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Ascent of Big Butt on 2018-08-11

Climber: Henry Pharr

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Saturday, August 11, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Big Butt
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:5920 ft / 1804 m

Ascent Trip Report

There are two ways to get to Big Butt: a stiff steep hike from NC 197 at Cane Gap or a longer ridge and multi peak climb from the Walker Knob Overlook on the BRP about 5 miles south of the Mount Mitchell State park entrance (NC 128). I took the latter route which longer, but ultimately more rewarding as you climb Brush Fence Ridge, and up and over Point Misery and Little Butt before arriving at the side trail to the summit of Big Butt.

These peaks form the western rim of the Black Mountain and lie thousands of feet above the Cane River Gorge that can be head roaring below when you get to Little Butt. The forest resembles the Mount Mitchell Trail flora and fauna, event though the elevations do not exceed 6000 feet. The trail is well maintained by the the NC High Peaks Trail Association and included hundreds of wooden step that make the climbs much easier to maneuver. The best views lie on the ridge between Little Butt and Big Butt. Unfortunately clouds rolled in when I hiked this track and so was only able to catch short glimpses of the valley to the east (and not the Black Mountain Crest). Hiking this route in early spring or late fall should give you a better chance of good weather and less foliage blocking vistas.

From the Walker Knob Overlook, take the trailhead to the SOUTH. **Be careful here as an old forest road and the Mountains to Sea also converge in the field behind the overlook parking lot. You will descend over a hundred feet before gently ascending to the top of Brush Fence Ridge and finally to the summit of Point Misery (the name was not indicative of this side of the mountain - the return trip up the backside will give you an appreciation of why it is appropriately named). The HP is just off the trail and there is a Geodetic Marker as well as several marked bearing trees nearby.

From there, descend steeply over 300 feet to a grassy gap and then ascend up a series of stairs around giant rocks to the inauspicious peak of Little Butt Mountain. The trail continues a very narrow ridge reminiscent of the Amphibuolite Mountains. Look for rock outcrops to the right and left of the trail for some tremendous views of the Black Mountains (east) and the Craggy Mountains (west).

Continue along the ridge ascending gently to a well marked side trail to the left that will take you via an interesting semi-open trail to the summit of Big Butt. No ascertainable views here, but I accidentally surprised a nide of about 30 pheasants. The tremendous fluttering and so much wing flapping and feathers flying gave a feeling of both being on the the set of THE BIRDS and of marveling at the sight of these beautiful creatures. Then the rain started. It continued off and on on the hike back and was so intense at times that I felt more like this was the Amazon rain forest, not western NC. And yet, once I got wet, it was pleasant. Only real obstacle was the relentless climb back up to Point Misery.

Of course once I got back to the car, the rain stopped and the sun came out! For completists, cross the road and hike to the crest of Walker Knob on the M-to-S trail (see separate entry for more detail on this peak and others described above).

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1498 ft / 456 m
    Total Elevation Loss:1672 ft / 509 m
    Round-Trip Distance:6.2 mi / 10 km
    Grade/Class:Class 1
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Weather:Raining, Cool, Calm, Low Clouds
Rainy and limited visibility
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1444 ft / 440 m
    Distance:3.1 mi / 5 km
    Route:Maintained Trail
    Start Trailhead:Walker Knob Overlook on BRP  4476 ft / 1364 m
    Time:1 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:1672 ft / 509 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 1618 ft / 493 m; Extra: 54 ft / 16m
    Gain on way out:54 ft / 16 m
    Distance:3.1 mi / 5 km
    Route:Maintained Trail
    End Trailhead:Walker Knob Overlook on BRP  4302 ft / 1311 m
    Time:1 Hours 18 Minutes



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