Ascent of Buzzard Roost on 2013-04-20

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Saturday, April 20, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Buzzard Roost
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:2980 ft / 908 m

Ascent Trip Report

Buzzard Roost is the highest point in the South Mountains State Park, though it is almost inaccessible from park facilities. A few have reached it via bushwhack from the Morganton Reservoir (aka Broughton or State Hospital Reservoir), a climb of 1700 feet. If your GPS shows a road to Buzzard Roost (as mine did) it's lying.

However, there is a relatively easy way--a 2.8 round-trip hike with only 300 feet of climbing--from a rarely-traveled hunters' road that runs south of Buzzard Roost.

From I-40 at Morganton, take US64 west for 9.3 miles, then turn left on Roper Hollow Road. Follow this road 6.2 miles and park at a gap on the left. The last 4.9 miles are uneven gravel, but nothing too tough for my old Accord. At one point you'll encounter no-trespassing signs on both sides of the road that might suggest you're entering a private road, but the road itself is a public right of way to NC Wildlife Commission gamelands further ahead.

From the aforementioned gap, two gated old logging roads lead north and east. The one on the right is signed for the state park. However, you want the one on the left, which enters game-management land. The old roadway is fairly clear after you get past a few briars at the start. It's almost level for 0.9 miles, where you cross a culvert over the headwaters of the Henry Fork. Past the creek, leave the road and head north through open woods to the ridge, and then turn right and follow it up to the summit.

The wooded summit has limited winter views. There are some clifftops down the north side that might offer great views of Mt Mitchell and much of the Blue Ridge.

On top, I was disappointed to not find BM Buzzard. The weathered green reference mark is about 15 feet off the summit, and it has an arrow pointing toward the location of the BM, which is supposed to be on a rock at the east end of two vertical boulders on the summit. I scratched through leaves and duff looking for the BM, only to open up a nest of angry ants. There is a concrete post with a survey spike. The BM should be between this marker and the boulders.

Ants aside, what bugs me is the prominence problem.

Peakbagger regards Buzzard Roost as the HP in the South Mountains range. It is one of four peaks in the South Mtns that top out in the 2960 contour, and it is the only one where the quad shows a spot elevation, 2980 for BM Buzzard. The USGS datatsheet for BM Buzzard says 2992. I also got 2992 on a GPS waypoint reading.

However, my Garmin GPS map did not even show a 2960 contour on Buzzard and showed a spot elevation of 2956.

This is significant, because the highest point in the South Mountains is a major prominence point, ranking among top 50 in prominence in the entire Southeast (as well as one of the 95 P1Ks in NC).

I think (and Listofjohn concurs) that the most prominent peak in the South Mtns is Icy Knob, where the Garmin GPS shows a 3000 contour and a spot elevation of 3012.

Anybody serious about prominence should climb them both. In fact, you should touch all four of the 2960 contours (Icy Knob, Propst Mtn, Buzzard Roost, and Hickory Knob). The round-trip hike would be around 4 or 5 miles, mostly off-trail through open woods.

The summit of Icy Knob is privately owned and just outside the state park, so it is quite possible that Buzzard Roost is the highest peak within South Mountains State Park while Icy Knob is the highest point in the greater South Mountains range.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:380 ft / 115 m
    Extra Gain:60 ft / 18 m
    Round-Trip Distance:2.8 mi / 4.5 km
    Trailhead:Roper Hollow Road  2720 ft / 829 m
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
Ascent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:40 Minutes

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