top of page

Vertical milestones: The youngest and eldest

The vertical mile has become something of a parade this year, with 24 hikers climbing Mount Le Conte from the riverside in Gatlinburg. The latest completers include 14-year-old Luke Akard on Oct. 12 and 78-year-old Larry Russell on Oct. 9, who are the youngest and eldest vertical milers reported to Luke also holds the record for the youngest completer of the Smokies 900, which involves hiking all the trails in the national park. He accomplished that at age 12 in 220. Luke and his father Kevin Akard (pictured above) climbed via the Bullhead Trail in 5 hours and 7 minutes, and then descended via Rainbow Falls for a 22.2-mile round trip of 9:42. As the photos illustrate, they started by touching the water in the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River (below elevation 1,313) and finished at the cairn atop the 6,593-foot mountain. Larry climbed Rainbow Falls in 4:28. Previously, the eldest vertical miler was Ken Bechley, who was 70 on his hike in May. Larry has been Le Conte’s most frequent climber this year, with 42 ascents in 2022 and 342 lifetime.

bottom of page