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Ascent of Balsam Beartown Mountain on 2018-10-29

Climber: Ben Lostracco

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Monday, October 29, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Balsam Beartown Mountain
    Location:USA-Virginia
    Elevation:4710 ft / 1435 m

Ascent Trip Report

a tough trail/whack/woods roads long hike …. 8.6 miles, 2800' gain, 7:20 hrs RT including all breaks, data taking and time on summit.

One needs to read all of the excellent TRs in order to get a good feel for the challenge ahead. I followed the GPS track in James Barlow TR and this TR addresses his route. All went well except for his descent on the north side of South Balsam Beartown Mountain. I lost time and found it difficult here, so here is my recommended/easier route (which I found on my return). The distances and elevations I provide are estimates only.

I should first note that the northbound road from the Heninger Gap was easy to follow. It goes through a patch of rhododendrons, drops to a drainage creek before climbing west to James' "Point 041", I did not see any other side roads on route. I also lost the road here, especially this time of year with all the fallen leaves. But as James notes the bushwhack up to the summit of South Balsam Beartown is open/easy, so this is a good route.

From the summit of South Balsam Beartown descend steeply on a northeast direction and in a few hundred yards is the road (37.07481,-81.40160) used by James on his return. The road heads northerly on the beautiful open ridge with great views (referred-to "the swag" by others, there are nasty briars on both sides of this road)), passes over "BM 4167" and comes to a fork at .4 miles (37.07849,-81.40304), stay left (northwest) for 1/4 mile as road enters woods and come to the signed "National Forest Boundary" (37.07925,-81.40594, elev 4120'). Straight ahead is beautiful open woods with no underbrush, this time of year carpeted with fresh fallen leaves.
I bushwhacked(more-like-xcountry)/climbed westerly .3 miles to the summit ridge, the last half very steep (37.07827,-81.40966, elev.4500'). Then a short .3 miles northwest on the ridge to the summit (paths off and on, and some underbrush). I did not find the BM Maiden. I took a nice well-deserved rest before descending.

For the return I backtracked to the house (37.06314,-81.40443) and took the easier road route along the north slopes of Chestnut Ridge instead of making that steep climb over Chestnut ridge. In fact if Chestnut Ridge in not wanted then this route makes the ideal/easier ascent route.
This route meets up with the AT as the road crosses over the ridge (37.05574,-81.38921, elev. 3920') and drops to the south side at .6 miles from walker Gap.
I believe this route was pioneered by Fred Lobdell (see the last 2 paragraphs of his TR). It saves a lot of climbing in both directions.

This was a tough hike for this old man, took tons of granny breaks, I came out completely zapped.

"PASSION AND HARD WORK IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS AND LIFE'S HAPINESS."
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:610 ft / 185 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:610 ft / 185 m
    Distance:1.5 mi / 2.4 km
    Route:whack/rds nwb
    Start Trailhead:south balsam beartown mtn  4100 ft / 1249 m
    Time:4 Hours 15 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Route:whacks,rds seb
    End Trailhead:south balsam beartown  
    Time:2 Hours 30 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: beartown

Complete Trip Sequence:
OrderPeak/PointDateGain
1Chestnut Ridge2018-10-29 a929 ft / 283 m
2South Balsam Beartown2018-10-29 b480 ft / 146 m
3Balsam Beartown Mountain2018-10-29 c610 ft / 186 m
4South Balsam Beartown2018-10-29 d380 ft / 116 m
Total Trip Gain: 2399 ft / 731 m    Total Trip Loss: 200 ft / 61 m



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