The Crest - AKA The Black Mountain Crest Trail

Mindy on the Crest Trail

After living in WNC for a time, you tend to venture into the high country. It doesn't get any higher here than going up to Mt. Mitchell. While I'm not a huge fan of the summit, the mountain itself is amazing. I remember a few weeks after moving here I went a long run that looped around the mountain. While on that loop, I ran on the Black Mountain Crest Trail. The Crest Trail was tough and I began thinking how awesome it would be to run its entirety and link up all the peaks along the way. Well I finally got my wish and did the Crest Trail out and back. While the length of the run is not crazy at 23 miles, it boasts 8,000 ft of climbing along the way.

BM Crest Trail View

I've wanted to do this run for a while but could never fit it in. So why now? My fall of 2022 running didn't go as planned. I stopped early at Pitchell and just couldn't get in a rythm with training. Well after my usualy pity party, I set out a plan. In December I was going to get in shape. I planned a series of runs that build on each other and the Crest out and back was going to be the first. I started running almost every day and lifting weights 3 to 4 times each week. I was going to be ready. I was lucky enough to take Mindy out for a weekend run on the Crest being able to check out the beginning of my run. Since the trail connects Mt. Mitchell to Bowlen's Creek, you can pick your starting point. I opted to start at Bowlen's Creek.

BM Crest Trail View

I decided for this run to go quick and light. I took advantage of good weather to avoid taking a jacket. I decided to take my UD belt and a soft flask refilling it in the water crossigns. After loading up with bars and gels, I was ready to get going. The start of the run was pretty chill, running most of the climb up. Once I made it up the 4.5 mile climb to the ridgeline, I realized I was making good time. I was feeling good about the run so far. But, that climb is one of the easier parts of the run since its not that technical, just a little steep. One of the things to know though is that there are steeper sections along the ridgeline and everyone knows that its uphill in both directions.

Turnaround at Mt Mitchell

I remember getting to Deep Gap knowing how much climbing I had to do. I knew that I was about to climb out of the gap and go over 3 to 4 6,000 peaks before getting to Mt. Mitchell. This second half of the traverse to the turnaround was the toughest for me. There were a few moments where I considered turning around. The climbs were beating me up, the technical terrain was not working out, and the weather was just getting worse as I went on. The higher up I was moving in elevation, the more wind and rain I would encounter. But I pressed on. Once I made it over Mt. Tom and Mt. Craig, I knew where I was. It was and easier stretch and the legs felt good to run from there to the summit. Once hitting the turnaround, I was ready to get back.

Throughout the run I was focusing on my goals. I had the fkt for the route in the back of my mind, but also knew it was out of my reach. I was hoping to get in the 6 to 7 hour range. I wanted to focus on smaller goals too like taking in nutrition every hour and keeping a good head space as I went through the run. I was able to stay on nutrition and never missed one.

BM Crest Trail View

The run back was more of the same on the way up. As I neared the final descent, I finally got to see some of the views I knew that the Crest Trail was famous for. With my time goal still in front of me, I embraced the descent. It was hard trying to fly down the mountain, but worth it. Once I got to one of the water crossings, I topped off my bottle. I had been out of water for close to 2 hours at that point. Getting some fluids in me fueled me up for the final miles of running. Once I got to the bottom I hit the gate in my time goal and felt great. It really felt like running a race - a new adventure. It had been so long since I've had that feeling, it felt so good.

This run pushed me right to the point it needed to. I think at that time if I went out for more hours, it would have not been pretty. The mental aspect of this run was tough, but I gritted through it. Now I'm taking what I used in this run to the next one. Stay tuned for the next parts of my comeback this year.

Happy Trails Ryan

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Posted by Ryan James on 2023-01-22


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