Ascent of Crabtree Bald on 2007-12-27

Climber: Edward Earl

Date:Thursday, December 27, 2007
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Crabtree Bald
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:5320 ft / 1621 m

Ascent Trip Report

Crabtree Bald sports about 2700' prominence, ranking #6 by that measure in the state of NC and #9 in the southern Appalachians. Recent visitors to Crabtree Bald have expressed concern about private development near it and that access may soon become a problem. Upon my own visit on 2007 Dec 27, I did find private development but little cause for concern about access. I did have two encounters with locals, both positive.

I exited I-40 at exit 24 onto NC-209 and proceeded N for 2½ miles and turned right onto Upper Crabtree Rd. From there I proceeded 2 miles to a left turn onto Bald Creek Rd. From there I proceeded about 3 miles to a fork where the left branch was signed as "Triple Creek Meadows", a private development. I continued on this road about ½ mile, bypassing several side roads on the L side, to its end at a cul-de-sac with a lone paved driveway continuing into the forest.

(Actually, I missed the Triple Creek turnoff the first time, suspecting it may be the place I should go but I wasn't sure. I continued up a steep hill until I reached the Haywood Gap on the border of Haywood and Buncombe counties. There were two locals hanging out here, and I asked them what was the best way up Crabtree Bald. They said to go to Triple Creek and find a two-dormer house. They thought the property had been sold and weren't sure who the new owner was, but they were pretty sure that if I just go, the owner would probably never see me, and even if he did he wouldn't object. There had been some recent horse-riding and ATV activity and the prevailing sentiment was that these were frowned upon, but foot travel that doesn't disfigure the land is not a problem. Such was the first of my two friendly local encounters.)

I parked at the cul-de-sac; though the driveway was not signed or gated, I decided it was best not to continue to drive on it since it probably led to a house. I walked a short distance up the road and then turned right and climbed uphill though the mostly open forest. After stepping over an old barbed wire fence, passing a clearing with an abandoned structure, and crossing a brushy creek to the left, I intercepted a grass road which I followed uphill to the left. I then encountered a well-graded gravel road which continued up to an open grassy saddle at 4650', about 1 mile NE of the summit. During this time I saw no signs or any other evidence that my presence was not wanted.

The gravel road ended abruptly, and a grass/dirt road with occasional protruding rocks continued sharply to the left up the summit ridge. It made a couple of switchbacks on the final push up to the summit, which I reached after a total of about 1½ hours, 1850' gain.

On the descent I tried taking the gravel road all the way down to see where it would lead. It eventually veered south of my ascent route, joining Bald Creek Rd below the Triple Creek turnoff. For a while I was hopeful that this road would be vehicle-accessible to future climbers, but that was not to be: it was gated not far from Bald Creek Rd, more than 2000' below the summit. There was no sign on the gate, which could easily be walked around. I'm sure the road is hikeable, but it is not driveable.

I had to climb about 300' from Bald Creek Rd back to my car. Along the way I stopped to talk to a group of contruction workers finishing a house. I told them I had been to Crabtree Bald. One of them responded that he had gone 2/3 of the way with his 6-year-old granddaughter, but she couldn't handle the rest.

All in all, I found that the area is remote, the population density is low, and the rate of development is slow. The community is not gated, there's no evidence of security, and it doesn't seem likely to become a "new concrete driveway with a wrought iron fence and an infrared alarm" type of neighborhood anytime soon. The locals are friendly and not suspicious of strangers. I don't know what it will be like 10 years from now, but I'd be surprised if access becomes a problem in the next few years.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2120 ft / 645 m
    Total Elevation Loss:2120 ft / 646 m
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Open Country
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1820 ft / 554 m
    Start Trailhead:Triple Creek  3500 ft / 1066 m
    Time:1 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:2120 ft / 646 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 1820 ft / 555 m; Extra: 300 ft / 91m
    Gain on way out:300 ft / 91 m
    End Trailhead:Triple Creek  3500 ft / 1066 m
    Time:1 Hours 30 Minutes

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