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Ascent of Black Fork Mountain on 2016-01-30

Climber: Dennis Stewart

Others in Party:Marshall Stewart -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Date:Saturday, January 30, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Black Fork Mountain
    Location:USA-Arkansas
    Elevation:2660 ft / 810 m

Ascent Trip Report

As far as I can determine, Black Fork Mountain is the 4th highest named highpoint in Arkansas. My son, Marshall, and I had a bit of difficulty locating the trailhead. We were not aware of the access point located just west of the town of Eagleton on the north side of Highway 270. We drove right by this trailhead and did not notice the large sign indicating that this was the trailhead for Black Fork Mountain using the Ouachita Trail. This is a long climb, however, and despite being a popular trail, there are sections of thorn bushes that will grab your arms once in a while. This is especially true on the summit. Since the Ouachita Trail does not pass directly over the summit, you will have some serious bushwhacking to do in order to bag this peak. The summit ridgeline is also rocky and difficult to traverse with thorn bushes growing in between so many rocks. I had an especially frustrating problem here due to my age. I must have been over confident and I hiked the 5.75 miles (according to my GPS) too rapidly. Just 50 yards from the summit I was experiencing leg cramps in both legs that were so bad I decided I could not safely travel across the rocks and thorns on the summit ridgeline to reach the top. My son would not stand for this and he said he was going to carry me if I didn't make it on my own. I slowly traversed the short distance across the ridge and happily joined my son on the summit with its great views in all directions, but I was very worried how I would handle the descent with my cramped legs. Luckily, down climbing was no problem and I was able to hike just as fast as Marshall. I was very relieved because I was not looking forward to having to spend a cold January night near the summit of Black Fork Mountain. We returned to the car by a different route. During the ascent we left the trail and bushwhacked about a mile in order to save us a 400-foot loss in elevation before climbing again. On the return we reached a junction in the trail where we would have to begin that 400-foot elevation gain. We chose to take our chances and continue hiking straight instead of climbing up the mountain again on the Ouachita Trail. This new route proved to be a great choice. It eventually turned into a jeep (ATV trail) road and ended at a railroad crossing about 1 mile west of the original trailhead. It was a much more direct route than the Ouachita Trail and it was not posted. We ended up having to walk down the railroad in the dark for a mile in order to return to my car, but if we had parked at the end of the jeep trail we could have saved ourselves several miles of hiking for the day. Our entire round trip hike took a little over 6 hours. If we had started from the railroad crossing at the end of the jeep trail, I believe we could have comfortably done this climb in less than 5 hours.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack



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