Mt. Leconte 2017: Recap
I’m back and ready to share my yearly update of hiking Mt. LeConte.
Read last year's post (here).
I just turned 35 (I really thought that would be the age of the height of adulthood...hahahahahaha) and as a personal goal decided to come back home to my space here. I’ve missed writing about happenings in my life. Thanks for continuing to indulge me.
This years hike was extra special. We usually time the hike to hit my families birthday week and this year my sister hiked up 39 and hiked down 40! It was special and we worked hard as a team to make it memorable.
Le and I started our hike officially at 4:20 am at the Alum Cave trail head. Being so early allowed killer parking. Pro tip, if you are going to hike so early headlamps are way better than the cell phone flash lights we used until dusk a few hours later. Also, hiking poles are ideal… and for the second year in a row I forgot to pack ours.
We traveled without incident through Arch Rock in pitch black and arrived to Alum Cave at dawn where we had a quick break. Gracie's Pulpit, the halfway mark is where I slowed down, my pack just never felt right and was really heavy. I had some extra weight and while I love my light pack it doesn’t distribute a day of clothes and etc for a long hike. Luckily my husband is amazing and we traded packs the rest of the way and it helped a lot.
We arrived at the top at 10:30. I would have loved a better time, but Alum Cave is HARD. It’s up excluding one ½ mile section called the saddle. But it’s also the shortest hike up and has the most complete views. Once at the top we checked into our cabin for the night. Checking in means you get your assigned cabin, a bucket for hot water off the dining lodge, access to cups for bottomless coffee and hot cocoa, AND bathroom keys (the most important part).
After a quick break Le headed back down to hike up with my dad and grab his pack. 10 minutes after he left storms rolled through and I read for a bit while I tried to avoid the mounting worry about everyone else on the trail making it up. Finally about 2:30 everyone else started arriving to the top soaked and tired. I grabbed everyone coffee and hot cocoa to warm up.
Dinner was special, Le and I carried up gluten free cake and icing to celebrate Donita’s bday in style and everyone in the lodge sang happy birthday to her. This was the first year that both her daughters (6 and 9) hiked up and I know having everyone around the table was extra special. At dinner we shared birthday cards and laughed a lot.
My favorite part of Mt. LeConte is spending time with everyone on the porch. Every year it’s what keeps me coming back. We sat on the porch, drank canned wine I had in my pack (classy) and just visited. It’s nice to get away from distractions and just be together.
The next morning Dad and I went to the lodge early to get coffee and he snuck down to the dining hall to set out crowns and noisemakers for our table. At breakfast they brought out the platter of gluten free donuts I packed up. These are not light people, but they were epically great and delish. I had zero room in my pack and had to tie them to my pack in a plastic bag. They got a little beat up, but were still some of the best donuts I’ve ever eaten. Happiest of birthdays sis, I hope it was special and memorable for you.
After breakfast we took family pics and I headed down the mountain with Le following a few minutes later. Going down was harder than I planned due to some amazingly gross blisters I developed and the ongoing pack issues. At the halfway part Le and I switched packs again and the distribution of his pack helped center me better.
A mile from the bottom I finally relented to Le’s offers to carry my pack. I figured it counted for carrying my pack the entire way.
Finally 3.5 hours after starting we were back to the car. The hike down always takes less time and the last mile is always the longest back because you are back in humidity and warmer weather.
Luckily I made it another year (and this year without a sprain) and we are already planning our next years adventure. Every year I’m reminded how thankful I am for this body that allows me to do hard things. Even though during I’m usually not as delightful and positive.
TL/DR: LeConte was great and hard and I’ll probably do it again next year.