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115! A Year for the Ages


Larry and his son Kelly Russell celebrate his milestone 100th hike of the season


Winter weather and the seasonal closing of LeConte Lodge didn't slow down 80-year-old Larry Russell. He day-hiked the Alum Cave Bluff Trail eight times after Thanksgiving, and finished with his 115th climb of the year on Dec. 20.


Larry's 2023 total is the most ever by an octogenarian and the busiest season by anyone since Ed Wright made 130 climbs at age 72 in 1997. Wright set the all-time record  of 230 in 1991.


A retired policeman living in Sevierville, Larry made his 80th hike on Sept. 14. This made him the eldest hiker to "hike his age," a concept borrowed from golf--when your annual total of hikes outnumbers the candles on your birthday cake. The last park guest to do so was Ron Valentine, who made 76 climbs in 2009 as he turned 76. Watch Larry's story on WBIR-TV.


Some younger members of the LeConte Lodge crew--and some llamas--have hiked their age during the course of their seasons. For example, lodge manager John Northrup made 70 ascents in 2023 at age 37.


Here at LeContest, we are grateful to Larry for serving as our correspondent to help keep our online logbook updated. After each trip to the lodge, he emails pages from the lodge logbook. If you appreciate the updates to this page, tell Larry thanks!


The "Hiked Your Age Club" is a product of our research at LeContest.com. We have lifetime hiking records for Wright, Valentine, Dinwiddie, and Margaret Stevenson--documenting almost 5,000 hikes. We welcome any additional records. Margaret barely missed the "Hike Your Age" club, with 78 hikes the year she turned 79.


We've flipped the calendar on the website. If you have Le Conte hikes to post, fill out the form on the website or email LeConteLog@gmail.com.


Most Le Conte ascents in a year


Hiker

Ascents

Year

Birthday this year

Ed Wright

230

1991

66

Ed Wright

130

1997

72

Larry Russell

115

2023

80

Ron Valentine

113

*1990s

60+

Ed Wright

111

1998

73

Ron Valentine

109

*1990s

60+

Ed Wright

108

1993

68

Ed Wright

104

1994

69

Ed Wright

103

1995

70

Paul Dinwiddie

102

1991

76

Ron Valentine

101

2002

69

Ed Wright

90

1992

67

Ed Wright

90

1995

70

Paul Dinwiddie

88

1990

75

Ron Valentine

83

2003

70

Ron Valentine

80

2006

73

Ron Valentine

79

2000

67

Paul Dinwiddie

78

1984

69

Margaret Stevenson

78

1991

79

Ron Valentine

77

2004

71

Paul Dinwiddie

76

1998

73

Ron Valentine

76

2009

76

John Northrup

70

2023

37

*Valentine had years of 113 and 109 hikes during the 1990s, but his records were lost in a fire and the exact years are uncertain.


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