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  1. #1
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    Default Steepest climbs on the AT

    I just sorted my AT elevation profile data by % grade and thought folks might be interested to know which places were the steepest. This is based on the most recent GPS track and mileage from the ATC, with elevations pulled from the USGS National Elevation Database at every 0.1 mile interval. Note: Some climbs make the list multiple times but only the steepest 0.1 mile segment is listed. If the 2nd steepest part of the climb would make the list I added an (x2).

    Overall:
    Rank AT Mile State Grade (%) Location
    1 1852.5 NH 48.9 NOBO ascent of Webster Cliffs
    2 2194.9 ME 45.6 NOBO ascent of Mt Katahdin (x2)
    3 1883.0 NH 43.2 NOBO ascent from Carter Notch
    4 1947.4 ME 43.0 NOBO ascent of Moody Mtn
    5 (tie) 1871.2 NH 41.5 SOBO ascent of Mt Madison
    5 (tie) 1878.1 NH 41.5 NOBO ascent of Wildcat Mtn (x2)
    7 2001.1 ME 41.1 NOBO ascent of South Crocker Mtn
    8 1833.1 NH 40.3 NOBO ascent of Mt Garfield
    9 1949.6 ME 39.8 NOBO ascent from South Arm Rd
    10 1476.9 CT 38.6 SOBO ascent to St. John's Ledges
    Southbound (since 8/10 of the overall list are northbound):

    Rank AT Mile State Grade (%) Location
    1 1871.2 NH 41.5 SOBO ascent of Mt Madison (x2)
    2 1476.9 CT 38.6 SOBO ascent to St. John's Ledges
    3 (tie) 1885.1 NH 38.4 SOBO ascent from Zeta Pass (x2)
    3 (tie) 1998.9 ME 38.4 SOBO ascent of Sugarloaf Mtn
    5 1920.9 ME 37.9 SOBO ascent from Mahoosuc Notch
    6 1882.0 NH 36.9 SOBO ascent from Carter Notch
    7 (tie) 1219.6 PA 35.2 SOBO ascent from Port Clinton
    7 (tie) 1805.7 NH 35.2 SOBO ascent of Mt Moosilauke
    9 132.7 NC 35.0 SOBO ascent from the NOC
    10 (tie) 1819.2 NH 34.1 SOBO ascent of North Kinsman Mtn
    10 (tie) 1961.2 ME 34.1 SOBO ascent of Bemis Mtn
    South of NH (Since 9/10 of the overall list are in NH and ME):
    Rank AT Mile State Grade (%) Location
    1 1476.9 CT 38.6 SOBO ascent to St. John's Ledges
    2 99.6 NC 35.4 NOBO ascent of Albert Mtn
    3 1219.6 PA 35.2 SOBO ascent from Port Clinton
    4 132.7 NC 35.0 SOBO ascent from the NOC
    5 1512.3 CT 33.9 SOBO ascent of Bear Mtn (x2)
    6 1689.9 VT 33.1 NOBO ascent from Clarendon Gorge
    7 78.6 NC 33.0 NOBO ascent from Bly Gap
    8 1261.6 PA 32.4 NOBO ascent from Lehigh Gap
    9 (tie) 152.0 NC 31.6 NOBO ascent from Sweetwater Gap
    9 (tie) 1601.2 MA 31.6 NOBO ascent to the MA/VT state line

    By State (since 7/14 states don't appear on any of the lists above):
    State AT Mile Grade (%) Location
    GA 19.1 28.4 SOBO ascent of Ramrock Mtn
    NC 99.6 35.4 NOBO ascent of Albert Mtn
    NC/TN 184.8 31.4 NOBO ascent of Rocky Top
    TN 421.4 29.0 SOBO ascent from Laurel Falls
    VA/WV 798.2 29.2 SOBO ascent of Bluff Mtn
    MD 1064.5 26.3 SOBO ascent to High Rock
    PA 1219.6 35.2 SOBO ascent from Port Clinton
    NJ 1354.6 30.1 NOBO ascent of Pochuck Mtn
    NY 1387.4 30.3 SOBO ascent of Agony Grind
    CT 1476.9 38.6 SOBO ascent to St. John's Ledges
    MA 1601.2 31.6 NOBO ascent to the MA/VT state line
    VT 1689.9 33.1 NOBO ascent from Clarendon Gorge
    NH 1852.5 48.9 NOBO ascent of Webster Cliffs
    ME 2194.9 45.6 NOBO ascent of Mt Katahdin

  2. #2

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    Something doesn't make sense... Those grade percentages are off the charts steep.

  3. #3
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CalebJ View Post
    Something doesn't make sense... Those grade percentages are off the charts steep.
    Well, these are the steepest 0.1 mile segments on the AT, and yeah the trail does get that steep in some places. Pretty much anything above 30% grade is where trekking poles become useless and you have to use your hands to climb.
    It's all good in the woods.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleRock View Post
    Well, these are the steepest 0.1 mile segments on the AT, and yeah the trail does get that steep in some places. Pretty much anything above 30% grade is where trekking poles become useless and you have to use your hands to climb.
    Regardless, those numbers absolutely don't make sense.

  5. #5
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    My question shouldKatadin be in top ten SOBO?

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    Quote Originally Posted by CalebJ View Post
    Regardless, those numbers absolutely don't make sense.
    Can't say for sure on most, but the St. John's ledges one in CT feels like a staircase, except someone left out every other (or in some cases 2 out of every 3) stairs. The kind of stuff you feel like you should sit down on going down (otherwise you are more jumping then stepping down, and if your foot doesn't land right...) and as someone else said you are close to rock climbing without a rope on the ascents. I do seem to remember the other one (Bear Mountain) feeling fairly steep as well, but don't remember it being so much of a step-like setup as St. John's is.

  7. #7

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    You hike from GA thru VT.
    NH and ME are a whole another experience.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleRock View Post
    Well, these are the steepest 0.1 mile segments on the AT, and yeah the trail does get that steep in some places. Pretty much anything above 30% grade is where trekking poles become useless and you have to use your hands to climb.
    Have you looked at the data using quarter mile and mile segments as well? Be interesting to see how the results compare. I ask primarily because I've long heard of the SOBO ascent of Garfield (NH) listed among the steepest climbs and it doesn't appear on your list. Having climbed it a few times in that direction I'd hate to find out now that it is actually easy
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  9. #9
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seatbelt View Post
    I wonder where the SOBO climb of Briar Knob in the Smokies fits in? You can literally touch the ground in front of you while going up that one. It's right before the climb up Thunderhead going SOBO.
    The Briar Knob climb tops out at 27.3% over 0.1 mi increments but it averages about 25% over 1/2 mile. By comparison going up Rocky Top is only above 20% grade for the last 0.1 mile to the summit.

    Quote Originally Posted by Slugg View Post
    Thanks for posting, this is interesting. I find it surprising that GA has the least-steep steepest section of all states..I would have figured GA would have somewhere steeper than the mid Atlantic states.
    I think it's actually MD... only 26.3% max grade vs 28.4% for GA. But yeah from what I remember the trail in GA was mostly pretty well graded.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mfturner View Post
    I wonder how the gps tracking would handle switchbacks? Not that the AT is known for switchbacks, but any tight turn might look like less horizontal for the vertical gainÖ
    I think it depends on the quality of the GPS data. Most of the ATC's GPS track is very good quality (points every 10-20 ft) but some areas (most notably the section maintained by the PATC) are not as good with points only every 100 ft or so.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mfturner View Post
    My question shouldKatadin be in top ten SOBO?
    Haha, yeah I guess SOBOs have to climb Big K too

    Quote Originally Posted by LoneStranger View Post
    Have you looked at the data using quarter mile and mile segments as well? Be interesting to see how the results compare. I ask primarily because I've long heard of the SOBO ascent of Garfield (NH) listed among the steepest climbs and it doesn't appear on your list. Having climbed it a few times in that direction I'd hate to find out now that it is actually easy
    Hmmm... it would take a little more work, but looking at 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, 1 mile steepest segments can be done and I agree it would be interesting. I'll give it a try if I can find the time.

  10. #10
    Registered User Slugg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleRock View Post
    I think it's actually MD... only 26.3% max grade vs 28.4% for GA. But yeah from what I remember the trail in GA was mostly pretty well graded.
    .
    Ah yes thanks for the correction.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by CalebJ View Post
    Something doesn't make sense... Those grade percentages are off the charts steep.
    I don't think they're off the charts at all. A standard staircase has a 7" rise for an 11" run... a 64% grade.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Deadeye View Post
    I don't think they're off the charts at all. A standard staircase has a 7" rise for an 11" run... a 64% grade.
    Not so, you are reading the obtuse side of the angle. I have built a lot of stairs. 7"x11" = 32.47 degrees, google that. (just say'in)

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by psyculman View Post
    Not so, you are reading the obtuse side of the angle. I have built a lot of stairs. 7"x11" = 32.47 degrees, google that. (just say'in)
    Here is a link on that topic. https://www.calculator.net/right-tri...v=&x=Calculate

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by psyculman View Post
    Not so, you are reading the obtuse side of the angle. I have built a lot of stairs. 7"x11" = 32.47 degrees, google that. (just say'in)
    you're correctly measuring the grade in degrees, but the OP measured the grade as a percentage. a 7" rise on 11" run expressed in percent is (7/11)x100 or 63.6%

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    [QUOTE=Deadeye;2304057]you're correctly measuring the grade in degrees, but the OP measured the grade as a percentage. a 7" rise on 11" run expressed in percent is (7/11)x100 or 63.6%[/QUOTE}

    Deadeye you have correctly IMO calculated the grade using the horizontal run. The last time I checked the OP calculated using the angled run of trail not the horizontal run. (However this seems to be more popular.) For the staircase example this would be the length of hypotenuse, The angled run would equal the sqrt( (7x7) + (11x11)) =13.0 rather than 11. Y'all can do the rest.

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    I wonder where the SOBO climb of Briar Knob in the Smokies fits in? You can literally touch the ground in front of you while going up that one. It's right before the climb up Thunderhead going SOBO.

  17. #17
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    Thanks for posting, this is interesting. I find it surprising that GA has the least-steep steepest section of all states..I would have figured GA would have somewhere steeper than the mid Atlantic states.

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    I wonder how the gps tracking would handle switchbacks? Not that the AT is known for switchbacks, but any tight turn might look like less horizontal for the vertical gain…

  19. #19
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    Interesting. Having Thru Hiked and returned to portions of the AT, I would agree with the toughness of those listed climbs! The only one I didn’t see that I thought was difficult (but not as bad as Webster Cliffs) were the Kinsmen’s. I didn’t think much about SouthArm or Moody until a return trip. Moody put me in a bad mood for sure and showed the respect you need for Maine and Katahdin.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gbolt View Post
    Interesting. Having Thru Hiked and returned to portions of the AT, I would agree with the toughness of those listed climbs! The only one I didnít see that I thought was difficult (but not as bad as Webster Cliffs) were the Kinsmenís. I didnít think much about SouthArm or Moody until a return trip. Moody put me in a bad mood for sure and showed the respect you need for Maine and Katahdin.
    If you think the AT over Moody is difficult, the AT corridor boundaries on both the north and south sides of the AT route are decidedly more interesting. I am the corridor monitor for that section.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 02-22-2023 at 19:09.

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