4 Reasons to Hike North Carolina’s Mount Mitchell in the Winter

At 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell is one of the loftiest peaks in the East. Here, 4 reasons why you shouldn’t wait until summer to explore it.

by Rob Glover, RootsRated.com

Thousands of years ago, when extreme cold gripped the North American continent, flora and fauna most suited to northern latitudes migrated south, covering what is now North Carolina. As the cold retreated and temperatures climbed, the trees and animals more suited to warm weather returned. Except, that is, for those living on the highest peaks in the state.

Like islands of alpine forest in a sea of temperate climate, the rounded precipices of North Carolina’s loftiest mountains still have look and feel of their Canadian counterparts—none more so than Mount Mitchell, standing 6,684 feet above sea level.

Coated in crystalline frost even while surrounding valleys are bathed in relative warmth, Mount Mitchell is among the best places in North Carolina to experience a real winter wonderland. Here we offer four reasons to brave the fickle conditions on the East’s loftiest peak during its harshest months.

1. You’ll earn serious bragging rights.

Hiking to the top of the highest peak east of the Mississippi is a formidable goal any time of year. But in winter, when the Frasier fir trees are dusted with snow and a brutal wind forms sideways icicles, hearty hikers gaining Mitchell’s summit become part of a special club.

The Mount Mitchell Trail is the most popular summit route in the state park. This 6-mile, one-way trail begins at the Black Mountain Campground and wanders through several distinct biomes on the way up. Mountain laurel and rhododendron line lower elevation creek beds. Mountain maple, spruce, and birch trees crowd for sunlight midway up, while the last remnants of an alpine fir forest cap the final stretch.

The Black Mountain Range, a 15-mile stretch of peaks anchored by Mount Mitchell, stands high enough to affect the weather. Temperatures have dropped to minus 34 degrees while wind gusts of more than 170 mph have been recorded at the peak—and it’s important not to take a winter day here lightly. These conditions certainly add to the challenge, but also to the accomplishment.

2. It’s a different world in winter.

During spring, multi-hued flowering bushes line babbling creeks on the mountainside. Songbirds fill the trees and lush vegetation buffers the trail in an expansive green carpet.

But winter brings an entirely different mood to Mount Mitchell. There are no songs from the forest now; just the crunch of your footsteps on frozen trail reverberating off weathered tree trunks. On a rare, still day, there is no other sound. On a typical day, however, the whistle and howl of wind overhead surrounds you.

Down low, at the beginning of your hike, branches are coated in a heavy snow. Nearer to the peak, horizontal ice formations and bowed trees are static reminders of punishing winds. Where a blue haze might limit views in the summer, clear winter days provide vistas of frosted peaks up to 80 miles away. It’s a special kind of serenity that only a winter hike affords.

3. You’ll savor plenty of solitude.

The challenge of climbing some 3,600 feet to the top of Mt. Mitchell may be substantial, but in good weather it’s a common undertaking. No surprise, then, that the Mount Mitchell trail can be heavily trafficked in summer. And at the top, where a large parking lot sits adjacent to the snack bar and museum, families and groups of motorcyclists can crowd the view.

In winter, however, the snack bar and museum are closed for business. Difficult road conditions, school schedules, and the tough climate keep many visitors at bay. The quiet of the trail continues all the way to the top. It’s a memorable outdoor adventure not possible on busy summer days, making the wind-burnt skin and cold toes well worth it.

4. You’ll find plenty of post-hike happiness nearby.

An 800-degree stone oven provides the tell-tale char on the crust at Fresh Pizza and Pasta. Don’t want it? Just let them know when you order. Rob Glover
A winter exploration of Mount Mitchell will chill your bones and burn some serious calories. These days are made for hearty craft beer and huge, wood-fired pizza.

This perfect one-two punch awaits in the quaint town of Black Mountain, due south of Mount Mitchell. Begin with a stop at Lookout Brewing. This nano-sized brewery crafts the full range of flavors, from a crisp IPA to a soul-warming stout. There’s nothing fancy about the place, just true-to-style brews and a comfortable atmosphere to knock them back in.

When you step out of the taproom, follow your nose across the road to Fresh Wood Fired Pizza and Pasta. Settle into this cozy restaurant and watch while bubbly-crusted pizzas are pulled from an 800-degree stone oven. (The typical pie comes with a charred crust which creates a wonderful flavor, but you can ask them to leave it un-charred if you prefer.) The calzones are the size of a small RV and the beer selection is admirable. Leaving hungry, even considering your incredible effort earlier in the day, is unlikely.

Source: 4 Reasons to Hike North Carolina’s Mount Mitchell in the Winter

Winter 14ers for Beginner Mountaineers: Top 10 – Because it’s there

If you’re looking to bag some winter 14ers but don’t want to risk your life to do so, hopefully this list list can help steer you to some solid safer climbs. Whether you’re looking for a more intense climb than the summer hikes or love the solitude of the off-season, winter 14ers can be an amazing experience that you can’t get during the summer.

Source: Winter 14ers for Beginner Mountaineers: Top 10 – Because it’s there

Sue Johnston quietly ticks off an epic FKT in the Northeast 

The Vermont-resident tackled 576 summits and 1,001,820 feet of elevation gain in a quest to complete New Hampshire’s Grid challenge in a single year

by DOUG MAYER, Trail Runner Magazine

2016 was a year of dramatic accomplishments on the trails: Jim Walmsey’s new Fastest Known Time (FKT) on the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim, Karl Meltzer besting Scott Jurek’s Appalachian Trail record and Megan Hick’s remarkable FKT on Colorado’s Nolan’s 14, to name a few.

But chances are you haven’t heard of one of the most impressive accomplishments that went down in the closing days of 2016. And that’s just fine with the record holder, Vermont ultrarunner and long-distance hiker Sue Johnston, 51, of Danville, Vermont.

Late in the afternoon of December 26, 2016, Johnston and her husband Chris Scott summited 4,000-foot-high Mount Isolation in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. It was her 12th time summiting the peak that year.

The longstanding challenge, called “The Grid,” involves summiting each of the Whites Mountains’ 48 4,000-foot peaks 12 times— once in every month. Only 70 people have completed The Grid. Most of those individuals worked a couple of decades to get ther

Source: Sue Johnston quietly ticks off an epic FKT in the Northeast – Trail Runner Magazine

Gociety Adventure Fest part 3: Climbing tall peaks with Olivia Hsu and Dr. Jon Kedrowski

Olivia Hsu, climbing badass. Photo credit: Heff Rueppel

Recording live at the Gociety Adventure Fest 2016 in Denver, we talk with professional rock climber and yogi Olivia Hsu and Dr. Jon Kedrowski, an accomplished mountaineer, author and climatologist, about their pursuits in the mountains.

Professional explorer Dr. Jon talks to us about his successful project to be the first person to sleep on the summit of all of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks and the challenges he faced during his 2016 attempt to break the speed record for skiing all of Colorado’s 14ers.

Professional climber and yogi Olivia Hsu discusses her own Himalayan exploration as well as exploring the balance between rock climbing and yoga and how to keep your ego in check.
Both discuss how they overcame initial parental disappointment for their chosen paths to explore the outdoors as a full-time job. Spoiler: everything turned out just fine for these two legends of the Colorado outdoors.


Dr. Jon Kedrowski sleeps alone on tall peaks


Adventure BFFs: #KitchenSesh with Anton Krupicka and Joe Grant

#kitchensesh with two ot the most recognizable U.S. ultra runners out there, with countless media articles written both about them and by them, and even a couple of films documenting their outdoor exploration. They are also best friends living in Boulder, Colorado. We sit down with Anton Krupicka and Joe Grant to find out what it’s like to thrust oneself in the social media spotlight in the name of pursuing outdoor adventure full-time.  Listen in as we talk about:

  • 2017 race plans (and rumors?)
  • What they are really like, outside of the media spotlight
  • Joe staring at a cat
  • Anton’s open-door policy for the media (*excludes closet doors)
  • Skimo racing
  • Tennis

Here’s some background info/reading/watching:

Anton will be at the Lakewood, Colo., Runner’s Roost Thursday, Feb. 2.

Anton’s new blog on La Sportive’s site.

Outside TV video of Anton’s home.

Dispatch is doing this because we love the outdoors.  Will you please  like our page or follow us on twitter @dispatch_hq?

Joe Grant talks with us about his self-propelled adventure over Colorado’s 50+ tallest peaks on our October show.

Video of Anton’s successful FKT record of Long Peak Triathlon: 

Photo credit: Jarrod Wheaton

Photo credit: Joe Grant (meta!)

Nepal prepares to blacklist Indian couple from mountaineering

Nepal has initiated a process to cancel the Everest summit certificates issued to Indian police couple and impose 10-year ban on them in mountaineering after it was discovered that they had digitally altered another mountaineers’ photographs which had been uploaded to Facebook making them look as though they were own. The couple in question had planned to be the first Indian husband and wife team to have summited Everest. Their 10-year Himalayan climbing ban should give them plenty of time for them to brush up on their Photoshop skills in preparation for their next expedition.

Source: Nepal prepares to blacklist Indian couple from mountaineering

14ers ThruHike – A walk to all of the Colorado 14ers

While Eric Lee hitches rides from friends in an attempt to beat the record for climbing all of Colorado’s 14ers, here is some background on a similar feat completed in 2013, without cars…

Between July 20th and September 29th of 2013 two Colorado hikers summited all 58 of the state’s 14ers by walking from each peak to the next, unsupported by a crew. Here’s a map of their travels.

Source: 14ers ThruHike | A walk to all of the Colorado 14ers

UPDATE: Eric Lee’s 14er Record Attempt

For past 58  hours, Eric Lee has provided brief text updates, mostly a bunch of “on top” confirmations that he reached peaks. Here are a few that give a flavor of what he’s experiencing:

“On top – bad case of the sleepies” (July 1, 6:43 a.m.)

“Rescehdule – Culebra later, Starting como now!” (July 1, 11:26 a.m.”

“Summitted mt. wilson  but had to run for my life” (June 29, 7:14 p.m.”


UPDATE: Eric Lee’s 14er Record Attempt

From his crew (thanks Andy Gerber!):

Crewmobile is all loaded up, and ready to help Eric Lee get over Little Bear, Blanca, Ellingwood, Lindsey, Humboldt, Challenger, Kit Carson, Crestone Peak & Needle, Pikes, Capitol, Snowmass, the Maroon Bells, Pyramid, Castle, and Conundrum.