Climbing Clingman's Dome

Recently we took a field trip to Tennessee to climb Clingman's Dome, an iconic mountain challenge for cyclists in the Great Smoky Mountains. The ride was the longest, slowest 21 miles of my life... followed by the fastest 21 miles.

After much planning, we finally had an opportunity to head down to Tennessee and give Clingman's a try. On a sunny afternoon, we carefully loaded up a van with our four bikes and by the time night fell we'd arrived at Uncle Jim's place in Morristown, our staging ground for the next day's carnage. The next morning, we drove through the high stripmall splendor of Pigeon Forge to arrive at the Sugarlands Visitor Center at the base of Clingman's.

Ernst, Jeff, Rick and Andrew before the climb. Jeff must not have gotten the memo about matching uniforms...


Well, I started off ambitiously keeping up with Jeff as he attempted an under-2-hour climb. Pretty quickly the relentless incline cooled my own ambitions and I snapped this photo of Jeff as he pulled away, never to be seen again during the climb.

Each turn in the road brought nothing but another view of another steep ascent. My legs were starting to get the message that relief would not be forthcoming. As an excuse to rest, I snapped a picture of Rick as he left me in his wake.

And soon after, Dad graciously passed me as well, giving me one more breath respite.

But after a few tunnels...

One loop-de-loop...

And a few more breaks...

I made it to the top - where Rick, Jeff and Ernst had been waiting for a longer period of time than I'm willing to publicly reveal.

After taking it in, we flew back down and added our names to the guestbook of other likeminded climbers. Next time I'll train more - but I highly recommend the experience.

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