Watch on

The view looking west from Clingman’s Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Overlooks the Tennessee Valley, the slope in the distance is Mt. Leconte. You can see some haze hanging over the valley from pollution and the trees killed by insects in recent years.

ho. ly. crap. you guys.

the real hike today, up Mt. LeConte-the 3rd highest peak in the smokies-, was.. unbelievable

and not only because the scenery truly the greatest that I have ever witnessed in my entire life

also because between our inexperience, and the extreme winter conditions, and our unpreparedness for them, my brother and I had about a dozen, earnest, near-death experiences.

foot-wide, sloped, uneven, completely ice-covered trails refused to remain beneath hiking boots without ice grips.

through God alone: ropes, roots, trees, rocks, and insightful hikers literally saved our lives every 20 minutes near the top of that mountain

but those 5 and a half hours; 7 hours of nonstop, rigorous, hiking were the greatest I have ever experienced.

What better way to solidify my transition into manhood than with lessons on the value and precariousness of life, experience with a life-dependent leadership position, and perseverance despite ridiculous obstacles, all set in the epitome of my absolute perfect dreamscape.

 We weren’t able to get to the summit because the ice eventually took over entire sections of the path- side to side, top to bottom- but we had the time of our lives.

Day 173.

Today, I hiked to the summit of High Top on Mount LeConte. I was so proud of this very moment! I had been waiting 3 years to take this photo at this very location. And it would not have been possible for the major life changes that I have made in the last 7 months!

Here are a few highlights of the hike to the summit:

We began hiking up the mountain at 5:30a. Temp: 30s.

6a - arrived at Arch Rock. It looks more like a cave from this vantage point.

enjoying the sunrise at Inspiration Point

8am - arrived at Alum Cave. The real ascension begins…

Yes… we have to climb to the top of that!

The trail gets mountain climbing sketchy… 

This is my vantage point looking down from the sketchy section of trail. yes its a long way down. Don’t worry I was clipped into the safety cable.

Made it to the top! The view from the summit of High Top of Mt. LeConte.