The Pony Highpoint

[Climbing team: Targo, Katrin, Toomas, Oliver]
We first visited the Mount Rogers on November 5th, 2003 but didn't reach the top. We started from Massie Gap parking lot (see map below), took the Rhododendron trail north to Appalachian Trail and continued west. When we started climbing, it was a beautiful warm afternoon, but on the way up it started to rain heavily (see the picture in bottom left corner to see the approaching cloud). The rain slowed us down and the visibility was nonexistent, by the time we reached Rhododendron Gap (altitude 5526ft). As the weather showed no sign of improvement, we decided it was too dangerous to continue. Hey, we got an infant and a toddler with us and you don't want to climb down on wet rocks in the complete darkness equipped like that. By the time we reached our car, we were all soaked. But we got a lot of nice pictures on the way up. There are many ponies wandering around and all kinds of interesting sights.

[Summit team: Targo]
My second attempt on March 10th, 2004 was more successful as I was equipped with better clothing and started earlier. It had been snowing for the last two days and I had been really worried about finding the right trail. Because of that I started from Elk Garden this time, instead of Massie Gap. The trail from Elk Garden is marginally harder but more straightforward. However, the trails were well marked, Appalachian trail with white, and local trails with blue paint spots, so I never wandered too far from the right path. There was about 6 inches of fresh snow and only in some places could I see some footprints of a previous hiker. Again, coming back was much easier because I could follow my own footprints. On my way down, I met a couple that was hiking the full length of the Appalachian trail, it was their 39th day. They should be in Maine by July.

Click on map to enlarge (warning: big file).

And of course, the driving instructions (via Massie Gap):
1) From I-81 (near Marion, VA) take exit 45 onto SR-16, go about 24 miles. After about 5 miles there is a visitor center by the road where you can buy a map. The map is quite essential as there are many trails on the mountain and t is quite possible to get lost. They sell really good maps that are tear proof and waterproof (something that we learned to really appreciate).
2) Turn right onto US-58, go 7.3 miles
3) Turn left onto SR-362 (Grayson Highland Ln)
4) Go about three miles to Massie Gap
5) Take trails up to the peak

Pictures of the first climbing attempt:

I guess the red eye reduction doesn't really work with ponies :-)

Another pony.

And even more ponies.

The path led us through a bunch of cliffs.

This cloud will engulf us in about 10 minutes.

It rained really hard all the time while we were climbing down

And the second (successful) climbing attempt:

Up to this sign, I had followed the Appalachian trail. From here it is about half a mile to the summit.

Finally on the top. No view from here though.

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