Ascent of Big Bald Mountain on 2013-09-29

Climber: Tom Layton

Others in Party:Charles Zerphey
Date:Sunday, September 29, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Big Bald Mountain
    Elevation:4075 ft / 1242 m

Ascent Trip Report

Good news here for county highpointers with 4WD.

Previous trip reports indicate that Gilmer County required a hike of 8 to 12 miles. However, we were able to reduce it to a modest 1.8-mile bushwhack thanks to a 4WD Ford Escape and some careful investigation of the maps.

We followed previous trip reports from four-lane US76/GA515 in the Cherry Log community. Take Rock Creek Road 5.2 miles, and just before Stanley Gap, take a sharp right onto a gravel road into the Rich Mountain wilderness.

Others evidently have been able to drive only a mile or two on this road. Beyond the first mile, it's still unsuitable for cars, but it's not bad. Thanks to 4WD and high clearance, we had no problem driving it 4.2 miles through Horsepen Gap to the crest east of the summit of Big Bald. We parked here, followed an old woods road for a few hundred yards, then found a deer path up onto the eastern ridge. From here it is an easy climb if you can avoid patches of briars.

One previous trip report mentioned a BM atop Big Bald. We didn't find it (and it's not listed in the USGS datasheets), but we did find a rock on top with a chiseled hole that probably once held some sort of survey marker. The quad shows a spot elevation of 4075.

On the other hand, there is a benchmark datasheet for Rich Mountain, which lists its elevation at 4051. That's a 24-foot difference, which was enough for us to eliminate Rich Mountain as a contender for the Gilmer HP. (Another trip report cites a Forest Service map that shows Rich is 4081, but that could be easily be mistaken if the 4051 was printed over a contour line.) It's also noteworthy that the 4040 contour on Big Bald is much larger than the one on Rich Mountain.

Based on that, we are confident that Big Bald is the Gilmer COHP.

If you're not at peace with that, feel free to continue to Rich Mountain. It would be simple enough to bushwhack westward along the ridge line, eventually picking up the road again near Little Bald Mountain. The road looked drivable beyond where we parked, but we had other peaks to bag, so we didn't drive further.

This was my 10th Georgia COHP and 115th overall.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:355 ft / 108 m
    Round-Trip Distance:1.8 mi / 2.9 km
    Trailhead:south of Horsepen Gap  3720 ft / 1133 m
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:

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