Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Birthday Run Preview

44 miles to celebrate 44 years. Just like the movie, this begs to be a triumphant true story.

If you saw "127 Hours"...this is my note.

On Monday March 7 I plan to run from Montreat College in Black Mountain to the summit of Mt. Mitchell, the highest place in the Eastern U.S. at 6,684 ft. Then I'll summit the next four highest peaks along the 4.5-mile crestline trail in the Black Mountains between Mt. Mitchell and Deep Gap.

Mt. Mitchell got its name from Dr. Elisha Mitchell, a science professor who first calculated its height in the mid-1800s. Mitchell fell to his death from the peak in 1857 while verifying it as the highest in the range. He's now buried at the summit. I'm just sayin'. This could be dangerous.

Between Mount Mitchell and Deep Gap, there's about five miles of rugged trail that will take you to Mount Craig -- the second highest peak in the eastern U.S. -- and across Big Tom, Balsam Cone, and Cattail Peak, three of the other mile-plus summits. On a clear day, experts say the panoramic view stretches 85 miles.

At the time I'm writing this, the route looks like this:

Cheetah's StolenBirthday Run in 10 Easy Steps
  1. Start – Rainbow Road Trailhead in Montreat
  2. To Trestle Road trail to Sourwood Gap
  3. Pick up the Old Mitchell Toll Road, run to the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP)
  4. Left on the BRP
  5. Right on Rt 128
  6. Right on the Buncombe Horse Trail
  7. Left on the Mitchell Trail (run to the summit of Mt. Mitchell, 6,684 ft)
  8. From the summit, run across the parking lot to the Deep Gap Trailhead
  9. Follow the Deep Gap Trail across the following summits:
    Mt. Craig (6,648 ft)
    Big Tom (6,581 ft)
    Balsam Cone (6,596 ft)
    Cattail Peak (6,581 ft)
  10. Turn around and retrace run back to Montreat

Given that some of these climbs are so steep they are permanently roped to provide a needed handhold, I'm expecting to arrive back at Montreat in the dark. After discussing this fact with my friend Dave Pryor, he suggested I stay home avoid the Rainbow Trailhead route on my way back, considering how easy it is to get lost on these trails at night. Good thinking, Dave! Thank you. (Maybe now I won't be out there for 127 hours!)

I've asked my friend Adam Hill, who knows these trails better than anyone I know, to provide a little guidance in adjusting the route in my favor, so I can avoid getting lost...if at all possible.

Stay tuned...


  1. WOW! Sounds like quite the birthday party!

  2. If you name mountains for what's buried there, the secondary unnamed Misquah Hill peak would have to be "Steve's turd." Just sayin'...

  3. Well that sounds much more impressive than my all-night bender. Really.

  4. I thought about running 40 while turing 40 this weekend but, damn, I'm just too tired for that.