If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for. George Mallory
It's a blustery morning up top! The high yesterday reached 41 degrees. The low was 30 degrees, recorded yesterday morning. It was 35 degrees and cloudy at 7am observation. It was pretty warm all day and there has been a good bit of melt. There is still about 2 inches of snow left up top. I'd expect the trails to be pretty slushy today, so be prepared for wet feet. Enjoy the day!
It's another beautiful, clear morning up top. The high yesterday reached 33 degrees. The low was 8 degrees, recorded yesterday morning. It was 30 degrees and clear at 7am observation. The mountain received no new snow and there is about 5 inches remaining up top. Alum is in very good shape. I hiked down and up yesterday, it is relatively packed down without being too slick. It looks like it's shaping up to be another beautiful day, so I'll see y'all on the trails!
Much thanks to my trail angels from Kentucky! I truly appreciate your generosity!
I love Nature partly because she is not man, but a retreat from him. None of his institutions control or pervade her. There a different kind of right prevails. In her midst I can be glad with an entire gladness. If this world were all man, I could not stretch myself, I should lose all hope. He is constraint, she is freedom to me. He makes me wish for another world. She makes me content with this. Thoreau
It's a chilly day up top! The high yesterday reached 16 degrees and the overnight low got down to 5 degrees. It was 9 degrees at observation and the mountain has a spectacular view of clear skies above some valley inversion this morning. The mountain received 2 inches of new snow yesterday, bringing our total to about 5 inches with higher drifts. It is very difficult trudging. It took me about 20% longer than usual to come up Rainbow last night, it is like walking uphill in deep sand. Factor this into your estimated hiking time and please turn around by 3 pm, unless you really enjoy cold, wintry night hiking.
I met some really incredible people this summer and one of them warned me to be careful about hiking without an iPod, because then I might have an original thought. In keeping with the holiday tradition, I spent a lot of time thinking about gratitude on my hike down and up Rainbow yesterday. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be up here, to let space and time affect me in a way that so few people get to experience. I am grateful that I feel compelled to make this particular experience a priority, that I have the patience to realize every season is a new journey and some things are worth sacrificing for. I am grateful to feel the every day grace and sense of peace that I imagine Henry felt when he wrote, "I love my fate to the very core and rind." I am grateful for every step I've taken, as they have all led me here.
It's a gorgeous, snowy morning up top! The high yesterday reached 31 degrees. The overnight low got down to 16 degrees. It was 16 degrees and cloudy at 7am observation. The mountain received 2 inches of fresh snow, bringing our total up to about 3 inches. It is light and fluffy, yet will surely have some slickness to it. Please be careful and be prepared for deep winter conditions if you plan to reach the summit today! Highway 441 is closed as of this posting, please refer to the Park Service's twitter feed for the latest road conditions. It is getting dark around 5:20 pm, so I'd encourage you to start making your way down the mountain by 3pm at the latest unless you enjoy night hiking in the snow.
I had a great day settling in yesterday. It is always a little bit like Christmas for me, as I'm re-opening my boxes from storage without remembering what I put up there back in March. I've got my library all set up and look forward to making the place homier as time passes. I got a little stir crazy around 4pm and ran out to Myrtle Point and Cliff Tops to get reacquainted with my backyard. No matter how long I'm doing this, the beauty never seems familiar. It always retains the capacity to astonish and as I rounded the final few bends out towards Myrtle, I was breathless with anticipation. In moments like that, I am one of the luckiest men alive and I know it. I am so thrilled to have another winter filled with similar daily micro adventures, meandering bobkitten tracks, snowy days spent reading and wondering how time can so beautifully paradoxical, fast and slow in the same tidy package...
It is a beautiful morning up top! It's about 22 degrees out right now. The high yesterday was 42 degrees and the low was 23 degrees. The lodge received an inch of snow overnight. The snow is fresh and provides decent traction, but I am sure there are some tricky spots beneath the powder. I would definitely recommend carrying some sort of traction devices, preferably Microspikes. Highway 441 appears to have just opened for the day.
It is always a pleasure and honor to return to my winter home. I've hiked up and down Alum a few times since I returned to the area on Monday. The distinct aroma and trademark scenery of the Smokies was pulling me in all kinds of nostalgic directions. I can't wait to continue to add more grand memories to my already rich memory bank. There is a new adventure to be had every day up here. There is no proper way to capture my excitement, as Ed Abbey said simply, 'Words fail'. I just know how it feels... and it feels sublime.
As all the readers of the blog know by now, the lodge is CLOSED for the season. There are no day hiker services available. No coffee, no hot chocolate, no warming up next to the fire, no overnight stays... just about all you can do is admire the beauty the winter months bring and relish in the joys of your self-sufficiency. The gift of winter hiking lies in the fact that with greater risk comes greater rewards. If you plan to hike in the park this winter, use all the resources available to make it the pleasant experience for yourself and others. Winter hiking can be a transcendent experience when done well - no bugs, fewer bears, no crowds, crisp air, clearer skies, seemingly infinite peace, pure comfort in a remote setting... but it can also be a time for wet boots, endless shivering nights, hands that no longer feel like hands but strange foreign pieces of rubber, frozen jeans and sweatshirts, desperation where outside help is unlikely... so please, for everyone's sake, be safe and stay within your limits. Turn around if you feel uncomfortable. The mountains will be here longer than you will. Be safe out there, folks!
Hello from our last full day on top of the mountain! This is Ruthie for the last time this season. It is a beautiful blue-sky day and the winds from the past few days have calmed...currently with the sun shining and the temp at 41 it almost feels warm (until you stand still for too long). Our high yesterday reached 46 with a low of 27 with mostly sunny skies.
JP arrived yesterday and he will be officially taking over the blog tomorrow as the crew breaks down camp, pulls on their packs and make their way down the mountain for the last time as a group. It has been a great year, with the usual ups and downs and the added sideways and back and forth that come with life on the mountain. I am looking forward to next year with nothing but excitement and I can't wait to return with vigor to the mountain in spring for a whole new year!
From the whole 2014 crew, we wish you fond farewells and happy trails!
I have been struggling with what kind of picture to post for my last High on LeConte entry. I decided on a picture of current and past crew members all sitting down together to enjoy Mountain Thanksgiving. This picture speaks volumes about what this mountain is all about. Community. Yes, this mountain is beautiful and makes you feel at one with nature. Yes, the rustic charm of the cabins makes it an experience like no other. But the people you meet and the memories you make while visiting the lodge is what ties it up in a neat little package. I will remember the stunning sunsets, the 37" of snow, the cute little fawns running around camp, the front steps turning into a water fall, and the countless picture perfect, blue sky days. The thing I will remember the most fondly are the crew we have worked with for the past twelve years and the amazing guests that we have connected with over twelve seasons.
I realize some of you are wanting to know trail conditions. We experienced high winds all day yesterday. The high temperature was 42 with a low of 37. The ice is melted, but I can not speak about downed trees. We should know more today. It is currently sunny but windy. Please, be careful out there.
So, it is time to say farewell. I am sure Chris and I will see a lot of you on the trails. We have not hiked our last hike to Mt. LeConte. Peace to you all and Happy Hiking.
Thanksgiving preparations are underway by headlamp and oil lamp. The crew is excited to strap on their bibs and celebrate our mountain family Thanksgiving. Today is a good day for the tryptophan comma that always comes after this meal. It is currently raining and windy. The high yesterday was 39 with a low of 35. The ice is melting and the reports we have received say that Rainbow, Bullhead, and Alum are all passable. Ice traction is not necessary on these trails.
Chris and I awoke at 4 this morning to make sure the turkey was in the oven. Chris brined it using kosher salt, thyme, and parsley. It always turns out magnificent. I am showing Nicolette the way as far as Mountain Thanksgiving is concerned. This year we have a south meets north theme. I was raised on cornbread dressing and Nicholette we raised on stuffing. We decided to prepare both so no one felt left out. We have prepared the cranberry sauce and squash casserole. There are a couple of pumpkin butterscotch cheesecakes to top it all off. I think this crew will take this memory with them for the rest of their lives. This meal is the one meal that old crew always refer to fondly. There will be a tear in my eye as we sit down and give our thanks. I am so thankful for the past twelve years and the amazing people I have been able to add to my list of family. Life is good.
Our last weekend on the mountain has started out picture worthy. Chris is in the kitchen flipping his last pancakes. Tim is on his way up the mountain to finish out the season. I told Chris he would always have a job in one of the many pancake houses around town. He certainly knows how to make pancakes. He decided he did not want to pursue that line of work. Instead we are staying around the Gatlinburg/ Knoxville area and dabbling in the specialty food market and furniture business. In the spirit of keeping the blog about this beautiful mountain, that is all I will say. In this day and age of information being at our fingertips, I am sure you will be able to find us.
The trails are still very icy. Many of our guests said they would have turned around had it not been for the ice traction they had for their boots. Please, make sure you are prepared. The high did reach 34 yesterday, but the low was 21. The ice has not had a chance to melt. Please be careful out there and make sure you drink plenty of water. Dehydration can happen in the colder months as well.
One last note, please play nice on the comment section. There are only a couple of rules. 1.) keep the comments about the lodge, mountain, and trails. 2.) Be respectful of others. 3. ) Just ignore the trolls, when they are trolls. Our filters do not let us block anyone or make you fill out a form of any kind. Remember, some comments may be for those of us on the mountain and you may not understand them, but we do. Please, be kind, and keep you comments on point. Happy Hiking and hope to see you at the top.
I think I saw a tear in Chris's eye as he realized this was his last time to grill on the mountain. Yes, he was grilling in 24 degree weather, because that is how we roll. Chris always enjoyed grilling for the crew. Perfecting his grilling technique is a hobby for Chris. I was thankful he took on the cooking roll last night. Today is the beginning of prep for the crew mountain Thanksgiving. It will take me three days to have everything ready for us to sit down Sunday and enjoy our "family Thanksgiving". I look forward to it and I know this year is going to be bittersweet.
The trails leading to the lodge are still very slick. Henry Neel, who spent 15 years on this mountain, hiked up yesterday. He said Alum Cave trail had more ice then he had ever seen. That says something considering Henry spent a winter as winter caretaker. Every trail is icy and we have not had temperatures above freezing. The high yesterday was 27 with a low of 19. If you are hiking up today, YOU WILL NEED some sort of spikes for your boots. Please, do not attempt with out some sort of ice traction. It is too dangerous for my crew to have to carry someone up the trail in these conditions. I do not want my crew's safety put on the line because someone did not use better judgment. Please, be safe, take your time, dress properly, use ice traction, and drink plenty of water. We hope to see you at the top safe and happy.
Welcome to the official blog of LeConte Lodge. We hope you find the information provided here both helpful and enjoyable. Thank you for visiting the site, and we hope to see you on the mountain!