Warning: the following words and images will allow you to vicariously see the world with the eyes of Sultan. Read at your own risk. The name Sultan has many meanings, but derives from the peak Sultan Mountain in Silverton, CO!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Black Mountain Crest Trail 34M

Earlier this week my legs were craving some trails. After traveling to Africa I missed how the NC dirt felt under my feet. I snuck out after work Wed and headed for Crowders and put in a solid 13 miles up rocky top and pinnacle in the rain. The next day Matt contacted me about a possible Black Mountain Crest Trail (BMCT) traverse for Sat. It is these kind of impromptu adventures that usually are the best. Besides, what better way to ease into the Benton MacKaye trail than to get in a solid speed hike on the crest.

I left the home at 5:45am and made the drive up to Marion to pick up Matt. The moon was full, bright, and seemed larger than normal. Both of us were on the trail at 8:30am and began the ascent up Mt. Mitchell from the Black Mountain Campgrounds. I was carrying my pack full with one days worth of food and sleeping gear. On our ascent up the Black Mountain, within the first 15 minutes, Matt’s dog Uwharrie noticed a black snake. The snake was coiled up and ready to snap, so I didn’t get too close but managed a quick photo.

I made it to the summit in 1:54 which is faster than expected. The views from the summit were amazing considering the forecast had called for 50% scattered thunderstorms. While crossing the parking lot coming down from the summit we both noticed the set up for the new viewing tower ceremony.

We then took off on the BMCT and headed towards Mt. Craig, Big Tom, Balsam Cone, Cattail Peak, descended down Potatoe Hill, ran thru Deep Gap and passed the Colberts Ridge trail, hiked up across Deer Mountain, summated Winter Star, went over a few unnamed peaks, Gibbs Mountain, Horse Rock, hung a left around Celo knob and ran down to Bowlens Creek. I could defiantly feel a little tingle in my legs from Wednesdays run up Crowders. On the run down to Bowlens Creek Matt found some ramps (onion like vegetation) and we chewed on them. Be careful; do not attempt this while eating cliff blocks, bad combination. 17 miles from the start of our day I was at Bowlens Creek in 5:49, we were moving well. They weather up until Celo knob was fantastic, then the rain and thunder rolled in on our descent to Bowlens Creek.

The climb back up to Celo wasn’t easy. I was happy to be back up on the ridge, this would be the last point I see Matt until camp. On the return from Winter Star the trail disappeared! I ended up hiking up to the summit which is only 70 meters from the trail and then found my way. Then the climb up Cattail came. My legs were screaming at me and I slowed my roll and made it to the top of Cattail in a cumulative time of 10 hours. The wind had been blowing at speeds of 40-50 mph and the rain was on and off.

I followed Matt’s lead and took the Big Tom trail down and off the ridge where the weather was much calmer. I hung a right on the Buncombe Horse trail which latched up to the MTS trail 3 miles later and hiked down Mitchell back to the campgrounds.

Overall elevation gain based on our estimates is 11,000 feet. The distance was 34 miles round trip and this one took me 12:50 to complete. I ended up head-lamping the last 3 miles into the campgrounds. Later I tested out my Benton MacKaye set up and I determined I still need to tweak it a bit. Happy trails!

I consumed just under 3,000 calories for the day, which is listed below:
  • Pizzeria Combo’s - 910 Calories (recommended by David Horton)
  • Snickers bar - 280 Calories
  • Parrbarr (made in Boone) - 325 Calories
  • Doritos (Buffalo & Ranch) - 280 Calories
  • Ginger Chews (8 pieces) 160 Calories
  • Cliff Blocks (3 packs) 600 Calories
  • Moosilauke Goulash (TrailFoods) - 410 Calories (very tasty!)

    Check out the video of clouds moving in on the crest!


Daniel said...

Awesome, I'm glad google linked this page up for me. Your trip information was good to read. i like the pizzeria combos tip as well. Your picture of the snake looks like a copperhead. I don't know if by black you just meant color, but that is not a "Black Snake" they are solid black and not poisonous.

Anonymous said...

I live in the Black Mountains near the base of Cattail Peak, in a community called Cattail Creek. I can see the summit of Cattail Peak and Potato Knob from my porch. That snake you encountered looks like a timber rattler - NOT to be messed with. They're extremely poisonous. They aren't common at the higher elevations, but people do run into them occasionally on the hiking trails around here. As reptiles, they generally prefer the lower elevations where it's warmer. Those are nice pics you posted. I go up to Deep Gap 3 or 4 times a year, but I usually ride one of my 4-wheelers to get there. These mountains are full of old logging roads. Deep Gap is about a 25 minute ride from where I live. I almost always run into hikers camping when I go up there. I wouldn't THINK of living anywhere else but here in the Black Mountains of western North Carolina.