JULY 21, 2012

This is what happens after a big rainstorm moves out of an area. In this instance it is on Trillium Gap.

This is more indicative of the walk up.  I began at 1.30, which was my first mistake. Every time I have ever ascended this mountain too late in the day, a storm is encountered.  On Saturday, it was a very big rain event.  After the previous windblown weather situations, a pure rain and lightning festival was less fearful.  Even when the lightning got really close, the torrents of rain were mostly bearable.  But after 3 hours, I was soaked and my nine mile, 4000 foot ascent was becoming a Smokies Death march.  And I was alone.

This is a yellow fringed orchid.  A small ray of beauty on a nasty afternoon.

(Ledge, do you know this one?  It's obscure.  I'll give credit to anyone that can identify it.  You will have to dig deep into the books and web.)


It was at that point my camera died.  I made it to the lodge in 5 hours as the rain abated.  I was pumping water from the spigot as the guests reeled at the appearance of, well me.

The remainder of the evening was more pleasant.  I joined Sally Dumplin, Jerky Mike, Slapnuts and Rob Cameron who made the same wet ascent, although via Alum Cave.  Mike, Dave and Slap were wise enough to hit the trail early and avoid the weather.  Dave is a great president of the Highlander outfit because he handles logistics so adeptly.    We enjoyed our time in the shelter and allowed two non registered German tourists to bunk with us.  They were ill prepared, as usual, and were begging the interpretive ranger at the lodge for a bed when he pawned them off on us in the shelter.  Heaven forbid Leconte Lodge would have to put up non paying guests.  These young guys didn't even have sleeping bags and next morning, after we picked up their trash, they informed us they were heading to Pecks Corner.  If this isn't an indication that shelters are idiot magnets, I don't know what is. (besides the fact that we are in it because there is no backcountry camping on leconte)  Here are German tourists who see "shelter", ascend in improper gear, get taken care of by, well, us and the interpretive ranger, then decide to hike off to Pecks Corner.   And Ditmanson wants to charge US to use the backcountry.


Next day, Rob and Jerky Mike and I descend together in considerably better weather.  Notice the vacation shirt, here.  Rob looks like he's ready for an umbrella drink.

With the side trip out to Brushy, It was a 20 mile in 24 hour round trip for me.  Because of the deluge, I wet out everything including my socks which resulted in some impressive blistering and a slower walk down.  You may think, well, why didn't you put on rain pants etc.  Problem is, when it comes like that, you've got about 10 seconds to get those pants on before the rain gets into your boots, then you are toast.  I didn't make the 10 second window.  Gore Tex never dries, especially in the Smokies.  That's why I hate Gore tex boots.  I have always used a cambrelle boot.   My last cambrelle boot, however, shrunk on me and I could not find an appropriate fitting pair with which to replace them.  So I am stuck with Gore Tex.  In a cambrelle model, you can drain them and put on a dry sock and it will be okay.  You can't do that with Gore Tex.  They are blister machines.

I am hobbling around today.

In other news though, Saturday night on Leconte was an anniversary.  It was exactly one year ago that I stood atop Mt. Muztagh Ata in western China.  I was aware of this primarily because I had been following the blog of Summit Climb.  The same cast of characters was back on the mountain giving it another go and I was very happy to see my friend Tim Wells, retired Marine Colonel, sewing up some unfinished business.  The route we took is a very obscure one and the first attempted route now referred to as the Tash Route.

Tim was very determined but made the wise decision to turn around on summit day last year.  As a result, he didn't get frostbite or worse.  He was disheartened though so when I saw they were heading for the summit on almost exactly the same day, I was optimistic.  I waited and waited for a dispatch.  The lag in posting didn't seem good to me.  The result is posted here on Arnold's blog.  Arnold Coster

At least it appears as if everyone is okay and that is what matters most.  I understand Tim's disappointment.  I'm sure he will be back to knock it off.