PITCHELL is an annual 65 mile pilgrimage from the summit of Mt. Pisgah to the summit of Mt. Mitchell usually run in October all on the Mountains to Sea Trail. Adam Hill puts on this run, and is usually a fun group of ultra runners that just like to go out and hit the trails and have a good time.
(Photo's by: Chris Brown)
This year brought on some bad weather in the form of snow and ice which made logistics very difficult, but none-the-less a valiant effort was put forth. I had many things on my mind, and was zapped by the cold, only to drop out a few miles before the Folk Art Center, which is 34 miles away from the summit of Pisgah. Below is a written account from the man himself, Adam Hill:
"One probably shouldn't use Pitchell (the annual traverse from the summit of Mt. Pisgah to the summit of Mt. Mitchell) as a good way to gauge one's fitness. Many things can occur physically, and the mental side of the challenge is quite formidable. Looking back to the weekend's endeavor for me, I could easily get quite discouraged, as I was treated to a few unpleasant surprises while trudging down the dark, surreal, green and white (yes, white with snow) tunnel that made up the Shut In Trail. It was this that I was thinking about today as my sore legs felt the need for something stimulating, just one full day removed from when I was "rescued" from the intersection of the Mountains to Sea Trail and Hwy 25!
What better way to cure my Pitchell blues than to get out the door and try to pound out a personal best up one of my favorite backyard climbs on a trail behind the Swannanoa 4-H Center. This approximately 1.5 mile route starts off with some paved road that gets the legs moving quick (wow...I am surprised at the spring in my step), then takes a sharp turn around a newly constructed building and starts some climbing (uh-oh...I started out a bit fast). The sore feet are soon greeted by some nice, soft doubletrack that roller coasters briefly before turning to singletrack and cranking up the gradient (here we go...). After some steep climbing on semi-technical trail, the two main switchbacks are a welcome relief, as it turns the notch down on the steepness just enough to get the lactic acid loosened up before the final pitch of singletrack that gains the dirt road (dig deep baby). I set my eyes to the ground to count each step off as I run (should I walk....I feel like walking...NOPE, I did enough walking during Pitchell) and grunt up to the dirt road. Hang a right and power home (breathe and flow). I turn two more corners and power up the final pitch and to the left of a backcountry shelter up there, then click the split button....9:58!!! All right...mission accomplished...by 1 second!
I laid my body out on the shelter floor and thought about the difference in what I had just done, and in what I had done (or attempted to do) the night before last. The joy of running is at the root of both challenges. Lace up the shoes, get your mind right, and go for it. I think that the physical breakdowns that we can experience (some of which I experienced during Pitchell this year) certainly demand our attention, but it is the mental breakdown that we must do our fiercest battle with. This weekend, I lost that battle, but was able to witness the perseverance of two runners who braved the cold and cranked out the miles with the mindset of "get it done"! Byron Backer and Brad Kee were the only two that pushed on past the Folk Art Center out of 8 runners. We all started the journey by trekking up the Blue Ridge Parkway from Hwy 151 in the freezing, snowy tundra for nearly two miles before arriving at the trailhead of Mt. Pisgah. Once arriving at the snow covered peak, we excitedly gathered around and everyone clicked their watches as I yelled "Go".
After DNF'ing, Charlie and I drove up the road to provide aid for Byron at Bee Tree Gap, and it was quickly evident that this was where the finish line would be for 2009. The Parkway was closed from this point onward because of road conditions, and according to some nice rangers up there, would not be open the rest of the day. Ross (who drove runners up Hwy 151 and then provided aid support for Brad and others), Jeremy, Charlie and I chuckled at the mindset of the "out of towners" who were noticeably miffed at the closing. It was humorous in contrast to our friends that were about to be running down the trail out of the rime ice-covered trees having just covered 50 miles of burly trail! Both runners handled this unfortunate stopping point with class, and expressed looking forward to tackling this run another time. It was an epic adventure for all of us, and one that I will not forget each time I lace up my shoes and step out the door for yet another glorious run!" - Peace Adam
Pitchell Runners and mileage (not counting the 3 mile approach to Mt. Pisgah):
Matt Kirk- 20 miles
Jeremy Hargroves- 20 miles
Adam Hill- 26 miles
Mohammed Idlibi- 32 miles
Charlie Roberts- 34 miles
Mike Mason- 34 miles
Byron Backer- 50 miles
Brad Kee- 50 miles
Aid Help and other runners that participated:
Ross Britton- tremendous help with his van and encouragement- thanks a ton!
Matt (?)- friend of Brad and Ross who also helped out with aid and encouragement- thanks!
Dave Pryor- provided use of his car for transportation, aid help, and got in a good run also!
Brian Beduhn- came out to cheer us on, and got in a good run as well!
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