Ascent of Mount Sterling on 2016-11-25

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Friday, November 25, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Sterling
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:5842 ft / 1780 m

Ascent Trip Report

At 5,842 feet, Mount Sterling is the 50th highest peak in NC--and the only one of those with a fire tower on top.

I entered Mount Sterling Gap into Google maps, which led me to the trailhead from I-40 exit 451 (first westbound exit in Tennessee). The gap is also accessible from the Cataloochee section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but that involves about 20 miles of gravel roads.

The hike was not as difficult as I feared, since it climbs nearly 2,000 feet in 2.7 miles. It follows an old jeep trail that is never steep. There are three switchbacks along the way that you can use to measure your progress.
From the trailhead, it's 0.7 miles to the first switchback at elev 4450. At 0.5 miles you'll pass a junction for the Long Bunk Trail.
At 1.3 miles reach the second switchback, elev 4900. Beyond this point, the trailbed is rockier, and poles are helpful.
At 2.4 miles you'll reach the third switchback, elev 5680, and a junction with the appropriately named Mount Sterling Ridge Trail. There is a trickling spring on the right at 3.3 miles from the trailhead.
The ridge trail flattens out for a few hundred yards before the final climb to the tower.

There are several views on the way up where the trail passes under the power line. The summit is wooded, and you need to climb to the third landing of the tower (about 40 feet up) to get a panorama.

With this peak, I'm halfway through the Carolina Lookout Tower Challenge ( Twelve down, twelve to go.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1954 ft / 595 m
    Round-Trip Distance:5.4 mi / 8.7 km
    Route:Mount Sterling trail
    Trailhead:Mount Sterling Gap  3888 ft / 1185 m
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
Ascent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 15 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 30 Minutes

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