Ascent of Yellow Mountain on 2017-02-25

Climber: Bradley R

Date:Saturday, February 25, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Yellow Mountain
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:5127 ft / 1562 m

Ascent Trip Report

How I chose this hike: It had been a while since I'd knocked out a peak on one of my lists. Yellow and Shortoff Mountain were each on at least one list.

Parking: I placed "Cole Gap, Sugarfork, NC" into Google Maps and it took me to within 100 feet of the trailhead.

The Plan: Hike Yellow Mountain trail across the top of Shortoff Mountain then to the Fire Tower atop Yellow Mountain. I planned to stay at the fire tower until sunset and hike back in the dark. I was planning for a 4.8 mile hike, one-way, to the summit and a relatively difficult hike based on some reading I had done.

The hike:
After a 2.5 hour drive I reached the trailhead and left at 2:34 PM. After about 1.75 miles of hiking I reached the top of Shortoff. To this point it had been mostly relatively easy uphill. After reaching the top I begin down hill initially at an easy grade, but soon I would plunge toward Yellow Mountain Gap (about 900 feet below the top of Shortoff). Dropping down in elevation I met a sign the said I was 2.4 miles from Cole Gap and 2.4 miles from Yellow Mountain. This matched up with what I'd read online, a 4.8 mile hike one way.

I had reached Yellow Mountain Gap at roughly 3.5 miles (this was the lowest elevation point in the hike). Soon after this I realized I was no longer on the trail I had mapped out on my GPS. However, blazing was still the same and eventually I came to a reflective sign that again read Yellow Mountain Tr. Knowing that I was still on the correct trail I continued. During this time I was only slightly gaining elevation. This remained true until about 5 miles of hiking (notice this is already more than the 4.8 I had planned on).

After the 5 mile mark I hit the 1st switchback up Yellow Mountain, there would be several more as I hiked up the mountain. I reached the fire tower at just over 6 miles of hiking, about 1,000' above Yellow Mountain Gap and about 800' above the trailhead.

When reading about this hike I had expected it to be difficult enough that I'd average 35-40 minutes per mile for 4.8 miles, and had planned accordingly to get to the peak before sunset. In reality I averaged 23 minutes per mile for 6 miles, and ended up at the tower quite a bit earlier than expected. I waited over an hour for the sunset, which was nice, but not spectacular. While waiting I began struggling to keep my hands warm, and left the tower earlier than I would've otherwise. Views at the summit were nice, and you could basically see 360 degrees from the tower. In the summer time with foliage the views to the north may be significantly blocked. To the south it was amazing how suddenly the landscape became flat. I believe I was looking well into SC.

Knowing that I had a shorter route on my GPS than what I had taken to the summit I followed it to try to find the trail I thought I may have missed earlier.

As I left the tower I soon split off the route I took up and found the gravel road I'd expected to eventually hit on the way up. At ~6.5 miles I split off what my GPS called a road onto what I had listed as a footpath, but instead it remained a dirt road for roughly a tenth of a mile. Here the dirt road ended and there was a trail and I though alright I found the shorter route back. I followed this trail, but after about 30 yards there was a view and the trail abruptly ended. I could find no other signs of a trail. It was getting dark so I made the decision to turn around and head back the same way I'd came in.

I reached the point to return to the route I took up at about 7.2 miles. At this point it was getting quite dark and I put on and turned on my headlamp.

From here I returned via the route I had came in on, finishing the hike at about 13.2 miles (would have been ~12 miles if I had not tried to find the shorter route). I finished with an average pace just under 23 minutes per mile. I've hiked in the dark quite a bit, but always with someone else. Hiking in the dark by myself I became a bit more paranoid than I had expected, after about 30 minutes I settled back down. I also sang out loud some which made me feel more comfortable. The hike back up Shortoff from Yellow Mountain gap (in this section) was probably the most tiring portion of the hike.

Drove 2.5 hours back home, getting home at 12:30 AM.

What I learned:
After the hike, I found, online, minimal information about the Yellow Mountain Trail being rerouted. It does not even give a date for when the reroute was decided upon or completed. Basically all it says is the reroute will be to avoid private properties. I believe the 4.8 mile trail is no longer maintained, or easily follow-able. I also believe the sign that says 2.4 miles to Cole Gap; 2.4 miles to Yellow Mountain, is left over from before the reroute. If you hike the current trail you will hike 6 miles one way to the fire tower, 12 miles round trip. Based on other trip reports I believe the reroute has occurred since some time in 2014.

I met two groups of hikers heading back to Cole Gap while I was headed to Yellow Mountain.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2057 ft / 626 m
    Total Elevation Loss:2057 ft / 626 m
    Round-Trip Distance:13.2 mi / 21.2 km
    Quality:2 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Gear Used:
Headlamp, Ski Poles
    Weather:Cold, Very Windy, Clear
Clear Windy and cold
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2057 ft / 626 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 807 ft / 246 m; Extra: 1250 ft / 381m
    Loss on way in:1250 ft / 381 m
    Distance:6.1 mi / 9.7 km
    Route:Yellow Mountain Trail
    Start Trailhead:4320 ft / 1316 m
    Time:2 Hours 23 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:807 ft / 245 m
    Distance:7.1 mi / 11.4 km
    Route:Yellow Mountain Trail
    End Trailhead:4320 ft / 1316 m
    Time:2 Hours 39 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Yellow Mountain

Complete Trip Sequence:
 Shortoff Mountain2017-02-25 ac 
 Yellow Mountain2017-02-25 b2057 ft / 627 m
Total Trip Gain: 2057 ft / 627 m    Total Trip Loss: 2057 ft / 627 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Bradley R
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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