt
    2009 shirt
    These are T-shirts that were accidentally dropped years ago during the annual airlift to resupply the Lodge. Each  March, bundles of T-shirts along with propane tanks and various staples, are packed into cargo nets that are slung below a helicopter and flown from Highway 441 to the mountaintop. At least three times, T-shirts somehow slipped through the nets and were lost in the Smokies. 
    Off-trail hikers sought these T-shirts for years. In December of 2014, Dave Landreth, Ronnie McCall, and Tommy McGlothlin were exploring a rockslide near Anakeesta Ridge when they found some of the 2007 shirts.
    Landreth described the discovery in an interview with the Cub Report, the newsletter of the Great Smoky Mountains Association: "We simply couldn't believe that after all this time, after eight years, and after enduring all of the brutal weather that regularly sweeps this high aerie in the Great Smokies, that we had actually found the mystery shirts and that many of them were still salvageable. Over the years, [the shirts] had become a source of great debate and conjecture and really had become the holy grail." Some of the shirts were still worthy of framing.
     Landreth is on our honor roll with well over 100 summit hikes. He said in a 2014 interview with the Meanderthals blog, "I've hiked the Alum Cave Bluff trail at least one way hundreds of times over the 40-something years I've been hiking in the Smokies." He also estimated that he has climbed at least 40 times off-trail via Huggins Hell. For more about Landreth, read Peter Barr's 2014 story in Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine, "The Edward Abbey of the East."
     Another off-trail hiker, Mike Poppen, said he has found shirts from three miss drops. In 2019, he posted video of the 2007 shirts. "The holy grail of miss drops," he said, "is the legendary story of a red wagon that fell and is stuck in the top of a tall spruce tree somewhere."

    Tuesday, March 10, 2020

    Old-timers hiked Le Conte up to 15 days in a row

     We recently had a couple of hikers climb Mount Le Conte on consecutive days. Timothy Massey made the trip on March 8 and 9, and Adam Gravett on Feb. 28 and 29. 
     So what's the record for consecutive days climbing the mountain? 
    Paul Dinwiddie on Little Duckhawk Ridge
    (Photo by Dr. Ed Jones)
     In Ed Wright's journals, he said in October 2002 that his friend Tillroe Smith from Moody, Ala., had hiked to the Lodge for 15 consecutive days. Wright gave no other details. Smith ranks 17th on our honor roll with at least 345 summit hikes through 2006.
    Paul Dinwiddie hiked up the Alum Cave Bluff trail 11 straight days in 1991, July 16-26. In his journal, he doesn't tell us much about the experience, except to say that he went dancing at the O'Connor Center the night after the final hike. 
    Dinwiddie was 75 at the time. He climbed Le Conte 102 times in 1991 on his way to his lifetime total of 750, which ranks 9th all-time.
     Wright met Dinwiddie during the 11th hike and told him: "Heavy exercise every day is not good for you. Should have a day of rest every other day."
     1991 was an epic year for climbing Le Conte. That was also when Wright, at age 66, set his one-year record of 230 climbs. (He also had 90 ascents in 1992, 107 in 1993, 104 in 1994, 103 in 1995, 90 in 1996, 130 in 1997, and 111 in 1998). Wright often climbed two or three times in a single day, but heeding his own advice, he rarely hiked on consecutive days.
     Also in 1991: Shirley Henry hiked the mountain seven straight days Sept. 5-11, according to Dinwiddie's journal. Shirley was hurrying toward her 100th hike that October. We have her on the honor roll with at least 173 lifetime climbs.
    Margaret Stevenson, at age 79, climbed five consecutive days Sept. 19-23, 1991. She hiked her age in 1991 with 88 summit hikes, including #500 on Oct. 15.
     More recently, in July of 2012, Mick Meister climbed the Rainbow Falls trail five consecutive days while training for a trip to Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro.
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