View Full Version : Smokies Speed Record?

Tim Seaver
05-13-2004, 01:55
Does anyone know of any speed records for the GSMNP section of the AT? (that is, the 68 miles + between the park boundaries) This would be as a trail run, not carrying overnight gear.

I made an attempt (N to S) last Sunday while in the park on a photo trip, but had to bail at Newfound Gap due to a substantial thunderstorm. It was a bummer to have to end it prematurely, as I was feeling great, but considering the amount of terrain above 5000' that I would have to still deal with, I just couldn't justify the risk posed by the intense lightning. After waiting out the rain, hail, and lightning for 45 minutes, the message from Mr. Clingman was pretty obvious! I was hoping to finish in about 18 hours or less ( time was 8:10 hours from Davenport Gap to Newfound Gap).

Nancy Hoch at "The Hike Inn" near Fontana showed me a postcard she received from a Father and Son team that did it in 23.5 hours on their 3rd attempt. I also saw that someone posted elsewhere on this site that "SOBO Squeaky" did it in 22 hours, but with a "full pack" - which probably means overnight gear ( I didn't use a support team, just got water at the springs and carried food and rain gear, with one self-support food/gear cache hidden off the AT near Clingman's Dome)

It's such beautiful running terrain - the grades are so mellow in comparison to the Northeast, for the most part, that much of it is actually "runnable".
I'll really look forward to coming back for another attempt, as well as to photograph some of the great views - but probably not until next spring.

Thanks in advance for any info!

05-13-2004, 06:37
...i guess i'll never understand why a person would want to RUN the trail (except for obvious excercise/cardio benefits)...you miss sooooooo much.....but, anyway....good luck on your run/hike effort. :D

05-13-2004, 10:06
I know Sweeper, Matt Kirk, who used to post on Trailforums.com (he still may) was planning this about a year ago. He may know more. I met him on the AT in '01. Defintely a good guy. I'm sure you could go to trailforums to get his contatct info.

Desert Lobster
05-13-2004, 10:32
contact David Horton, a very famous ultra-marathoner. He has a website. He does "fun runs" all the time. 18 hours won't do the trick I would guess.

Tim Seaver
05-13-2004, 10:34
Jaybird, one of the reasons I run in the mountains is because it's spiritually uplifting. Nothing makes me happier. Another reason is purely commercial - I am a professional photographer, and use mountain running as a way of previewing beautiful areas so that I can come back with a pack full of camera gear and capture images knowing where I want to be, and when. I might not be missing as much as you think :) If I only had ONE chance to see an area, I certainly wouldn't run through it - but the Smokies is a place that I have visited many times, and plan on returning many more times. Take a look:

Grimace, thanks for the info, I'll try to look Matt up!

05-13-2004, 12:33
Last year Squeaky(MEGA 03) did the smokies in 22 hours, where a pack. Rumour has it that he eat something like 15 snickers bars. Here's his trailjournal: http://www.trailjournals.com/squeak

05-13-2004, 12:53
I thought there was an article in a recent (within the past 2 months) backpacker or maybe Outside, about some guy that has been doing various speed records. I thought he had one on the Smokies, but maybe not.

A word about trail running...
I'm out in LA this week, so I've been doing as may trails in the area as possible. There have been quite a few trail runners on just about every trail I've done. In fact there were folks running up San Jacinto Mtn (10.8K) starting at 400' (Sometimes called the Desert to Mtn trail). I can see running up, but I don't know how they run down without falling on their a$$.

Tim Seaver
05-13-2004, 13:26
I believe the article you are referring to is in the May issue of Backpacker. "Speed Freak" is the title, I am pretty sure :)

Cave Dog ran 300 miles or so over all 40 southern 6000'ers, the "South Beyond Insanity 6000" (http://www.thecavedog.com/SB6K-Web_Pages/Southern_Appalachians/SB6K-index-frame.html)

His route started from the summit of Clingman's Dome.

Pete Palmer "only" did 14 hour days @ 3 mph on his record attempt, understandable when you are looking at 2000 miles!

05-13-2004, 15:54
ShaaZAAMM! I was hoping to do the Smokies section in a long week in a year or so. Running it is 18 hours, WOW!

Guess I'm just a tortois (Actually, I'm sure my hiking partner would say so :D ), but I eventually get there.

05-13-2004, 20:44
Nancy Hoch at "The Hike Inn" near Fontana showed me a postcard she received from a Father and Son team that did it in 23.5 hours on their 3rd attempt.

The Son was Sweeper who hiked the AT and LT in 2001 (Grimace mentions him in post #3). He has a web page with info and pictures about all three attempts:


Tim Seaver
05-13-2004, 21:43
Thanks Celt and Desert Lobster, that's what I was after!

It's interesting that they chose March to do the traverse, that would definitely be a bit more challenging than a spring or summer attempt.

This route definitely deserves "classic eastern mountain ultra" status, if there is such a thing. To be able to attempt it near the solstice, all by daylight would be extra sweet, but I think by then the grass, blackberry bushes and other vegetation would slow you down and soak your feet more.

edit - It appears David Horton (http://www.extremeultrarunning.com/smoky.htm) did it some time after 1991, starting at 12:03 am on March 21, total time 23:11:50, under snowy conditions. Quite a feat!
The thinking was to do the attempt on the first day of spring. I am quite sure it could be done in the 18 hr range or less under late spring conditions.

05-13-2004, 23:46
Take a look:

Nice slideshow, but what's up with the pictures? The mountains look so hazy.. you might even say smokey. :D

05-14-2004, 07:52

Great photos! Next spring can't come soon enough. ;)

05-14-2004, 13:17
Make sure to check out Mt. Cammerer, a few miles south of Davenport Gap, on a side trail, to some fantastic views and photo ops. Fire tower was originally bulit in the 30's in a western style architecture, fell into disrepair and was rebuilt to original specifications in the mid 1990's. Not suppose to stay overnight, but I have gotten some fantastic sunrise/sunset shots from this location. You probably are aware of it already..........