Ascent of Icy Knob on 2013-03-29

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Friday, March 29, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Icy Knob
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:3000 ft / 914 m

Ascent Trip Report

I believe Icy Knob is the highest point in the South Mountains, even though Peakbagger gives that honor to nearby Buzzard Roost.

The 40-foot contours show four adjacent peaks--Icy Knob, Buzzard Roost, Propst Mountain and Hickory Knob--all topping out in the 2960 contour. Buzzard Roost shows a spot elevation of 2980 on the quad and 2992 on the data sheet for Benchmark Buzzard. None of the others have BMs or spot elevations.

However, my GPS map (from Garmin, based on USGS 1:24,000 topo) showed a 3000 contour atop Icy Knob and a spot elevation of 3012.

Concurring evidence: ranks Icy Knob ahead of Buzzard Roost as the most prominent in the South Mountains, even though it lists all four summits at 2980. (listsofjohn typically uses the midpoint between contours, which in this case adds 20 feet.) shows Icy with a spot elevation of 3002 (not sure of the data behind that site, though I really like the visibility cloaking.)

A 3000 contour certainly seems plausible. I bushwhacked from Icy to Propst, and Icy is definitely higher--maybe 30-40 feet. I didn't make it as far as Buzzard Roost, turning back because of threatening weather. But sighting Icy Knob and Buzzards Roost through the trees from Propst Mountain, Icy looked substantially higher.

Want to investigate this for yourself? From I-40 in Morganton, take US64 west 9.3 miles and then turn L onto Roper Hollow Road. Near the end of the pavement, you'll pass the gated Silver Creek Springs development, which has a road that goes all the way to the top of Icy Knob. Unless you know somebody who will let you in, continue on Roper Hollow Road, which turns to gravel and gets a little rough in places, though it should be passable by most cars. You'll see no-trespassing signs on both sides of the road, but the road itself is a public right-of-way.

Eventually you'll reach the back side of Silver Creek, where steel guardrails in three places keep you from entering the development. Park at the third barrier, 5.3 miles from US 64. Here, the red-blazed boundary of the South Mountains Game Lands goes straight up the south side of Icy Knob. There is an overgrown old logging road along the boundary, and you'll soon see a tempting road on the private side of the line. Either will lead you to the clearing on the top.

From Roper Hollow Road, it's 0.7 miles roundtrip and 300 feet of climbing to Icy Knob, or 1.4 roundtrip if you include Propst Mountain. The entire crest (including Buzzard Roost and Hickory Knob) looks like it would be around 4.5 miles roundtrip. Easier access to Buzzard Roost is from a gap 0.9 miles further east on Roper Hollow Road.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:300 ft / 91 m
    Round-Trip Distance:0.7 mi / 1.1 km
    Trailhead:Roper Hollow Road  2700 ft / 822 m
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack

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