Ascent of High Windy on 2013-10-12

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Saturday, October 12, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:High Windy
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:4360 ft / 1328 m

Ascent Trip Report

A six-year-old billboard along I-26 east of Asheville still shows a triumphant-looking Tiger Woods with this sales pitch: "See what inspired me."

You can take that several ways, but if you climb High Windy and Jesses High Top, you will at least get to appreciate the landscape that was going to be the stage for Tiger's signature golf course. The real-estate bubble burst about the same time his marriage went sour, and the Cliffs at High Carolina development has been abandoned for now.

That's good news for hikers who have been concerned about access.

I climbed High Windy and Jesses High Top as a "T" hike that totaled 6.9 miles from the main parking lot at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly, a historic summer camp just off I-40 exit 64 in Black Mountain.

I had also hoped to do High Top but turned back because of threatening weather and uncertainty about the trail. There is a way to descend from High Windy to the YMCA camp via High Top, but it is notoriously steep and was not on my map. I didn't want to be caught out there with a storm brewing. If you follow that loop, I think you could get all three peaks with about 7 miles of hiking and about 2,000 feet of climbing.

High Top is the lowest of the three peaks but is supposed to have the best views along the ridge. High Windy has a nice northern view overlooking the Swannanoa Valley toward the Craggy and Black Mountains. There are also a couple of viewpoints on the way to Jesses High Top.

Jesses High Top and High Windy both are listed at 4360. One of them belongs on the NC P1K list. If you're pursuing that list, climb them both. I think Jesses may be higher, though listsofjohn favors High Windy. On my altimeter, Jesses was 4386 and High Windy 4360. Jesses also has the perceived advantages of a wider summit contour and a steeper summit crowned by a rock outcropping.

High Windy and High Top are on the Eastern Continental Divide, but Jesses High Top is not.

Milestones of my hike:
0.0 miles/2640 elevation. Park in the main lot below Robert E. Lee Hall. Follow the paved roads uphill past the amphitheater.
0.3/2820. Trailhead. The trail follows an old jeep road all the way to High Windy.
0.7/3170. At junction, turn R, following sign for High Windy.
0.9/3270. Storm shelter. Keep R at fork.
2.0/4200. Reach top of ridge with a signed junction for the High Ridge Trail #5. Note the Cliffs logo--this is part of the Tigers Woods resort. Turn R on the High Ridge trail toward Jesses High Top.
2.1/4280. Boulders along the top of Turkey Ridge have nice views NE and SW.
2.3/4200. Turn R on signed Graybeard Connector trail (gravel road). Continue about 300 yards.
2.4/4200. Turn R on grassy road which climbs gently toward Jesses High Top.
2.5/4260. Where the road reaches the ridge, leave the road and follow the ridgeline to the top. The road continues climbing a little more, but if you follow it to its end, you'll have to go through rhododendron on the final bushwhack.
2.65/4386. Summit of Jesses High Top. Retrace your steps towards the High Windy jeep trail.
3.3/4200. Rejoin the High Windy Jeep Trail, turn R, and follow the ridge the rest of the way.
3.7/4260. Turn L at junction with gravel road.
4.1/4360. Summit of High Windy. Trail to High Top is signed on the R just before you reach the summit of High Windy.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2060 ft / 627 m
    Total Elevation Loss:2060 ft / 627 m
    Round-Trip Distance:6.9 mi / 11.1 km
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Bushwhack
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1940 ft / 591 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 1720 ft / 524 m; Extra: 220 ft / 67m
    Loss on way in:220 ft / 67 m
    Distance:4.1 mi / 6.6 km
    Route:High Windy trail, side trip to Jesses High Top
    Start Trailhead:YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly  2640 ft / 804 m
    Time:3 Hours 10 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:1840 ft / 560 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 1720 ft / 524 m; Extra: 120 ft / 36m
    Gain on way out:120 ft / 36 m
    Distance:2.8 mi / 4.5 km
    End Trailhead:YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly  2640 ft / 804 m
    Time:1 Hours 40 Minutes

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