Sunday, October 18, 2015

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.

 Colorado's Pikes Peak is the most visited peak in North America and second in the world, its promoters claim. (They don't identify the world champion, but it must be China's Tai Shan or Japan's Fuji.) Pikes Peak boasts up to 500,000 visitors in a year, though that number may decline this year since 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 398,000 in 2016. We can assume that many of those visitors stopped at the parking-lot overlooks and never climbed all the way to the summits.
 An average year at Le Conte Lodge includes about 12,000 overnight guests and 25,000 including day hikers. (That's more than Pikes Peak, which averages 15,000 hikers annually).
 If you Google "most climbed mountain," you may find dubious 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. Another climber named Garry Harrington told me he has summited Monadnock about 1,100 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 times than Le Conte's all-time leaders, Ron Valentine and Jack Huff. According to Multiple Repeats by a Member on the peakbagging site listsofjohn.com, the national leaders (as of July 10, 2018) are Mark Nichols with 1,219 climbs on an unnamed peak in Arizona and Rick Baugher with 1,087 times up Kelly Mountain, Idaho.
 Unfortunately, none of the Le Conte leaders have logged their hikes on ListsofJohn.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Does the photo-op count?

This is not the summit, but if you get this far I will give you credit. This 2012 hike was my fourth climb, Rick Shortt's 14th, the first for Ralph Phillips and Larry Trivette, and Mike Hembree's sixth. We hiked up the Boulevard Trail, so we bagged High Top along the way.


 Peakbaggers, as we are called, can be nit-picky about how to count a mountain climbed.
 If you haven't touched the highest natural ground on the mountain, you can't count it.
 That seems simple enough, but not on Mounte LeConte. Many hikers go only as far as Le Conte Lodge and pose for pictures in front of the dining hall, where a sign declares the summit elevation of 6,593 feet above sea level. However, the Lodge is actually about 6,360 feet.
 Others continue up to watch the sunset from Cliff Top, elevation 6,555. But that's not the top, either.
 The highest point on the mountain is on High Top, a third of a mile from the lodge, where the official elevation is 6,593 feet and the rock cairn occasionally tops 6,600. Unless you come up on the Boulevard Trail or go to Myrtle Point for sunrise, it's easy to miss the actual summit, where trees obscure the view.
 Ed Wright was conscientious about going all the way to High Top in 1991 when he set the one-year record of 231 climbs, but in later years he often stopped at the lodge.
 For the purposes of the Le Conte honor roll, I am making no distinction between hikes to the Lodge or to High Top. Call me a liberal, but if you get as far as Le Conte Lodge (five miles horizontally and a half-mile vertically from the nearest trailhead) you can count the climb on this website.

 In the same spirit, I count those who rode up on horseback. For example, Gracie McNicol's 244 ascents include 141 on foot and 103 on horseback. Gracie also walked down 28 times after riding up. She counted each of those as a half-hike, so she claimed 155 hikes. The difference is irrelevant as far as the Le Conte Log is concerned, because we are already giving her credit for all 244 ascents. 
Bring your own rock to add to the Tower of Babel at High Top. If we can stack it 50 feet high, Le Conte (6,593) will match Clingman's Dome (6,643) for the highest rock in Tennessee. Rocky Top, indeed!