the three Adams summitted mount Le Conte three times in 24 hours, setting a new trail record.
Trio of hikers conquer Le Conte Challenge—44 miles and 3 summits in 24 hours
This is a tale of three Adams— Adam Gravett, Adam Ozment and Adam Williamson. These three hikers had been exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park for months when they decided that it was time to conquer the Le Conte Challenge: hike all six trails to Mount LeConte in less than 24 hours. The challenge would cover 44 miles and require three summits of the third highest peak in the park.
From the start, they made a pact: “In together, out together.” Each hiker, ironically all named Adam, agreed that they would all complete the challenge together. However, if one of them couldn’t finish due to an injury or an unexpected circumstance, then they would all end the hike at that point.
At 2 a.m. on May 1, they began their hike on the Appalachian Trail at Newfound Gap and headed straight for the Boulevard Trail. The first eight miles were in utter darkness. Bugs and bats flew at their headlamps slowing their progress. Staying focused and moving was a priority.
After reaching their first summit of Mount LeConte at 4:50 a.m., they took a break on the LeConte Lodge’s most comfortable couch and then began an 8.8-mile descent on the Trillium Gap Trail. This trail led them through lush landscapes and behind Grotto Falls before entering into the Roaring Fork area of the Smokies.
Once the Adams reached the end of the trail, they fueled up on carbs and then headed up the Bullhead Trail. Most hikers in the Smokies will tell you that you never go up Bullhead, but that’s what they did. They trekked 6.8 miles up one of the most heavily fire-damaged trails in the park and knocked out close to 4,000 feet of elevation gain along the way.
The views from Bullhead were incredible, said Adam Ozment, but they kept their focus on Le Conte and reached their second summit of the mountain at 12:30 p.m. Sticking to a printed schedule that they had created before the challenge, the Adam trio then turned and descended down the same side of the mountain that they had just climbed up.
The Rainbow Falls Trail is filled with rocky terrain and passes by the stunningly beautiful Rainbow Falls. 6.5 miles later, they were at the trailhead where a shuttle transported them up Newfound Gap Road to the Alum Cave Trail.
The Alum Cave Trail was their final ascent of the mountain and the shortest trail, but also one of the toughest. It included the infamous steps of the Alum Cave Bluffs. They celebrated briefly at the “Hallelujah Turn,” the corner on the Alum Cave Trail where the terrain becomes flat, smooth and takes you straight to the LeConte Lodge. At 7:21 p.m. the three men reached their last summit, but the longest section of the challenge was still in front of them. To reach the final trailhead in Greenbrier, on the Porters Creek Trail, they would still need to cover 9.1 miles of trails and with darkness on their heels. The downhill pace of the last stretch of trail proved to be the most difficult of all, and during the final mile their determination was pushed to the test, but at 1:10 a.m. with 24 hours and 1 minute on the clock and 109,901 steps behind them, the Adam trio completed the Le Conte 24 Challenge.
“Carbs and hydration are vital elements on the trail,” said Williamson. “The head game will bring you down before physical exhaustion,” added Gravett. “BodyGlide is a lifesaver, and epic adventures are a must in life, but they’re even more epic with good friends at your side.”