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  1. #1
    Senior Member aBRG2far's Avatar
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    Mt LeConte Lodge Airlift GSMNP

    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

  2. #2
    Senior Member hikingshoes's Avatar
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    That was my very first backpacking trip back in the 80's.Great pics.HS

  3. #3
    slowhike's Avatar
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    I hiked that same trail up w/ some friends a few years back & stayed two nights but in the summer.
    Pretty neat experience!
    We were told about the air supply at the beginning of the season as well as the weekly lama trains, but good to see pictures.
    don`t leave the CREATOR out of the creation!

  4. #4
    Old Gorge Rat Hawk-eye's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting them ... Ken and I have a friend Norm that does that supply run. I've not been up there since ... well guess it was the 70's. Long time. I remember the "eye" ...

    WARNING: Will discuss Rhurbarb Strawberry Pie and Livermush at random.


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  5. #5
    gargoyle's Avatar
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    Nice. thanks for sharing.
    Ambulo tua ambulo.

  6. #6
    swampfox's Avatar
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    Great pics. Thanks for sharing. Mt LeConte is on my short list.
    He is your friend, your companion, your defender... he is your dog. You are his life, his leader, and master. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of that devotion.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Peg-Leg's Avatar
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    I plan to do this hike next Friday. Thanks for posting!
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  8. #8
    Señor Member wisenber's Avatar
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    I hiked Mt Cammerer a few miles down the trail from their a couple of weeks ago. I had to turn around with about a half a mile left when I was postholing through snow up to the top of my bibs. I think Le Conte had 52" that day and the road to Alum Cave was closed. If beer and pizza was an option, I would have hiked the extra half mile!

  9. #9
    Senior Member Hangin' Burrito's Avatar
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    Very nice pics!

    Running Feather & I did the Trillium Gap trail last April. I think we need to do that Alum Cave trail though, it looks beautiful, I'm gonna wait 'til there's a bit less snow though!

    Thanks for the report!
    "Is this the best you've got?!!" (Shortoff Mtn., Linville Gorge 2010)

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  10. #10
    Senior Member TDunc's Avatar
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    Nice Pics and memories

    My wife and I hiked from the back side last October. Same trail the "resupply train" uses. That was a site to look up and see them coming at you.
    Memories of a great hike and few days.
    I did look into staying there but it was already book for 2010. DARN!

    Thanks for all your hard work. It will make the stay for many people enjoyable.

    I have pics somewhere...... ummmm have to keep looking.
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