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Ascent of Sharpy Mountain on 2013-10-19

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Saturday, October 19, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Sharpy Mountain
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:3320 ft / 1011 m

Ascent Trip Report

Sharpy Mountain is among eight hikes in the White Squirrel Challenge, sponsored by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. It's 1.5 miles outbound with about 700 feet of climbing from Turkey Pen Gap. The White Squirrel Challenge hike (called the Turkeypen/South Mills River loop) returns along the river and is 6.4 miles roundtrip.

The CMLC website has an excellent description and map of the route. I neglected to print that and had to navigate by GPS and memory of what I read on the web. I made a couple of wrong turns, but the junctions are well-marked and the trail is easy to follow if you don't get impatient.

CMLC describes this hike as "very strenuous," which I presume is flattering to donors who complete it. Actually, the walking is fairly easy except for a moderately steep climb (500 feet in a half mile) on the east side of Sharpy Mountain. It's all Class 1. The more difficult part is the descent from Wagon Road Gap to the river, which involves some slippery rock-hopping where you'll appreciate your trekking poles and boots.

Trailhead is at the end of Turkeypen Gap Road off NC280 between Brevard and Mills River. The road is signed but narrow and rough, and you'll think you've turned into a washed-out driveway. Cars can make it with care. The road improves once you cross into NF land. There is a large parking area that was full when I arrived on this peak-color weekend. The riverside trail is popular with mountain bikers, and there were lots of people camping and fishing along the river.

My GPS mileage varies slightly from the CMLC website. (I've subtracted my wrong turns).
The hike:
0.0 miles/2680 elevation: Take the blue-blazed Turkey Pen Gap trail west from the parking area. It climbs steps up onto the ridge and then levels off to Simpson Gap.
1.0/2720: Beyond Simpson Gap, begin the steep walk up Sharpy Mtn.
1.5/3320: Reach the top of Sharpy Mtn, marked by a USDA/NFS benchmark. No views.
2.5/3040: Reach trail junction at Wagon Road Gap. McCall Mtn is 0.7 miles further west but it is unranked and I did not go that far. Turn right on the orange-blazed Wagon Road Gap trail, which descends through a drainage.
3.2/2600: Reach the South Mills River Road, which is an old logging railroad grade. Turn right (downstream) and follow the white blazes. This is the mountain-bike trail.
3.4/2580: Cross suspension bridge to north side of creek. Continue downstream on a nearly level trail. There are lots of backcountry campsites along the river.
5.0: Trail leaves the riverside and climbs higher but still follows the winding course of the river.
5.4: Don't be fooled by a side trail on the right which leads down toward a short footbridge. This is a nice camping area but a dead end.
5.9/2420: Turn right on a trail signed "Footbridge". This crosses the river on another suspension bridge. On the far side, turn right and follow the white-blazed trail for 0.5 miles (climbing 240 feet) to the Turkeypen parking lot.
6.4/2680: Finish.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1200 ft / 365 m
    Total Elevation Loss:1200 ft / 365 m
    Round-Trip Distance:6.4 mi / 10.3 km
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:760 ft / 231 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 640 ft / 195 m; Extra: 120 ft / 36m
    Loss on way in:120 ft / 36 m
    Distance:1.5 mi / 2.4 km
    Route:Turkeypen Gap trail
    Start Trailhead:Turkeypen Gap  2680 ft / 816 m
    Time:1 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:1080 ft / 329 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 640 ft / 195 m; Extra: 440 ft / 134m
    Gain on way out:440 ft / 134 m
    Distance:4.9 mi / 7.9 km
    Route:Wagon Rd Gap trail, South Mills River trail
    End Trailhead:Turkeypen Gap  2680 ft / 816 m
    Time:3 Hours 



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