View Full Version : Most Frightening/Difficult Ascent or Descent on the A.T.

10-11-2004, 18:42
What was your most heart-stopping, difficult, or scary ascent or descent during your hike along the A.T.? What were the weather or contributing conditions at the time? How did you manage your fear? What did you learn about yourself from this experience?

Thanks for the input,

10-11-2004, 20:02
Between Springer and Manchester Center, VT (what I've hiked), there is nothing that I would say is scary or even remotely heart stopping, at least if snow and ice are not present. Trail is steep, but it is rarely exposed. The only possible exception to this, that I can think of, is the climb out of Lehigh Gap, but the scrambling is sweet and the views are the first good stuff in a long way. So, no fear, only joy.

Tha Wookie
10-12-2004, 00:02
I would have to say the Over Mountain Barn privy in a snow storm.

Hammock Hanger
10-12-2004, 08:48
For me it was the Wildcats in NH. It was pouring rain and I was stuck on a ledge. I couldn't go up and was slowly but surely sliding down... and it was a ledge that hung out over the mountain. I knew if I slided off I was a goner. Luckily I was able to get a hand hold on a itty bitty tree and worked my way up. Sue/HH

10-12-2004, 10:05
For me it was the Wildcats in NH. It was pouring rain and I was stuck on a ledge. I couldn't go up and was slowly but surely sliding down... and it was a ledge that hung out over the mountain. I knew if I slided off I was a goner. Luckily I was able to get a hand hold on a itty bitty tree and worked my way up. Sue/HH

Sue, are you keeping all the promises you make... you know, the things you would do if you made it off that mountain alive? :)


Hammock Hanger
10-12-2004, 11:35
Sue, are you keeping all the promises you make... you know, the things you would do if you made it off that mountain alive? :)

Mmmmmm I did make some promises didn't I!!:-? I'm being a good girl I promise!;) Sue/HH

10-12-2004, 11:49
Well ...Webster Cliffs in the Whites got my attention on a cold,wet and slippery day in September 2003.

AT 2003

Hammock Hanger
10-12-2004, 11:57
Webster's Cliff, Wildcats, North Carters... all in the rain! No wonder the Whites left such a bad taste in my mouth. Sue/HH

The Solemates
10-12-2004, 12:27
We had 124 mph winds and a lightening storm when we went across Washington this year. When we got to the visitors center up top, the rangers had turned off the power to the whole place because they were in fear of a direct lightening strike. The locked the doors and would not let anyone leave the mountain by no means until 5 hours later. Then, you were only allowed to leave via car. We were only in the storm the 1.5 miles from Lakes of the Clouds to the top, around 1 hour. You could not stand up and you could only see 10 feet in front of you. It was awesome. My wife was scared, but I was having a great time. Something about pushing yourself to the limits...

10-12-2004, 12:36
It wasn't much of an ascent, but it certainly turned out to be scary...

In late March of 1975 we were hiking SOBO from Lee, MA to Webatuck, NY. There was a foot of snowpack on the northern slopes, but the south-facing slopes were clear. We dropped down into Sages Ravine in mid-afternoon, but the late winter sun doesn't shine much down there, so everything was a sheet of ice. The stream, overflowing with snowmelt, was crossed by a fairly narrow tree trunk that had a nice downstep in it about 3/4 of the way across. We unhooked our hip belts and safely made it to the other side. The ice-covered trail paralleled the stream bank as it climbed out, with the trail about 15 feet above and 30 feet away from the stream itself. I slipped and fell flat on my pack, kind of like a turtle, and started sliding down the icy bank toward the stream. I managed to wedge my foot against the thin trunk of a woody bush about 10 feet from drop-off into the rushing stream, and then my buddies helped me back up. Talk about scary!

My scariest real ascent was probably the hand-over-hand climb up a rock face in Macedonia State Park in Connecticut that same hike, but I don't think the AT still follows that route.

10-12-2004, 16:40
Going down the Dragon's Tooth northbound was a pain in the ass. Doing it on a wet day can't be too pleasant.

Spirit Walker
10-12-2004, 16:40
Kinsman with a very large heavy pack was the most difficult. It's a rock climb, using hands to pull yourself up the mountain. I had never done that kind of climbing with a pack on before. The pack would catch on the rocks above me as I climbed them. I learned to throw the weight of the pack forward and let momentum carry me upward. Going down the other side was even worse - especially on the knees.

I did the same hike without pack on my second hike and it was actually fun, though still hard on the knees.

On my first hike there were several scary bits, as I have a phobia about falling. I froze on the knife edge in PA, unable to move forward for about five minutes. Same thing in Maine on one of the open rocky balds. By the time I did my second hike, I had learned how to control my fear and did them quite well. It takes a bit of practice. The more you do it, the easier it gets. I still have problems on ice and hard packed snow where I am likely to fall, but on rocks I am usually just cautious, not petrified.

10-12-2004, 16:46
almost getting struck by lightning coming out of cody gap in a hail storm.the hair on my arm stood straight up i thru my poles to one side of the trail and jumped in the bushes on the other.

Flash Hand
10-12-2004, 18:12
Hiked northbound from NOC to Sassafras Gap Shelter was one of the worst for me... leaving at 4pm, thinking I would make it to the shelter before dark. I was wrong.. its getting dark, and I thought I lost headlamp and its getting thick fog, which meant no visibility.

Next time, Im not going to be crazy enough to leave late like 4pm.

Flash Hand :jump

10-12-2004, 18:39
Funny how many of these stories involve the Whites!!! It was Madison for me!! Went back and found my journal entry for that day. I can still recall the terror when the wind picked me up!! Funny....can't wait to be back again!!

Today was my last day in the Presidentials and I think they decided to teach us a small lesson in humility. The weather has been so fantastic ever since we've hit Moosilauke that it's been hard to believe. All that changed this morning. Heard the wind howling all night and rain on the windows. Got up to fog, light drizzle, and a good stiff wind. The forecast said 35 - 50 m.ph. on the summits today. Not a big problem, I thought, since I only have to get up and over Madison today. Right.....

Left the hut about 7:15. Since it was drizzling, I had both my pack cover and rain jacket on. The initial climb up Madison wasn't bad. The wind was blowing but still very manageable. As I got closer to the summit, the wind velocity picked up. It became harder to walk and I needed to brace myself with my poles. Since the wind was primarily blowing into my back, I figured once over the summit I'd be shielded from the wind. Reached the summit and scrambled over. Almost instant relief from the wind. Sat behind some rocks for a moment and caught my breath. Wow, that was fun. I'm glad it over and now I can get down to treeline. That's funny, I almost thought I heard someone laughing.

My anticipation at getting over the summit led me to overlook one small fact. On the North side of Madison is a long, exposed, knife edge ridgeline that the AT follows. The ridge starts out to the East but then curves back to the South. I walked about 1/8th of a mile on the ridgeline and suddenly got blasted by the wind again. Only this time, it was really howling. Almost immediately, I got knocked off my feet by the force of the wind. I started doing a kind of modified duck walk to make progress. All was going fine until I reached a rock outcropping I had to step across. I had to stand up in order to cross over. When I did, the wind filled my pack cover like a parachute and picked me up off the ground. The force of the wind moved me about 8 - 10 inches forward. Now that by itself was scary. What really scared me was the fact I was only about 4 feet from a hundred foot drop-off over the side of the ridge. The wind could of easily taken me over the edge and dropped me and there would of been nothing I could of done. I got back behind some rocks to shield myself and decide what to do. At this point I only had two options, go forward or go back. It was about equal distance to safety either way I went. If I went back, I'd have to go over the summit again and I figured that would be the worst place to be. So, I pressed forward and tried not to repeat my earlier mistake. I crawled and duck walked the remaining mile down to treeline. I've never been so happy to see trees in my entire life. Once into the trees, I was completely spent. The crash from the adrenaline rush was huge. I had 5 more miles of fairly easy terrain and it took me 4 hours to do it. By the time I reached Pinkham Notch, I was almost crawling.

Jack Tarlin
10-12-2004, 18:54
Two come to mind.....Lafayette Ridge on a horribly windy day in 2001 with a storm coming in was pretty scary; we were all pretty sure we were about to get nailed by a gale and thunderstorm in an extremely exposed place.

A near second would be going up and over Mt. Madison in the rain, and going down to Osgood campsite in a downpour....and eventually in the dark. A horrible, bloody, miserable way to end the day.

And whoever said so many of these stories seem to involve New Hampshire is unfortunately right on the money.

Kozmic Zian
10-12-2004, 19:08
Yea.....Scarry? AT ain't very scarry, just long.....however, my first look and up on Albert Mt in the S. Nantahalas was a trip. Felt like I was gonna fall off backwards! Then the down coming off of Zealand Notch on the 'short cut'. Fagetaboutit......If you ever do this down......you're a downdoin' mf. It's damn near vertical. Yea, some of the south side of Moosilauke...phew! Tuff stuff....mine frers. [email protected]

Lone Wolf
10-12-2004, 19:19
Back in 91 I was helping Maineak on his 56 day speedhike. He and I and 2 others arrived on Katahdin on the last day having covered 40 miles. It was 8:40 PM. Around 9:30, Maineak and I headed back down the Hunt trail. The other 2 went down the Abol trail. Just past Thoreau Spring both of our headlamps died. Dog tired, we had to pick our way down in the dark. Got to the campground around 1:00 AM. Lotsa fun.

Crash! Bang!
10-13-2004, 10:28
there was a short section on goose eye in the mahoosucs that gave me pause. and this was in ideal conditions. the osgood ridge was difficult, but again, i had ideal weather, and was thus not scary.

10-14-2004, 14:46
By far the most fearful I was on my entire thru was when I was coming down the North Side of Moosilake. There were numerous sections you were on slick rock with just wooden blocks bolted to it for "steps", the grade was rediculous, and right next to you were waterfalls the whole way down. There were numerous times I felt like I would lose my footing and die, and I did have a couple of close calls....Thank God for my Lekis which saved my life on that descent.

Crash! Bang!
10-14-2004, 16:12
i broke a leki coming down moosilauke :mad:

10-14-2004, 19:07
I see a county song in that statement.

10-14-2004, 21:00
As a SOBO, I summitted Katahdin from the north side. Coming off Katahdin's Table Land and seeing the mountain just dissapear before me got the adreniline going. Seeing the iron hand bars didn't help much. Nor did a pack with 10-days worth of food.

I was scarred for life ;-). Coming down beat the alternative, however.

Rick B

10-15-2004, 10:05
Wow...You actually broke a Leki? Throughout my hike, I bent mine in half twice (once in Mahoosic and once sometime before Troutville), but never broke them. And it took near falls from 10 feet up putting all the force down on the pole to catch myself to do that....Those are some tough poles. Ironically, I didn't bend mine coming down Moosilake.

10-15-2004, 11:22
I think some people just put more impact, wear and tear on them. Met a guy at the Gathering in 03 who said he had busted several pairs of Leki's.

I bent one after I fell down a muddy slope on the north side of the mountain after the flat walk after Low Gap Shelter in GA. Basically it was like mile 45 on my thru-hike. Walked with that bent pole until Glencliff, for some 1700 miles. Finally borrowed a set from my family for the last leg.

10-15-2004, 19:27
I'm amazed and pleased at the quick, detailed response to my original post; and I appreciate those I've read (still reading!) thus far. Not surprisingly, it seems that weather is a key factor in how anxiety producing a climb/descent is. I recall ascending Moosilauke from the south and being petrified by periodic lightning strikes. After that, the steep descent into Kinsman Notch seemed a cake walk by comparison. Though I've not climbed Kinsman itself (yet) I find it interesting to hear, once again, just how technical a climb it seems to be. Are we talking only steps and staples or are we talking near-belay conditions?

Again, many many thanks for sharing your fears and experiences.


10-15-2004, 20:00
For me it was like being on a stair stepper all day long. up up up up down down down up up up down down down.....ect.....Here's a couple of pics. But like most hard climbs, the rewards at the top were worth it.



The Eleven
11-09-2004, 11:36
Hmmm.....the whites seem to hold a vast majority and I would have to say for me (minus the South, since I haven't been down there yet), it would be ascending/descending Franconia Ridge in the Whites. 3 day loop ascending/descending from/to Lafeyette Campground area....1st day had to turn back off Mt Lafeyette. High winds, storms, fog. Seems like every time I attempt this section of the AT, I run into some serious weather. Very slick coming down....trails become streams and waterfalls. Another one was the descent off of Carter down to the greenroof covered Carter Hut....very rocky, I think over 1000' 60 degree descent....knees took a beating, but we made the 3 day backpack from rte 16 to rte 2. Happy Trails! Steve (Little Bear) CT

It is my job to reveal the art, not the artist. :eek: