Ascent of Old Rag Mountain on 2011-11-12

Climber: Jason Potkay

Date:Saturday, November 12, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Old Rag Mountain
    Elevation:3268 ft / 996 m

Ascent Trip Report

Old Rag Mountain & Robertson Mountain

The Old Rag parking area is located just outside of the tiny hamlet of Nethers, VA. I arrived at the lower lot (the upper lot is no longer available for public use) shortly after 8 AM to find approximately 20 or so vehicles already there. There is a small structure in the parking area that has instructions on how to pay the park fee, a deposit box and there are also a few portable toilets. As of 2011, from March through November it costs 8$ to enter the park on foot and that pass is good for 7 days.

I completed the 8.8 mile ‘Old Rag Circuit Hike’ (ORCH), which accents via the ‘Ridge Trail’ (RT) to the summit, then descents via the Saddle Trail to the Weakley Hollow Fire Road (WHFR). The Ridge Trail is the reason for most people’s visit to Old Rag. It is a relatively challenging hike and rock scramble with tremendous views of the surrounding mountains, valleys and farmland.

The National Park Service recommends that you allow for a 7-8 hour round trip of the ORCH. I believe that this excessive recommendation is due primarily to the trail’s popularity. The Ridge Trail attracts people of all skill levels and fitness. With that being said there are many places where only one person can pass at a time (often requiring some upper body strength to shimmy up a crack or over a boulder) and I can only imagine that the backup at the various bottleneck points could be confused with the line to ride Disney’s Space Mountain.

The hike begins as a disappointing road hike until the RT TH where it improves to unremarkable (except for a few views). Once the trail turns from dirt to rock it really gets interesting and well worth the wait! The Saddle Trail is an easier alternative than the RT, which also connects the summit to WHFR.

The RT rightfully deserves its designation as a great east coast trail. I highly recommend this hike, but only if you get there before the crowds.

In addition to Old Rag, I climbed Robertson Mountain. Robertson, the relatively uninteresting fraternal twin peak of Old Rag, rises 5 feet higher to 3,296 feet. The ‘Robertson Mountain Trail’ (RMT) trail head is located on WHFR. The accent is fairly steep and has a few nice views of Old Rag. The summit area has nice southwesterly views where Hawksbill (4050 ft) and Skyline drive can be seen. Continuing west on the RMT I reached the ‘Old Rag Fire Road’ where I continued uphill a few hundred yards to ‘Corbin Hollow Trail’, which leads back to WHFR along side Brokeback Run.

The parking area was packed when I returned around 4 PM. Although I didn’t count them, there were quite possibly more than 100 vehicles in the lot.

My route was about 14.5 miles (it is actually less because I missed the RMT TH and had to back track) with around 5,000 feet of elevation. I completed these 2 mountains in approximately 8 hours, which included leisure time on the summits.

Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Weather:Pleasant, Windy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Route:Ridge Trail
    Trailhead:Old Rag Lower Parking Area  
Descent Statistics
    Route:Saddle Trail/Weakley Hollow Fire Road
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Jason Potkay
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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