South Beyond 6000 Challenge (SB6K)
The South Beyond 6000 (SB6K) is an organized program for encouraging hikers to climb the forty 6000 foot peaks in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The privilege of belonging is earned and can only be shared among those who have pushed onward and upward on foot to the tops of these peaks. The Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club started this program after they had studied similar concepts used in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Adirondack Mountains in New York.
HISTORY AND INTRODUCTION
In 1968 Hugh Thompson of the Tennessee Eastman Recreation Club Hiking Club (now Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club) began work on a challenge program involving the high peaks in the southern Appalachians. He enlisted the aid of A.L. Edney and Leroy Fox from Knoxville and John Davis and Ed Dunn of the Carolina Mountain Club in selecting peaks and routes.
The first South Beyond 6000 Handbook was issued on January 1, 1997. The formal sponsors of the program have always been the Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club and the Carolina Mountain Club.
There are over 60 summits in the area above 6000 feet, but only 40 were selected by the criteria for the South Beyond 6000. The criteria for selecting peaks are
- The summit elevation is above 6000 feet above sea level.
- There is a drop of 200 or more feet to a saddle between one peak and another qualifying peak or, there is a distance between the peaks of .75 miles.
The 40 peaks are contained within 6 ranges: the Smokies, Plotts, Balsams, Craggies, Blacks, and Roans. The southwestern most peak is Clingmans Dome in the Smokies, while the northernmost is Grassy Ridge in the Roans. All 40 are in North Carolina or on the North Carolina-Tennessee border except Mt. Le Conte, which is within Tennessee.
Our thanks go to Leroy Fox, SMHC; Hugh Chase, SMHC and CMC; and the authors of 100 Favorite Hikes for the write-ups; to Agatha McClellan for the design of the logo depicting South Beyond 6000; and to Frank Huffaker for the artistic arrangement of the maps. A special thanks to Hugh Thompson, TEHCC, who was the driving force to initiate South Beyond 6000. A special commendation goes to Dr. Ed Dunn of Asheville, NC, who has provided leadership to the SB6K program since its inception.
When South Beyond 6000 was first organized, most of the mountains over 6000 feet were pristine spruce-fir forested summits. In the past twenty years, however, the wooly aphid blight and pollution from acid rain have killed the boreal zone trees, opening the canopy to wind and deadfalls along with thick briar patches. The peakbagger confronts a thick and difficult vegetation to struggle through to obscure and often almost invisible summits, only guessing where the true summit lies. Knowledge of map and compass, long sleeve shirts and long pants, and gloves are a must.
In recent years many hikers have used ribbons or flagging to mark their routes, leaving the ribbons behind. South Beyond 6000 advocates the ethics of no-trace hiking. When you climb these peaks, leave no trace and please remove any flagging that you may have used. Climbing these peaks should be an adventure and challenge to future hikers.
In some cases the routes cross private property. Hikers are responsible for getting permission from the owners.
Many of the peaks in the SB6K program are accessed by using the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). Since the Parkway is frequently closed by sections in bad weather, especially in the winter months, hikers should check with the Park Service (828-298-0398) for Parkway closures. Park regulations should be adhered to when using the Parkway.
The sponsors of the SB6K program are not liable for any personal injuries, illness, property damage, or loss of any kind sustained by any person who climbs the South Beyond 6000 peaks. Each person assumes responsibility for his/her own welfare.
We do not envision anyone who is a true hiker and lover of the out-of-doors driving his Jeep or Honda or riding his horse to the top of these peaks and claiming he has climbed them. This is not a club of people who have visited the summits of these mountains, but a collection of hikers who have reached them the hard way on foot. Since we depend on an honor system, some individuals may yet take the journey by car or by fancy in order to earn their patch. We hope their Beans or Wolverines will perpetually rub ever-larger blisters and that their pack straps will always break at the most inopportune times.
SB6K PEAK REGIONS
1. The true summit of each mountain must be reached. Special Note: The summit of Mt Hardy is further beyond the USGS benchmark disk.
2. Climb all 40 peaks by routes involving hiking at least 5 miles with an ascent of at least 500 feet. This distance and gain require is PER HIKE--not per peak. As many peaks as you can climb within one route of at least 5 miles and 500 feet of gain qualify for this requirement. Each hike qualifies if it is uninterrupted, continuous boots-on-the-ground. Riding a bicycle, getting in a vehicle, paragliding from a summit, or using an ATV or horse--any form of travel that is not on-foot--interrupts a hike and makes it non-continuous.
3. For alternate routes other than those in the hike data base, you may send a description to one of the committee members for approval to assure that the hike meets South Beyond 6000 standards. As long as your hiking route is at least 5 miles in length and at least 500 feet of elevation gain (each are cumulative per hike, regardless of amount of peaks bagged), it qualifies.
4. In the application, the applicant must include a copy of the Ascent Record, their name exactly as they wish it on the certificate, and the date of the last qualifying hike.
5. The application should be emailed to the SB6K program chair for review (currently Peter Barr at SB6K@CarolinaMountainClub.org). CMC is a volunteer organization, so please allow 3 weeks for review and processing of your completion application/log.
6. If not yet a member of the CMC, must also mail/submit a Membership Form/online application and a check or online payment for a year’s dues. If the applicant is already a member of the CMC there is no charge for the patch and certificate.
7. After approval by the committee, the successful participant is awarded the South Beyond 6000 patch and a certificate recognizing his/her achievement. CMC awards SB6K patches and certificates at its annual meeting. CMC will also mail the certificate and patch to those who cannot attend the annual meeting and ask for it to be mailed.
On occasion the CMC leads hikes to climb several of the SB6K peaks. These can be found in the CMC's quarterly hiking schedule.
Completed SB6K applications are only received electronically via email. Scan or photograph the pages of your SB6K completion log and send to: Peter Barr, Subject Line "SB6K Completion" at SB6K@CarolinaMountainClub.org. Print copies will not be accepted by mail. CMC is a volunteer organization, so please allow 3 weeks for review and processing of your completion application/log.
CMC awards completers of SB6K a patch and certificate at its annual meeting. CMC will also mail the certificate and patch to those who cannot attend the annual meeting.
In addition to submitting an SB6K completion log by email, applicants of the SB6K challenge program must be members of CMC to receive the recognition patch and certificate. Make sure your membership is current/paid, or click here to join the CMC online or by mail.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Table of Contents:
- How can I talk to someone who has hiked the SB6K to help me plan or to answer questions?
- Do all of the peaks have trails to the summit?
- Are the summits clearly marked?
- Can a GPS help?
- Can I take my dog?
- Can I ride my horse or ATV rather than hike the program peaks?
- Can I do all of the peaks during day hikes?
- What happened to Tricorner Knob--didn't it used to be a peak in the SB6K Challenge?
- Is there a time limit to complete SB6K?
- Does the Club keep records on age (youngest/oldest), other metrics, or personal SB6K multiple completions beyond one?
1. How can I talk to someone who has hiked the SB6K
Yes. Start with SB6K chairman in the contact list.
2. Do all of the peaks have trails to the summit?
No. About 1/3 have no discernable trail to the summit.
3. Are the summits clearly marked?
Only a few. Each one is different. Some have plaques, or benchmarks and several have nothing to designate the summit.
4. Can a GPS help?
A GPS can be a very useful tool, when used in conjunction with maps and other standard navigational equipment. We have incorporated many GPS routes already into our presentation here on the internet for your downloading pleasure. In the near future our goal is to have a complete GPS loaded site to include topos, profiles and downloadable GPS routes.
5. Can I take my dog?
Yes and no. No you cannot in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Yes you can on the Blue Ridge Parkway as long as he/she is on a leash.
6. Can I ride my horse or ATV rather than hike the program peaks?
No. I can’t believe you would even ask that question!
7. Can I do all of the peaks during day hikes?
You can do most of them during day hikes, however, unless you are willing or able to hike and climb upwards to 20-30 miles in one day you will might want to spend the night in the northeast Smokies.
- Take your time. Most accidents in bushwhacking result from being in a hurry.
- You can see further and have less trouble with vegetation during the winter months.
8. What happened to Tricorner Knob--didn't it used to be a peak in the SB6K Challenge?
Tricorner Knob was removed from the SB6K Challenge several years ago because modern survey technology definitively determined it to be significantly lower than its nearby neighbor, Mt. Yonaguska. Previously, challenge participants could choose to climb either Tricorner Knob or Mt. Yonaguska because it was not known which peak was highest. Now that Mt. Yonaguska is known to be taller, it is the peak that remains in the challenge. Hikers who began the challenge prior to 2020 and climbed Tricorner Knob instead of Mt. Yonaguska are grandfathered in, therefore may still claim Tricorner on their ascent logs on the "Mt. Yonaguska" line. Hikers who log their first SB6K peak ascent after the start of 2020 must climb Mt. Yonaguska and not Tricorner Knob.
9. Is there a time limit to complete SB6K?
There is no time limitation to complete this challenge. Most hikers take several years to finish the challenge. The fastest the peaks have been complete is 4 day, 14 hours, and 38 minutes, a record set by Matt Kirk in one continuous journey (no vehicles involved between the first and last peaks) in 2010.
9. Does the Club keep records on age (youngest/oldest), other metrics, or personal SB6K multiple completions beyond one?
For questions regarding the SB6K Challenge, please contact Peter Barr at SB6K@CarolinaMountainClub.org. CMC is a volunteer organization, so please allow 5 business days for a response to general inquiries, and 3 weeks for review and processing upon submitting of your completion application/log. Thank you.