Hangover 2018

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I’m still sorting through photos, so enjoy this montage of the cloudscape we encountered. It was as if we were breathing with the mountain.  The Hangover was well attended and it was one for the books. Myers did the heavy lifting on the photography so I am sorting through that in addition to mine.

Pictured are from left to right: Mark, Laurel, JQ, Jon Chambers, Kurt, Nick and Stephanie. Not pictured is Myers and the mystery guest hiking cameo person to be named later.

We braved the elements on this one but that was expected as I changed the week due to knowledge that the leaves hadn’t even started changing on the traditional weekend. Fortunately, we had some color.

That color was absent from the week before as I ran into Randy Redwood who was there the previous week. He came to the Everest presentation at Little River on Thursday. It was a great event and I really enjoyed meeting the overflow crowd of 120 outdoor folks, old and new. They even set up my climbing gear as you can see on the left which the kids seemed to enjoy. I really appreciated seeing my friends there and meeting some new ones. Great potential collaborations have arisen as a result. I will expound upon that later. Many thanks to Bert Emerson and Erika Gilbert at LRTC for promoting the event.

So Chambers and I departed from Maryville at 3.30 pm the following afternoon, hit the traditional Lead South trail at 5.15 and I made it in time for what remained of the sunset. Chambers, however, missed the turn at the gap and headed up the Haoe. He was setting up a tent when I found him but his pack had to weigh about 75 lbs. He is a cross fitter so I just allowed him a little extra workout for his money.  Soon we joined Myers and Nick for an incredible, and record setting Highlander fire that first night. We braved the shifting winds and prepared for the impending rain.

The rain was well timed as we hit the bed at midnight, about the time it started. I would say it made for great sleeping weather.

BTW, all these pics are Myers unless otherwise noted.

Coming up, Day 2 and the new arrivals plus an unexpected old friend. (If you can’t tell, I’m doing this between clients at my office)  ……………….Stay tuned!

Chambers and I set out to fetch wood and water, that was after the night of rain.

We ran out to the rock in between clouds and it was amazing with the mountain breath engulfing us.

Newbies get wood duty in the Highlander fold.

Can’t remember having a fire this huge up on the hill. We needed it with 20 degree temps.

Myers doesn’t mind that the sun is making a cameo and Jon is sawing.

Before long, Mark and Stephanie and Laurel and Longstreet arrive Saturday afternoon. Right off the bat, Longstreet makes a scene and rolls in excrement, thus rendering himself untouchable for the weekend. Curt showed up to give us a total of, I’m not sure because Patman was also there. You will remember him from prior outings in the olden days.

Then we were joined by a group of coeds from Clemson who marvelled at our tales of outdoor activities including the infamous Hook Man and Jonathan Swift analogies.

Doing laundry is a decidedly Hell Guy tradition.

Doing stupid things gets you the pink fleece in the Southernhighlander fold.

A good coating of hoar frost along the Hangover spine was the breakfast view on Sunday.

It was 20 degrees, thereabouts on Saturday night. Cold enough to remind me that my toes are still partially frostbitten. It was water bottle freezing cold. But the morning gave us a clear view and some nice leaf action.

It was a great weekend. Total count was, Me, Laurel, Myers, Nick, Stephanie, Curt, Chambers and Patman plus the Clemson crew.  Great fellowship, no pot luck, which is good luck.








Newton Bald w Grady and Laurel

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We had the place all to ourselves. Dropping down from Thomas Divide, we sauntered and undulated along the spine.

Fall is quite elusive in Early October in the Smokies, it seems. 90 plus degree days haven’t triggered our friends to start leaving.

But the walking was nice and it had been a while since we experienced trail time.

Some nice alpenglow hung over out shoulders.

We had an alpaca sighting.

Laurel had work to do. She had driven up from Athens and my car was acting like it wasn’t going to make the top of Newfound Gap.

Didn’t take long to create a flame worthy of Highlander standards.

It rained gently through the night, just enough to ensure an enchanted sleep, for me, anyway.

The decision was unanimous on Sunday morning. We would drop down Newton Bald trail and hitchike back up to the dome.

It took an hour before a nice guy turned around to pick us up.  Great weekend outing in the Smokies, no leaves yet but plenty of gentians.

I hope you are marking your calendars for the party at Little River, October 18. I look forward to seeing you there at our SFW fundraiser where I will be doing a presentation on Everest. Click the link below for details.


Hiking into Everest Base Camp

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I’ve recently compiled a short list of videos of our hike into EBC. At some point after my next speaking engagement at Little River Trading Company in Maryville on October 18, I will be posting a recap of my summit day experience. One of the great benefits of sharing Everest with others is that I relive an incredible experience over and over again. The hike in included Laurel and it was a freestanding experience prior to the climb. Enjoy a few of these short clips and appreciate the scenery therein. I would love for each of you reading this to someday plan your hike into EBC. It is very doable and life changing. (Last weekend was a climbing day at Knoxville Crag, formerly Ijams Crag. Excellent time with Flasher.)



Here is a link to my talk at LRTC. Come join the party and say hello.

I will be speaking at LRTC on Oct 18

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It was an incredible evening with my hometown and the WSCC Adventurers club last Thursday.  

We had a standing room crowd with lots of enthusiasm and good questions about mountains and mountaineering. I was able to share the genesis of my journey from Rainier to Everest with the Adventurers club, of which I am now a proud honorary member.  Excellent venue at Walters State. Thanks to Dr. Miksa, JB Pectol and David Quillen for making this event so successful.

I will be speaking again on Oct. 18 at Little River Trading Company if you weren’t able to catch this gig.  Attached is information about that upcoming fundraiser for Southern Forest Watch. In case you are wondering if I have abandoned outdoor activities, rest assured.  I have not. Last weekend was trail days at the Obed. We hiked in to the Tieranny trail and spent a very hot, snaky day rebuilding water bars to prevent trail erosion. I found it to be a better workout than most of my Everest training.

So all is great here on my end, looking forward to Fall eventually getting out of bed and putting some of this heat to rest so we can hit the trail in earnest.


Speaking of Everest-the Obed.

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I’ve had a very active few weeks since May 23. Work resumed with a fevered pitch and to date I have made several engagements speaking of our time on earth’s highest peak. This past week found me speaking at Kiwanis Alcoa with old and new friends. Everyone had great questions and uncanny insight as to the process of acclimatizing and preparation for Everest.

Laurel, Longstreet and I spent this weekend getting back to our roots at the Obed. It was a great weather window that allowed us to pull on this magnificent sandstone. It was somewhat crowded and I didn’t realize that one of my favorite areas over there, Little Clear, has been closed as it crosses public lands and the landowner was fearful of being sued should someone get hurt. That’s a shame because it isn’t true. Tennessee has a statute entitled the Tennessee Recreational Use act that protects landholders against this type of liability but folks often are fearful in our litigious society. It happened at Craghead in Knoxville several years ago.

I did laps on one route all afternoon Saturday.  Laurel made a few herself.  Longstreet?

He is leading a 5.6 here

Laurel was quite proud of her four pawed free climber.  We camped out at Del and Martee’s and enjoyed a wonderful, star lit evening.

Great weekend all around.




The Noland Creek Affair

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We were back in Bryson City again this weekend at the invitation of Myers and a crew he assembled. Laurel came up from Athens and I drove over the mtn from Maryville. It is approximately halfway for us and we enjoy the area. Having departed from work on Friday we parked Laurel’s car downtown, drove up into the park and began our five mile walk into a campsite five miles up a very swollen Noland River.  This was where I made my first bad decision of the weekend.  Having erroneously concluded that Laurel was close behind I marched on into the darkess at a steady clip.P1080689

I got into a hiking groove and wanted to beat fading light but failed on that level and one other.  Sorry, Laurel.  So I arrive to a warming fire with Myers, Mark and Nick. Two dripping wet backpackers had preceded me by thirty minutes having dropped down from the dome.  Now think about this for a minute.  The day of flooding rains, they made three very dangerous crossings.  Mark and Gary looked a fright but earned their red trail stripes on Friday making a harrowing ford of an otherwise impassable water crossing.  And they lived to tell about it.  And tell about it they did!  I’m glad no one was seriously injured.


Soon Laurel arrived and informed me that she doesn’t enjoy solo night hiking. Once we got that miscommunication squared away It was a very pleasant evening and no company outside our group was to be counted at good old 68.


(I felt like we walked into Christmas, it was merely Myer’s hammockery luminating-photo by J. Myers Morton)



The next morning, Myers, Nick and Mark left to ascend Springhouse Branch and wind up at campsite 74.  Mark and Gary were slated to press down to 67 and meet friends while Laurel and I were undecided.  Eventually we walked back out to the road to nowhere and took a few minutes of deliberation at the trailhead and car.  It was decided that no major decisions should be made until we had lunch, which was the final bad decision of this trip.  Driving down into Bryson City, hungry as hostages, we somehow agreed that chicken wings would make for an appropriate backpacker’s lunch.  On a sweltering summer afternoon, with three miles more to hike later in the day with full packs, our decision was widely and roundly lamented.  The lamentations did not end until late Sunday evening.  Chicken wings are not hiking food.  And they may be removed from my palate rotation for a while to come.

We shouldered packs once again and set towards campsite 74 to intercept Myers, Mark and Nick. The three miles is undulating and quite boring. Laurel and I just wanted to get somewhere and forget about chicken wings but with every tortuous step out the Lakeshore Trail proffered consistent reminder of our culinary indiscretion. The wings sought their revenge by clipping ours.



If Myers looks gut punched it is because he says that Springhouse branch kicked his tail.  So much so that he had to jettison weight. There will be some happy hikers somewhere up Springhouse Branch soon.tn_IMG_4201

(Photo by J.Myers Morton)

We had a delightful evening around a roaring fire that Nick the former Eagle Scout devised. Everyone went to bed rather early, except me and Myers.  Our second night out was peaceful and relaxing if you don’t count the political arguments that were hotly debated.  The spectre of chicken wings was losing its grip on me as the clock turned midnight.


tn_P1080705 (I don’t have the slightest idea either)

Sunday morning found me at the start of this .22 mile tunnel that signifies the end of the Lakeshore Trail and road to nowhere. Very little remained to remind me of the wings.  Laurel split off and captured the bypass trail for new mileage and a copperhead sighting.  Guess who I ran into at the end of the tunnel?  It was Mark, Gary and their friends who were coming out of campsite 67. Carl, who was at Hangover with us last fall had a video of a rattlesnake that slithered into their camp and crawled right over their sitting log.  It was pretty wild.  Rattlesnakes know they are kings of their domain, I remember seeing that happen over on lower Gregory’s trail once upon a time.


Every time I walk through here it takes me to a sensory deprivation place and I expect to walk out into some level of the Matrix.  The only matrix I hit was the world of Mark Cooke and his crew who had cold soft drinks in their vehicle for us.  That is my kind of matrix!

16 backpacking miles this weekend, no new miles for me.  I skipped the only new, second map miles I needed last weekend to hike out with Laurel and spend more time with this wonderful woman. Perhaps by reminding her of this I will receive forgiveness for other weekend night hiking and lunch choice oversights.  Many thanks to Myers for the invite.

Clingman’s Dome to Bryson City

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IMG_20180728_143420794Lonesome Pine overlook, photo by Laurel.

JD was gracious enough to invite me and Laurel to hike down to campsite 58 on Deep Creek. Since Laurel was in Athens, Ga, we decided it would be fun to meet there and she could come in from Bryson City. Laurel ended up doing 12 miles yesterday as she came up Noland Divide, down Pole Road Creek and into 58.


I hiked down from Clingman’s on Noland solo, flanked by a swath of Yellow Fringed Orchids. It had been a while since we returned to backpack on home turf. I wanted some alone time in the Smokies and told JD I would meet them and Laurel in camp.  Right off the jump, I scared a bear not five minutes downhill.


Pole Road and Deep Creek are in excellent shape. I was amazed.  Didn’t see a soul until I reached the good ole Horace homesite at camp 57.  Two lost hikers were roaming around thinking that they were at the bottom of Deep Creek. Much to their chagrin, I had to correct their estimation by adding about 5 miles and pointed them back towards town. When I asked which trail they came in on, and you will love this reply, they said, “I believe it is called horse trail.”

They didn’t have a map or any water so I remedied that.  It still amazes me how people can go into the Smokies without a proper map or sufficient water not knowing where they are.  I was less than 10 minutes from JD’s camp and my intended overnight home. JD was laughing when I arrived at the two women who admitted their mistake to him.  I believe he castigated them over their lack of preparation as well.


Laurel arrived a couple of hours and several miles later. She earned a seat around the fire and we recounted her grand ascent of Noland, new miles for her map.  She is an intrepid adventurous gal, unafraid to tackle a trail solo.


Deep creek was awash in fly fishermen and apparently the fishing was good, according to the creels we saw coming out of the water. Must be a good hatch presently.

P1080675JD oversees Terri cooking a grilled cheese while Bill photographs.  Laurel convinced me to hike back out to Bryson City with her in the morning after we enjoyed a roaring fire under the moonlight sky of Deep Creek.  It didn’t take much arm twisting. She wanted Pizza at Anthony’s. This means she had to shuttle me back up to the dome, then return back to Bryson City and do three more hours back to Athens.  Thanks Honey!


We had a wonderful time, I swam with the tubers and gorged on pizza. JD’s group is eclectic, well mannered and respectful of themselves and the environment. It was a pleasure spending time with them and returning to home turf.  We have another big one planned for next weekend so stay tuned.


Some of you aren’t on Twitter so I’m going to share a newly discovered photo from our summit push on Everest.  This is a photo of Sange, Neal’s Sherpa, taking Chherring Sherpa off the rope immediately after being stricken by the rock. You can zoom in and see the blood in the background. It was a bloody mess. Fortunately, thanks to the hard work of our Sherpa and Neal, Chhering lives to climb another day after a week in the hospital. I sure wish those guys would consider helmets, though.

cchring and Sange

As you can see, it was of utmost importance to get him down to some easier ground and begin working on a helicopter. We had two of the best Sherpa in Nepal. Many thanks to Sange and Ang Dawa, not only for what they did for this guy but what they did for us.

More detailed photo of the route on Summit Day

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I have annotated a shot from the South Col on May 23 prior to our ascent with landmarks. Understand the South Col is at 26,000 feet. Look closely and you will see climbers on the triangular face.

     annotated from s col

You can see part of our team getting ready below. We had been climbing up to this point for several days, spending two nights at camp 2, one night at camp 3 and eventually two nights here, not including the complete day ascending from the south col to the summit and back.  For me it was 24 hours of movement on Everest from this point.