The Art Loeb Trail Adventure Run was in its 9th year, and two weeks ago, a snow storm forced the tradition to break its streak. The ALTAR is run on the winter solstice or shortest Saturday of the year. After our failed attempt, we decided to give it another shot on new years eve 2009 which was a blue moon night, a phenomena that would not reoccure for another 28 years!
We rendezvoused in Ashvegas and dropped off a car at Camp Daniel Boone, which would be our finish or our turn around had we tried to double the ALTAR. Yes, some of us thought this might be possible. Then we headed over to town for some pizza and went to Charlie’s to repack, get an hour of shut eye, and off to Brevard for a true Coyote midnight start. On our drive it began to snow yet again. We started at 12:01am December 31, 2009, and it would be our last adventure of the decade.
It was cold, but not as cold as I had expected at the start. I knew that as we climbed higher it would get colder and windier. The conditions here were very good, and much better than two weeks ago. Even the downed rhododendron here which forced us to crawl two weeks ago sprung back into life and opened up the trail.
The blue moon was out, and illuminated the bright white snow on the trail, allowing us to speed hike with no headlamps. I turned mine on every now and then just to make sure I was moving in the correct direction. We took turns to break trail in the fresh snow. The moon was very bright and powerful near Cedar Rock.
While climbing up Pilot Mountain, the longest climb to the ALTAR I felt very sleepy, and was practically sleep hiking at this point. I kept following the footsteps in the snow. We reached Deep Gap shelter just before 7am, and took a break to down some water and calories. Matt made a call to Carl and gave him an update. It was getting very cold at this point, and I remember having to hike up another 10 minutes to warm my body back up again, I had all my cloths on.
We crossed the parkway and found a few large ice formations. Ice stalactites were plentiful and very large. Matt and I decided to wake ourselves up by pulling out ice light sabers. I thought about calling my Avitar to the rescue, but then woke up.
Thus far this adventure was challenging, cold, yet fun. When we reached the Black Balsam Balds I noticed we were in much deeper snow. The Art Loeb trail here is usually a deep trail, and with more accumulated snow, if you tried to stay on trail, your in some really deep stuff. We all began to posthole. This slowed our roll big time, and became very challenging. Our pace slowed to just over 1 mile per hour, and I began to wonder if we would be spending another night on the mountain. Then it got worse with all the blowdowns. We had to bushwhack, commando crawl, orienteer our way out for miles. This part was not fun. It was both physically demanding and mentally challenging.
After hours we finally made it to the narrows, and then ran back down to Camp Daniel Boone. My watch read 16:01, about twice as long as it may have taken in normal conditions. With the Blue Moon ALTAR we sealed the decade with yet another amazing adventure. Thanks to both Charlie and Matt for helping me find my way out of there alive!
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