Ascent of Mount Mitchell on 2014-05-16

Climber: Marcus Lostracco

Others in Party:Austin Kaase
Whit Miller
Date:Friday, May 16, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Mitchell
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:6684 ft / 2037 m

Ascent Trip Report

DAY 2 of NC SB6K Mission:
after a brutal Day 1, the weather looked to be amazing for Day 2: blue skies in the morning, no clouds, mid 60s... perfect weather. This was going to be our longest hike of the trip, climbing Mt Mitchell + hiking the ridge all the way to Celo Knob, bagging all the SB6K's on the way and then descending to my car parked at Bowlen's Creek (15.6 miles total) - this ended up being a little too ambitious of a day given the situations and conditions we dealt with....

10:30AM - begin hike of Mount Mitchell from Black Mountain Campground
This hike is a strenuous 5.6 mile ascent from BMCG. Mainly following the MTS trail the whole way up. We averaged around 30 minute miles and made it to the summit at 1:30PM (3hrs up). While on the summit, we had our picture taken at the Mt Mitchell sign, hung out at the lookout spot for a few minutes to enjoy lunch. While standing on the summit, clouds began to approach, and then we noticed some white flakes falling from the sky... "what is this stuff falling from the sky?" Austin asked... upon a quick inspection we quickly deduced that it was... SNOW. In the middle of MAY. We were in complete shock, given the weather at the start of our day. The temperature had dropped a solid 10 degrees since we had arrived, so we hastily set off to continue on the Crest trail towards Mt Craig.
2:00PM - the snow/hail/sleet was in full force, slamming into us sideways as we hiked through open areas of the crest trail... we made it past Mt Craig and Big Tom until Austin finally spoke up about the pain he was experiencing... his knees were in horrible condition, he could barely walk at this point. Knowing we had 8.5+ miles to go... there was no way, with Austin's knees and the weather, that we were going to complete the hike.
3:15PM we make the call to turn around and head back to Mt Mitchell to look for a ride down to our campsite. The snow had occupied much of the ground at this point and provided some surreal landscapes at this altitude at this time of year. We were lucky to catch one view after some clouds below us were blowing over the ridge near Mt Craig.
4:30PM - get ride with nice old couple (in their mid 80s), they offer us beer and fig newtons and drop us off at the bottom of the BRP. We start walking down the road towards the intersection of 80, which is a 7.5 mile walk from that point.... we were very lucky to get picked up again by these 2 great guys Bob and Bill who had just finished mountain biking for the day. So fortunate that they took us all the way to our campsite.

That night temperatures dropped to the low 30s, so we bundled up well for a cold night.

Lessons learned:
- weather is highly variable in these mountains (from 65 sunny, no clouds in the sky to 40, sleeting/snowing/hailing and windy as hell)
- turning back is an honorable decision
- there are some really nice people in the world
- don't hike the highpoint of North Carolina in Nike gym shoes
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3689 ft / 1124 m
    Trailhead:2995 ft / 912 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Weather:Snowing, Cold, Very Windy, Low Clouds
beauty morning, BLIZZARD afternoon!
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Marcus Lostracco
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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