Ascent of Celo Knob on 2016-09-03

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Saturday, September 3, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Celo Knob
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:6327 ft / 1928 m

Ascent Trip Report

Celo Knob and Gibbs Mountain are just a mile apart on the northern end of the Black Mountains, and both are on the South Beyond 6000 list, so I bagged them both with a 10.5-mile hike that involved about 3450 feet of elevation gain. If you are just going to Celo, it would be 9 miles and 3250 feet.

I hiked the orange-blazed Crest Trail, which is signed as the Black Mountain Crest Trail south of Celo Knob.

Here are some helpful guides from the Carolina Mountain Club website:
Trail map southbound from Bolens Creek to Mount Mitchell.
Trail profile to accompany map above.
GPS track to accompany map above.
Google Trekker video of the Crest Trail!

I have photos and additional information on my blog.

The trailhead is challenging to find and parking is very limited. Set your GPS for Water Shed Road, Burnsville, NC. This looks like a residential driveway where it turns off Bolens Creek Road. After a short distance, there is a small parking area on the right, and a sign that warns against driving further unless you are in a 4x4. Two pickups filled the parking area, and I had a 4WD Mazda Tribute, so I carefully continued up the very rocky road another 100 yards to the creek, where there is room to park another 6-8 vehicles. Don't try it if you don't think you can clear foot-high boulders.

Most of the climb is on old logging roads at an average gain of 700 feet per mile, which was not as hard as I feared it would be. You may go a long ways without seeing orange blazes, but the route is pretty obvious. There is just one unsigned fork at the half-mile mark--stay left (uphill) and avoid the road that crosses the creek. You will be in the shade for the first four miles.

Details of the hike:
0.0 miles (3120 feet): Cross Bowlens Creek (the creek is spelled differently than the road) on a decrepit bridge and pass a gate.
0.5 miles (3480): Where the road forks, take the left fork uphill.
0.7 miles (3600): Trail turns north, away from the creek.
1.3 miles (4000): Trail reaches the ridgeline and turns southeast.
2.3 miles (4700): Spring on the right.
2.5 miles (4880): Campsite on the right. The next half-mile is nearly level and follows what must have been a logging railroad.
3.0 miles (5040): Rock-hop across a tributary of Bowlens Creek.
3.2 miles (5200): Trail steepens beyond the first of eight switchbacks.
3.8 miles (5720): Iron-tinged spring on the left.
4.2 miles (6160): Trail reaches the summit meadow and then starts to descend as you continue southeast. The first time it crests, there is a temptation to enter the woods and bushwhack to the summit. There probably is a way, but if you want my advice, stay on the Crest trail as it loops down and then climbs back up to the ridgeline on the other side of the meadow.
4.3 miles (6160): USFS stakes on the left mark where the trail name changes from Crest Trail to Black Mountain Crest Trail. This also marks the start of the quarter-mile path up to Celo's summit. The path is fairly easy to follow (even through summer berry patches) and ribbons mark a couple of places where you have to scramble up rocks. The best view is about halfway up--a clifftop facing east where the panorama includes Elk Knob, Grandfather Mountain, and Table Rock.
4.5 miles (6327): Summit. There is supposed to be a benchmark, but I couldn't find it.
4.8 miles (6160): Rejoin the trail and head south on the Black Mountain Crest Traill toward Gibbs Mountain, which is the second of three summits ahead.
4.9 miles (6120): At a fork, stay left on the BMCT. Continue past unranked Percy's Peak on the left, which includes the Horse Rock outcropping. I did not climb this one because I did not see an obvious route.
5.5 miles (6100): Look for pink/black ribbons on the left marking the manway up to Gibbs Mountain. This spot is opposite two old spruce or fir trees on the right, which is otherwise meadows. The path is overgrown but there are enough ribbons to guide you.
5.6 miles (6200): Rocky outcroppings mark the summit of Gibbs Mountain.
5.7 miles (6100): Return to BMCT and head north back to the car. (Or if you are up to the challenge, continue south another 2 miles to reach Winter Star Mountain, which is also on the SB6K list.)
10.5 miles (3120): Finish.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3487 ft / 1062 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3487 ft / 1062 m
    Round-Trip Distance:11 mi / 17.7 km
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3247 ft / 989 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3207 ft / 978 m; Extra: 40 ft / 12m
    Loss on way in:40 ft / 12 m
    Distance:4.5 mi / 7.2 km
    Route:Crest Trail
    Start Trailhead:Bowlens Creek Trailhead  3120 ft / 950 m
    Time:4 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3447 ft / 1050 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 3207 ft / 978 m; Extra: 240 ft / 73m
    Gain on way out:240 ft / 73 m
    Distance:6.5 mi / 10.5 km
    Route:Crest Trail
    End Trailhead:Bowlens Creek Trailhead  3120 ft / 950 m
    Time:3 Hours 30 Minutes

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