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Hiking advice in NC

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Hiking advice in NC

Postby riblet » Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:48 pm

Greetings all, I am fairly new to hiking but am absolutely hooked. Reading the trip reports on Summit Post is what ultimately encouraged me to take my first hike last fall, and now am going every weekend. I started at 223 pounds, down to 188 now, and am in much better shape than I have been in 20 years. I plan to be around 155 pounds by the end of July, and hopefully in good enough shape to begin mountaineering. With that in mind, I have been picking day-hikes that have decent total vertical gain, and progressing through longer and more difficult hikes.

I started in South Mountain State Park, progressed to Linville Gorge, Harper Creek and Wilson Creek areas, Black Mountain Crest trail, and both sides of Grandfather Mountain. This past weekend I hiked up the lost cove ridge trail to the Green Knob lookout tower from the Black Mountains Campground. I do not seem to have any issues from 2,000 foot vertical gain, 7-8 miles, with 25 pounds of gear, 4 hours. I am increasing my gear weight to hit about 210 pounds total weight as I lose weight, giving me a 60 pound pack when I make it to 150 pounds.

What I am hoping for advice on is what to do from here. Should I continue to find 1,500-2,000 foot vertical hikes, should I look for longer distance hikes, or should I continue to escalate into hikes with more vertical gain? A hike I have my eye on is the Colbert Creek ridge trail that goes from the Carolina Hemlocks area up to Deep Gap on the Black Mountains Crest trail. This one is 3000’+ of vertical gain, a 50% increase over what I have been doing, but is it too much too soon? Where else North of Asheville should I look for day hikes? I want to keep my drive from the Lake Norman area down to 4 hours round trip if I can.
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Re: Hiking advice in NC

Postby chugach mtn boy » Mon Apr 04, 2011 9:36 pm

We have a couple of things in common--I'm a former Charlottean, and I'm someone who got themselves back in shape through hiking.

Your approach of adding weight on your back as your bodyweight goes down is interesting. It wouldn't be for me--I've gravitated to the "fast and light" style and have really enjoyed how it lets me go progressively faster and cover much more ground. I rarely carry more than a fanny pack. But to each his own--your system will certainly make you strong. One benefit of fast and light is that it the hiking is positively good for your knees over the long term, whereas a lot of heavy packing may not be.

For hikes, don't overlook the Montreat trail system, just north of Black Mountain, NC. Part of the trail map is here http://www.summitpost.org/seven-sisters/613537 but you should get the whole thing. The hike to Graybeard is especially good (el. gain about 2200, I think). Crossing out of the Montreat valley, you can continue on up the range to Rocky Knob, Pinnacle, and Potato Knob for longer, tougher trips. Montreat should be about 2 hours from Lake Norman, I believe.

For monster elevation gain, when you're ready, think about starting in Graphite (behind Old Fort) and climbing Pinnacle or Potato Knob. It's been a long time since I did that, but I remember it as a big day. Again, should be within 2 hours from you.
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Re: Hiking advice in NC

Postby holdtyte » Tue Apr 05, 2011 3:03 am

I've been into the Smoky Mountain range two times the past month for 2-3 day hikes. If you're sticking with a day hike and want something more challenging in elevation and carrying a light pack (20-25lbs) i would suggest either of the two routes:

1. Mount Lecont - from gatlinburg/orchard rd entrance.. Begin at the Rainbow Falls trail, take it up to Mt. Lecont (about 3800 ft gain over 6.6 miles) and then return down the same route or down Bullhead. Both are challenging due to the elevation but not too technical. You'll see one helluva waterfall 2+ miles in (about 80-100 foot tall).

2. Mt. Sterling.. Enter off us 40 and park at Big Creek. Baxter Creek Trail is about 6.1 miles to summit with 360 degree lookout and nearly 4k elevation.

Both are challenging routes but with the pack weight under 25lbs you should be able to do roundtrip in 8-10 hours. I hike with my girlfriend so i absorb more of the weight, I carry 40-50lbs, we made it to both peaks in 6 hours taking it easy. Both of the above are great though for building endurance and elevation.

We're coming back down in a few weeks to do Mt. Mitchell.. Good luck.
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Re: Hiking advice in NC

Postby nartreb » Tue Apr 05, 2011 2:54 pm

If your ambition is to climb big mountains where you'll need to camp and bring extra gear (e.g., rope), then training with a full pack makes a lot of sense. You also want to find the longest, most uninterrupted elevation gain you can. Given that your neighborhood doesn't have much gain, you may want to find a short, steep hike and do it twice in a row.
A totally different goal is to increase your speed and distance, which will require going light. Not sure what's in your region, but a goal of "peaks W, X, Y and Z on the same day" can be a lot of fun. I think moving fast is a lot more enjoyable than grunting under a heavy load all day long.
I'm amazed that Holdtyte is carrying 50lbs on a day hike, even if he's carrying the gear for two people. I can't imagine they actually use that much stuff.
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Re: Hiking advice in NC

Postby riblet » Mon Apr 18, 2011 2:59 pm

Thanks for the advice, and I'll probably prompt for more suggestions over time. Based on my first 3000+' elevation gain hike this weekend, I feel my progress is really good. I hiked the colbert creek ridge trail with 3100' gain over 7.5 miles, 5 hours total roundtrip. The weekend before I tried a longer hike of Kings Pinnacle and Crowders mountain (both small mountains of ~800' gain each) over 9.2 miles.

I carried 25 pounds up 3100' in 2.5 hours, along with an extra 35 pounds of fat on me. :-) I expected it to take me a lot longer, but I guess I am getting faster as well as stronger. More surprising to me was that it took me another 2.5 hours to get back down, with me taking three breaks along the way of 5-10 minutes each to keep my knees happy.

Montreat is particularly close for hiking (2 hours), and has the potential for large elevation gains. I also really like the suggestion for Sterling, though it is another 45 minutes or so further away. I also think I will hike Cold Mountain, at about 2.5 hours away, 2800' gain. There are other trails in the Shining Creek area that can yield 2500-3000 gain as well.
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Re: Hiking advice in NC

Postby StarMan » Tue Apr 19, 2011 12:38 am

Taking the same amount of time for the descent is not so bad on a difficult trail like Colbert Ridge with it's steepness and upper portions being very rocky :).

For sure, The Shining Rock Wilderness area has some great hikes... try the Old Butt trail for a bit of a workout. Also there are more trails in the Blacks for good elevation gain... Woody Ridge (Steep!), Buncombe Horse, and of course the Mitchell trail from the Black Mountain Campground.

Happy Trails!
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Re: Hiking advice in NC

Postby BobSmith » Fri Apr 22, 2011 2:30 am

Have you done the Woody Ridge Trail yet? One of the toughest short trails in NC!

You might want to consider doing a long-ish multi-day hike like the Art Loeb Trail, beginning at Davidson River and hiking up to Shining Rock.
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Re: Hiking advice in NC

Postby riblet » Mon Apr 25, 2011 2:54 pm

I completed the Mitchell trail this weekend, 11.35 miles and 3673 feet elevation gain. That is more than 2 miles further than I have hiked before, and more than 500 feet greater elevation gain greater than last week. I definately became tired on the Mitchell trail, taking 4 hours up and 3:45 down. It is interesting that compared to the Colbert ridge trail from last weekend, I hiked the milage at an almost identical rate. Apparently distance determines time on a hike for me more so than elevation gain.

The Woody Ridge trail sounds like a great hike for me. It is also within 2 hours driving time, and a very steep trail. I do like the idea of backpacking the Art Loeb trail too. This weekend I am leaning towards hiking the seven sisters out of Montreat, and out to Graybeard or perhaps Pinnacle.
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Re: Hiking advice in NC

Postby chugach mtn boy » Mon Apr 25, 2011 4:10 pm

riblet wrote:This weekend I am leaning towards hiking the seven sisters out of Montreat, and out to Graybeard or perhaps Pinnacle.


Hey, if the weather gods cooperate, take a couple of pictures on the upper part of the Sisters or Graybeard and attach them to this page!
http://www.summitpost.org/seven-sisters/613551
I've got nothing decent past Brushy Knob, so maybe you could help me upgrade the page a bit. :)
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Re: Hiking advice in NC

Postby e-doc » Mon May 02, 2011 6:04 am

Keep it simple, go hike. Expedition Mountaineering isn't a sprint. You just need to be able to carry weight. And I think you can expect max 3-4000 vertical in a day at the Cascades. The only time I've done hikes with a lot of weight has been training for multi days on Rainier. I loaded 50lb into a pack and climbed various places like Roan Mt and Holsten Mt. The biggest vertical gains in the SE are the Blacks and Smokies, steepest at Linville Gorge and the Blacks

Any aerobic exercise is fine. Get your heart rate up and keep it there. I keep my aerobic fitness though bicycling. I also backpack 5-10 times a year

Woody Ridge is steepest 3000 vertical in the southeast. In the Smokies,one of the trails out of Cherokee Orchard up LeConte, Snake Den RIdge to Guyot, and Baxter Creek have about the same gains, about 4200.

The great unknown will be your ability to tolerate altitude and you can't really train for that. Thank (or blame) your parents.
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Re: Hiking advice in NC

Postby rudeboy » Tue May 17, 2011 1:20 am

I wouldn't recommend the Colbert Ridge Trail. True, it has about the most impressive elevation gain for any 3.5-mile trail in this part of the country, but it is just a nasty scramble up rockfalls and over/under/through blowdowns and thickets up towards the top, about a mile from Deep Gap. Unless someone has done some serious trail maintenance up there since I hiked it last summer, it is barely a trail at all up there. I sure wouldn't hike it alone -- just too dangerous. My hiking buddy and I both fell on the rocks numerous times. We're lucky we just came away with bumps and bruises and bad moods.
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Re: Hiking advice in NC

Postby e-doc » Fri May 27, 2011 4:29 pm

rudeboy wrote:I wouldn't recommend the Colbert Ridge Trail. True, it has about the most impressive elevation gain for any 3.5-mile trail in this part of the country, but it is just a nasty scramble up rockfalls and over/under/through blowdowns and thickets up towards the top, about a mile from Deep Gap. Unless someone has done some serious trail maintenance up there since I hiked it last summer, it is barely a trail at all up there. I sure wouldn't hike it alone -- just too dangerous.


I have found the Colbert Ridge trail to be fine. I wouild not classify it as "dangerous"; if so then half the trails in the state are too "dangerous". I would consider the Black Mt Crest trail from Mitchell to Winterstar or Grandfather trail, the 2 most difficult trails in the state, to be challenging. Climbing a glacier or rockfall would be dangerous.

I am confused as to whether you want to hike or climb glaciated peaks? I do not think weight is as important as aerobic fitness, although if you plan a multi day climb of a big glaciated peak (Raninier or Alaske/BC) then weight becomes a factor. When I climbed Middle Sister earlier this week I spent 2 days on the mountain and my pack weighed maybe 35 pounds? I would consider that peak more "dangerous" then something in the east, just because of the consequences;of a fall where you would be unable to arrest, crevasse fall, rockfall, bad weather or altiude sickness. Go out and have fun and be safe.
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