Friday, August 18, 2017

Dr. Ed Jones #350: Climbing the list

 Hikers arriving at Le Conte Lodge with reservations for the night of April 1 were greeted with this joke on the iconic sign above the dining-room doors:

 When they went to write their names in the logbook and scanned down the column that shows how many trips each guest has made to Le Conte, they probably thought they were seeing another April Fools prank:
 350 trips to Le Conte? As far-fetched as it must have seemed for sore-footed novices signing the register for the first or second time, that's no joke.
 Dr. Ed Jones probably has climbed Mount Le Conte more times than any active hiker except for Ron Valentine and a few of the staffers at the Lodge.
 He is a physicist and physician in Knoxville whose website,, includes hundreds of photos chronicling 35 years of hikes and explorations on Le Conte. He is also a meticulous record-keeper—note how he documented his dates for hikes 347, 348, and 349, which he made while the Lodge was closed for winter. 
 Jones was in medical school at the University of Tennessee in 1996 when he first showed up in the hiking journals of Ed Wright. At that time, Wright had 852 climbs and Jones 188. Wright (who finished with 1,310) described Jones as a close friend of Paul Dinwiddie (the previous record-holder with 750) and an expert on the off-trail routes up Le Conte. By the time he earned his M.D. in 2000, Jones had 243 climbs. I wonder if any other medical student has found time to hike Le Conte more than 50 times.
Dr. Ed Jones at High Top (photo from his website)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tim Webb #163: Representing the Highpointers Club

When the winter caretaker needs a break, Le Conte Lodge calls Tim Webb

 Obsessive climbers of Mount Le Conte would seem to have a lot in common with the members of the Highpointers Club, whose quest is to reach the highest points in all 50 states. But as far as I can tell, only one name is prominent in both groups.
 Tim Webb is a surveyor from Double Springs, Ala., who serves as president of the Highpointers Club. Not only has he climbed the highest peak in 46 of the 50 states, but he has also hiked up Le Conte 163 times.
 Tim is so dedicated to highpointing that he named his daughter Whitney after California's Mount Whitney, the highest point in the Lower 48 states. (See this story about Tim and the Highpointers Club published in 2015 by Atlas Obscura.)
 His fondness for Mount Le Conte is measured by a different standard. Le Conte is not even the highpoint of Sevier County, much less the state of Tennessee (nearby Clingmans Dome stands 50 feet higher), but Tim describes it as "a place that is near and dear to my heart, and I hope to continue going up for years to come."

 Many of his trips are in the winter, while Le Conte Lodge is closed. For the past 22 years, he has worked on the March airlifts to restock the lodge with tons of fuel, T-shirts, food staples, and other items for the upcoming season. He also makes occasional trips to relieve the caretaker who stays at the lodge throughout the winter.
 Tim attended the University of Alabama and had a friendly rivalry with the late Ed Wright, an Auburn man who climbed Le Conte 1,310 times. Tim sai that when their paths crossed, "He would always wait until I was out of sight and would yell out 'War Eagle!' to which I always responded to him with a big 'Roll Tide!'"

FOOTNOTE: The Highpointers Club maintains lists of the 286 individuals who have reached all 50 U.S. highpoints, as well as the 559 who have completed the Lower 48. Many of them have climbed Le Conte at least once (especially when the Highpointers Konvention was held in Gatlinburg in 2014, or in groups led by Webb). I know of one 48er who is a regular visitor to Le Conte: Stony Burk has made the pilgrimage from New Hampshire for the past eight years.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Ronnie Holbert #62: 'I have missed this mountain'

     Ronnie Holbert signed in at Le Conte Lodge on Halloween of 2012 on his 62nd climb of Mount Le Conte. He wrote in the logbook, "I have missed this mountain." In a recent email, he repeated that sentiment and said he is eager to return to Le Conte once he recovers from knee surgery. 
     He knows it can be done. His friend Ed Wright (1925-2009) made the last 43 of his 1,310 Le Conte hikes after having double knee replacement in 2001—not to mention 132 climbs after heart bypass surgery in 1999.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

When you sign in at Le Conte, please share it with us

When you sign in at Le Conte Lodge, we would appreciate it if you would take a picture of the guestbook and email it to us. That way, we document not only your climb but also others who have arrived ahead of you.
(Photo by Josh Carr)

LOOKING FOR THE HONOR ROLL? If you are reading this on your phone, you will need to switch from the mobile view to full screen (iPhone users click on "View web version" below) to see our list of hikers who have climbed Le Conte at least 100 times.