Bays Mountain

Today my family and I hiked to the fire tower on Bays Mountain. This was a short 4.7 mile hike around the lake. This time I actually climbed the fire tower; it was just as rickety as all the others I’ve seen while hiking in the area. Bays Mountain is in the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians. This is most apparent when looking at the parallel ridges and the associated valleys.

North Clear

Today my friends and I climbed at North Clear. Most of the routes here are trad routes, so I top roped all day (which was just as well because I was still tired from the half the day before). We climbed Buster Brown (5.8) and Alpine Dihedral (5.8+). Alpine was a pretty climb following a hand crack in the corner up 110 feet, using the entire length of the 70m rope. From the top I could see the the cliffs across the Obed river.

Secret City Half

Today I ran the Secret City Half Marathon with my friends. I got a PR of 1:50:35 (8:26 pace). My goal was under 2 hours, so I listened to The Vanishing Point episode 600 by Kaeno, a 2 hour special techno/trance mix. I tried to keep a calm pace for the first half and save my energy for the second half. For once my second half was faster than the first, haha. Every mile tried to calculate my pace and never got it right.

Obed

This weekend my friend and I climbed at Obed.

Saturday, we climbed at South Clear, camped at Lilly Pad Brewery, and Sunday we climbed at Lilly Bluff. The weather was great for climbing, mid 60s, though it dipped to 35 Saturday night, and the leaves were at the peak of their change.

Saturday, I top roped Comic Relief Left (5.8+), lead Comic Relief Direct (5.8), top roped Shadowhawk (5.9), lead Super Ego (5.9), top roped Cheap Seats (5.10a), and lead Best Seat in the House (5.9). We had to give up on Dude Climbs Like a Lady (5.6 trad) because we couldn’t find the anchors. A review on mountain project from 2016 said the anchor is an old cam and nut with webbing, super sketchy. 

Sunday I top roped Rocking Chair (5.9-), lead Ticks are for Kids (5.10a), and top roped Dinosaur Jr. (5.10c).

Overall, it was a great weekend.

The Boulevard Trail

Today my friends and I hiked to Mt. LeConte along the Alum Cave Trail, then hiked along the Boulevard Trail and Appalachian Trail to Newfound Gap. This was a 13.4 mile route with 4838 feet of climbing. We started hiking just before sunrise to make sure we got a parking spot at the trail head. This is one of the most popular hikes at the most popular time of year. As we hiked the sun rose and the clouds lifted. Much like our “fall colors” hike two years ago, as we climbed in elevation the fall colors gave way to frost. We stopped at many great look outs along Alum Cave Trail and at Mt. LeConte. The Boulevard Trail is much less traveled and we quietly hiked along the ridge line with views through the trees on either side.

Cataloochee and Mt Cammerer

Today my friends and I hiked from Cataloochee, along Pretty Hollow Gap Trail, to Swallow Fork Trail, to Low Gap Trail, to the Appalachian Trail, to Mt Cammerer, and back again. This was a very challenging 30.4 mile day hike with 7284 feet of climbing according to Caltopo. It took 13 hours total, sunrise to sunset. We started at 7:50 (sunrise) and got back to the car at 8:50 (nearly 2 hours past sunset) stopping twice for 30 minutes each: once at mile 15 for lunch at the Mt Cammerer fire watch tower and once at mile 20 to refill our water at Walnut Bottom. Unfortunately, like last week, the clouds covered the top of Mt Cammerer so we didn’t have a view. By the time we stopped to refill our water in the evening, the clouds lifted, and we could see bright patches of fall colors through the trees around us. On the hike back up to Pretty Hollow Gap the sun was starting to set. Golden hour was quickly approaching. We picked up our pace to reach the gap before the sun set only to realize the gap we first passed in the clouds was covered in trees blocking a clear view of the surrounding mountainsides.

Hiking so far and so quickly is different than what I am used to and what I prefer. There were many times I would have liked to stop for a photo and had to keep moving. Similarly, by the end I was on autopilot just trying to put one put in front of the other. I was really happy with my hiking boots. I wore only one pair of wool socks and only had a small blister by the end. I am not sure I ate enough. During the days leading up to the hike ate more than I normally do, and in the morning I had a good breakfast. On the hike I had a peanut butter sandwich (350 cal) apple sauce (100 cal), two Chick-fil-a sandwiches (880 cal and great trail food), four rxbar (840 cal), a banana (90 cal), trail mix (460 cal), five thin mints (180), and a brownie (250 cal), for a total of only 3150 calories. Next time, I need to be better about planning food.

Charlie's Bunion Loop

Today I hiked a 12 mile loop including Charlie’s Bunion. Starting at Newfound Gap at 5,048 ft, I followed the Appalachian Trail for 1.7 miles then hiked down 2,000 feet to the Kephart shelter, then back up to the AT at dry Sluice Gap and Charlie’s Bunion at 5376 feet. The trail back to Newfound Gap peaked at Mt Kephart at 6217 feet. All told the elevation gain was ~3217 feet.

This turned out to be one of the best hikes I’ve done. I woke up at 5:30 am and left the house by 6 to get to the park before the crowds (this time of year is especially crowded. It can feel like rush hour in the mountains.) True to their name, the Smokys were covered in clouds. When I started hiking at 8 it was cold, windy, and wet. Ice cold water fell from the trees every time the wind blew. There was no visibility past the trail. As I descended to the Kephart shelter I dipped below the clouds and caught the morning sun. I stopped for lunch and a nap just before the bunion because I found a beautiful spot to set up my hammock with a window between two evergreen trees overlooking, The Sawteeth, an adjacent peak. By the time I hiked to the bunion the clouds around the peaks had evaporated leaving a cloud inversion in the valleys lasting well into the late afternoon. I did my best impression of the Wanderer above the Sea of Fog. After the bunion I hiked directly back to Newfound Gap finishing the hike in a casual 9 hours.

Stone Fort

Today my friends and I bouldered in Stone Fort / Little Rock City in Soddy-Daisy Tennessee near Chattanooga. Most of what we climbed was difficult for me but not too highly rated.

We warmed up on Slab (V0-), Needless Things (V0-), and Costume Rings (V0-). We sent Fire Crack Flake (V1), a big incredibly thin flake on the corner of the boulder. I separately climbed the first and second halves of Art of the Vogi (V4), a really cool problem with a sloper, slab top. I couldn’t get anywhere on Hairy Underclings (V3). I loved the start of Swingers (V3-4), a cave super overhung with jugs, but couldn’t nail the sloper top-out. I climbed halfway up The Crescent (V1) and Spacegrass (V2), and flashed Smoking Jacket (V1-2).

Every climb here is highly rated. The problems we climbed have interesting holds and require precise moves. Overall, it was a warm day (even in early October), and my hands and the holds were quite slick. I’d love to come back and try these problems in cooler, drier weather.

Climbing outside, especially the strong moves required in bouldering, is rough on the skin (every hold on sandstone is basically sandpaper). My fingerprints wore off and my computer couldn’t read my print for a week.