This past Wednesday 03.17.09 I got a call for volunteers to hike up Mt LeConte here in the Smokies to help out with the supply airlift for the lodge located atop the mountain. The airlift was supposed to happen a week ago but snow and bad weather prevented the helicopter from flying. This initial airlift supplies the lodge with its provisions needed for the season, now thru Thanksgiving but with the delay most of the people who went up couldn't stay for the weather to improve. I started up using the Alum Cave Bluff trail at 8am, this is a 5.5mi long with a 2700ft elev change.
At 1.3mi on the trail you come to Arch Rock. After crossing Styx Branch on a footlog the trail continues up through the rock using stone stairs.
Arch Rock staircase
Inspiration Point at 2.0mi
Duck Hawk Ridge just past Inspiration Point. Theres a hole through the ridge near the top called "eye of the needle" and climbing out and through it "threading the needle" but its been closed to hikers since peregrine falcons have started nesting there.
Alum Cave Bluff 2.2mi, not a cave but a overhanging bluff. Used during the Civil War to mine saltpeter, you can smell the sulfur in the dust.
Looking back down the trail from the top of Alum.
Getting near the top. The trail wraps around the base of Cliff Tops, the westernmost of the three peaks of LeConte. The trail has cables embedded in the rock face but most were buried in the snow. Kinda hairy through here, I had to keep to the packed snow as best I could. If i didn't I would sink down a couple of feet and hope I stopped cause it was a long way down. Thankfully I had my yak-tracs.
As I came to the top of the mountain the helicopter was making its first approach checking conditions and dropping its ground team.
LeConte Lodge elev 6593ft
Bringing in a load of propane. We worked the pallet and cargo net loads. We worked the rest of the afternoon and the next morning. We were fed pizza and beer keg was flown up. That night we were put up in the guest cabins.
Guest cabins through the snow.
Sunrise on Mt LeConte
Final approach. Airlifts last load was internal and picked up the ground crew.
Starting back down near the cliffs.
Why I climb mountains. If you would like to see the rest of my pics click here http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/577078566uUaqYn