The ST avoids the Appalachians altogether and crosses the Western Mountains by what is probably the easiest route. It does still cross the mountains, has some fairly long steep climbs, and tops out at a little over 8200'.Quote from: staehpj1Just one data point. I did the ST with a 25" low gear. I was 60, not especially fit, and carrying 14 pounds of gear (base weight). The 25" gear was okay.Doesn't the ST route avoid the high mountains of the west and the steepest hills of the Appalachian/Blue ridge/Smokies if TN,KY and VA?
Given that the OP was asking about the Underground Railroad route, I am guessing that there was more climbing on the ST than what he is proposing doing, but I have not done the UGRR and have not looked at elevation profiles for it. While it apparently crosses no mountain ranges it may have steep hills, so I have no idea how two compare the two.
FWIW, I did the Trans America some years earlier (when I was 56), carrying a fairly heavy load (about 50 pounds base gear weight), and using a low gear of almost 22". It was OK, but I wouldn't have minded slightly lower gearing.