Ascent of Laurel Top-Southwest Ridge on 2019-08-06

Climber: Henry Pharr

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Laurel Top-Southwest Ridge
    Location:USA-North Carolina/Tennessee
    Elevation:5000 ft / 1524 m

Ascent Trip Report

6th Peak in a seven peak challenge to bag more CoHPs in far western NC. This is my 96th out of 100. Only have Standing Indian Mountain, Mt. Guyot and Hyde County left. What a dynamic :)!!

This remote HP is one of two for Cherokee County (the other alternative is County Corner Tri Point to the SE). It near the end of a long narrow ridge that begins at a bend in the road on the Cheoah Skyway that winds its way up from Robinsville and dumps out into the Tellico Plains in Tennessee. For most of the hike, you will be straddling the NC/TN border. YOU WILL NEED YOUR GPS FOR THIS IN SUMMER.

Once you pass the parking lot for Huckleberry Knob, look for an unmarked pull off on the left that holds 2-3 cars. The trailhead is to left and is marked by a small sign stating "Snowbird Creek Trail No. 64". After climbing over the guardrail, enter the woods and begin ascending the ridge on an abandoned roadbed that gradually narrows to a deer trail and bears right past the summit of Big Junction. Here's where the fun begins.

Follow the middle of the ridge as best you can (having to deviate in a number of places due to rhododendron thickets and dense undergrowth). As you near the summit of Laurel Top, look for an extremely faint trail to the left that skirts the steep edge of the ridge (.55 miles). Continue along this path for another .4 miles through more assorted floral nuttiness and stay on the top of the ridge. Both sides drop off precipitously! Using my phone GPS and my Garmin I was finally able to locate the HP which actually forms a tri-corner of its own (Graham, Cherokee and Monroe counties) just above the trail. Wooded summit and no views. Retrace your steps to the trailhead.

On par, this peak would be best attempted in winter. I averaged less than 1 mile per hour over an elevation gain that was entirely manageable. However, the plant based obstacles were not.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:784 ft / 238 m
    Total Elevation Loss:784 ft / 238 m
    Round-Trip Distance:2.2 mi / 3.5 km
    Grade/Class:Class 1
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:784 ft / 238 m
    Distance:1.2 mi / 1.9 km
    Route:Bushwack from Trail
    Start Trailhead:Pull off on Maintained Road  4216 ft / 1285 m
    Time:1 Hours 10 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:784 ft / 238 m
    Distance:1 mi / 1.6 km
    Route:Bushwhack to Trail
    End Trailhead:Pull off on Maintained Road  4216 ft / 1285 m
    Time:1 Hours 

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