This was my first time on the Roan Mountain section of the Appalachian Trail and it did not disappoint.
I started the run at 7:01 am at Iron Mountain Gap and headed northbound on the AT. The trail flowed nicely over the first 9 miles up and over Little Rock Knob then down to Hughes Gap. Temperatures had dipped the night before freezing the muddy trail into a stable running surface. I began the day not quite 100% (headache and nausea, not sure what from) but moving in the mountain can quite literally cure whatever ails you and after 5 miles I was moving smoothly.
Leaving Hughes Gap, the trail climbed steeply and became increasingly technical due to rocks and large sheets of ice. Crossing Roan Mountain, I found myself upended by one slick patch. Picking myself up and finding no major harm done (just to my pride as I had an audience of hikers at this point), I put my head down and finished descending to Carvers Gap. My watch GPS lost me on the climb up to Roan and picked me back up when I popped out of the trees at Carvers Gap.
Reaching the mileage mid-point of Carvers Gap at 9:55 am, I did a quick check of my water and found that I had plenty left. I carried a 1.5-liter water bladder and a 500ml soft flask of Gatorade from the start. Scouting the day before, I had found a good water source along the AT less than 0.1 miles south of Carvers Gap and another 2 miles north of Carvers Gap (just after the AT splits off from the side trail to Grassy Ridge Bald). My plan was to assess and refill as needed. (please keep in mind that this was after a wet winter, during the summer months it is likely these water sources will not be flowing)
Leaving Carvers Gap, I began the undulating open section of trail with ascents of Round Bald and Jane Bald. This brought me to my second planned opportunity to grab water. A quick check found that I was still carrying plenty so I pushed on knowing that I would pass a few campsites/shelters with water if needed. Continuing past Yellow Mountain and over Little Hump brought me to the top of the last climb, the summit of Hump Mountain at 11:31 am. Over the balds, large portions of the trail are dirt and can be simultaneously slick and sticky when wet. Luckily, I was able to cross most of this area before the mid-day sun melted the frozen mud.
With around six downhill miles to go, I gambled that my dwindling water supply would suffice. I wouldn’t have turned down an extra 500ml but I was not willing to trade the time required to stop and filter. The first 2 miles once ducking back into the tree line were quite technical, with plenty of rocks and thawed mud (as temperatures had risen to the low 50s). Thankfully the trail surfaced improved a half-mile below Doll Flats and all that was left was to roll down to HWY 19E.
Iron Mountain Gap to HWY 19E (pavement to pavement) in 5hr 12min 36sec. Ran solo and carried all water and nutrition from the start.
A memorable day and a fantastic route to run. Thank you, Gavin Rumble and Mark O. Hinkle, for posting the route and providing such great information. I look forward to seeing more people attempt the FKT and maybe crack 5 hours. Good luck out there!