Ascent of Mount Le Conte on 2019-03-16

Climber: Dennis Stewart

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Saturday, March 16, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Le Conte
    Elevation:6593 ft / 2009 m

Ascent Trip Report

As far as I can determine Mount Le Conte - High Top is the 3rd highest named highpoint in South Carolina. It is one of four named highpoints on Mount Le Conte's long ridgeline and it is the highest, as you can gather from its name; however, it has the worst view of all four ridgeline highpoints. There is more than one approach possible for High Top on Mount Le Conte. I used the Alum Cave Trailhead at 35.62963 N 83.45138 W. The elevation here is around 4000 feet, so you have a 2500 foot climb ahead of you. The trail has a good grade, but in places you have to walk on long stretches of bedrock, which isn't that bad in warm weather and you will wonder why there are aid cables along the route in places even though the terrain does not seem to require it. Come back in cold weather and you will be very thankful for the cables. It seems ice melts in these places during the day and refreeze at night to create very slippery rock surfaces that aren't always apparent. I had one bad fall in one spot where I thought the rock was just wet, but it was actually covered with a thin glaze of ice and extremely slick. It was even hard to get back on my feet. Needless to say, I used the cables for the rest of my climb. From the trailhead after covering 1.3 miles in 38 minutes, I passed through Arch Rock, which is worth a visit itself. Somehow a massive boulder has formed a tunnel which seems more like a cave. After 3 hours and 11 minutes of climbing I reached the summit ridgeline where there is a hairpin turn toward the east. I was fairly comfortable until this point, but as soon as I turned the corner I was hit with a very cold, strong east wind and I had to put on all my packed clothes. At this same spot is an unmaintained trail that heads west. This is the access for West Point, the 10th highest named highpoint in South Carolina. (See that trip report for details.) I continued heading east and it was a short distance to Le Conte Lodge with many individual cabins for rent. There is even a dining room for a lot more backpacking luxury than you probably have ever had. Directly across from the entrance to the Lodge area is the access trail for Cliff Top (The 5th highest named highpoint in South Carolina), although a sign there calls it Cliff Tops. After warming up at a picnic table in the sun, I continued my eastward march and in 16 minutes I passed the 6 foot high cairn for High Top, the 3rd highest named highpoint in South Carolina, just 30 feet off the trail to the south. The cairn was impressive, but there was absolutely no view here. I continued hiking east from here and climbed Myrtle Point. (See that trip report for those details.) I visited Cliff Top and West Point on the way back to the trailhead. My descent time, including the time for these other two highpoint visits, was a little less than 6 hours. Of course, if you hike straight back to the Alum Cave trailhead without these extra stops, you will probably descend between 2 1/2 and 3 hours.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Gear Used:

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