Ascent of Laurel Top-Southwest Ridge on 2016-01-07

Climber: Ben Lostracco

Date:Thursday, January 7, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Laurel Top-Southwest Ridge
    Location:USA-Tennessee/North Carolina
    Elevation:5040 ft / 1536 m

Ascent Trip Report

A maintained trail and herd path to 4 summits.... 2.5 miles, 1:40 hours RT.

I used the exact route as described by Mike Beavers in his TR of 2002, nothing has changed and his TR is all one needs, this TR attempts to add a few details. My distances are guess-estimates only.

The Big Junction Scenic Overlook on the Skyway is .8M west of Mile Marker 7. This was our TH.

At the south end of the Overlook is a trail signed "Snow Bird Creek Trail No 64". I followed this trail southeast up the ridge .25M to the wooded BIG JUNCTION, where the trail stays on the ridge as it continues/bends/descends southerly .25M to the saddle with Laurel Top. As noted by Mike at this point the trail drops off the ridge to the left (right) and continues more or less on the flat as it parallels/follows the ridge line southwest bound. It rejoins the sharp ridge 30 yards before the Laurel Top-Southwest Ridge. I estimate the distance from the TH to Laurel Top-Southwest Ridge at 1.3M.

I opted to follow Mikes footsteps, so at the saddle I went straight up the ridge .1M to LAUREL TOP (aptly named, needs to be visited with the flora in bloom). The ridge trail at the summit is tunnel-like amid the Laurel.
The rest of this ridge trail (more of a herd path) goes southwest ... dead-fall and a lot of brush at face-level to guard against, not easy.

As noted above, I was surprised to see "Trail No 64" meeting up with the ridge just before the LAUREL TOP-SOUTHWEST RIDGE. One small sign here "NC Wildlife Game Lands". There are no County Boundary Makers that I could find, so I went to the PB coordinates then went a bit further to ensure my HP.

I again stayed with Mike's footsteps and took "Trail No 64" back to the TH.

I ascended in 55 minutes and backtracked in 30 minutes. If I had to do it over, I would probably backtrack to the saddle once on Laurel Top and take the No 64 trail ... easier.

Once back to the TH I went to Haw Knob.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:100 ft / 30 m
    Total Elevation Loss:100 ft / 30 m
    Route Conditions:
Exposed Scramble
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:100 ft / 30 m
    Loss on way in:100 ft / 30 m
    Distance:0.7 mi / 1.2 km
    Route:herd path swb from Laurel Top
    Start Trailhead:Laurel Top  5040 ft / 1536 m
Descent Statistics
    Route:herd path swb from Laurel Top
    End Trailhead:Laurel Top  5040 ft / 1536 m
Ascent Part of Trip: LaurelT

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Big Junction2016-01-07 h120 ft / 37 m
2Laurel Top2016-01-07 i40 ft / 12 m
3Laurel Top-Southwest Ridge2016-01-07 j100 ft / 30 m
4Big Junction2016-01-07 k320 ft / 98 m
Total Trip Gain: 580 ft / 177 m    Total Trip Loss: 420 ft / 128 m

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