Ascent of Spencer Mountain on 2017-03-26

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Sunday, March 26, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Spencer Mountain
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:1240 ft / 377 m

Ascent Trip Report

Spencer Mountain was the birthplace of TV in the Carolinas. WBT (now WBTV) was broadcast from here from 1949 until 1984, when the transmitter was moved west to a 2,000-foot tower that is the tallest structure in NC.

The original Spencer TV tower has been truncated, but the security around the mountain remains high. The summit access road is gated and heavily posted, and Spencer Mountain Road itself is lined with No Parking and No Trespassing signs. I know of one fellow who climbed successfully from the old Spencer Mountain mill village (now a ghost town) on the north side of the mountain, but when I scouted that area, I saw a Gaston deputy ticketing a car parked on the shoulder. So I would not recommend that route.

Besides, there's no reason to risk it. I found a way to climb Spencer Mountain that's completely unposted and obviously well-traveled.

My hike was 1.4 miles roundtrip, including a good bit of exploration on the top. There's 450 feet of climbing, mostly in the final quarter-mile, which is a Class 2 route following a power line up the south side of the peak. If you're not familiar with the little "mountains" around Charlotte, you may be surprised how steep this is.

Start at George Poston Park, 101 Lowell Spencer Mountain Rd, Gastonia, NC 28056. From I-85 in Gastonia, take exit 22 (Cramerton/Lowell exit) and head north on Lowell's Main Street. After about 3 miles, turn left to enter the park and then go right toward the soccer fields. See Spencer Mountain ahead, and park at the northern end of the lot.

Walk up the grassy knoll north of the parking lot and find a mountain-bike path that starts at the east end of the fence that surrounds the soccer fields. This path leads north to a major power line that crosses the south side of Spencer Mountain. You can follow this right-of-way west up to the ridgeline, or cross the RoW into the woods and find a yellow-blazed bike path that also heads west/up. On the ridge, both routes intersect a smaller power line that goes to the old broadcast facility on top of Spencer Mountain.

A steep and eroded path follows the power line straight to the top. A couple of places are precarious and might be dangerous in wet weather, but those could be bypassed through the woods on either side.

The top is a pile of boulders under the old TV tower. The original 1933 benchmark was pried off long ago (leaving just the center triangle) and the original reference markers have been lost to construction. I found the USGS RM stamped Spencer No. 4, which is stamped 1933 but evidently was placed in 1965.

To the northeast, across the driveway, there is another outcropping covered in English ivy that appears to be almost as high as the boulders under the tower. Be careful here--the ivy is slippery, and if you skid over the eastern precipice, you'll fall into an abandoned quarry over 100 feet deep.

The old firetower is still standing, unfenced and climbable, though I did not go up.

The BM datasheet calculates Spencer Mountain as 1267 feet. Gaston County's GIS has 2-foot contours and shows a summit of 1256 under the tower and 1242 for the eastern outcropping. However, this is obviously not right, as it shows the outcropping rises only 6 feet, when it actually rises 15-20 feet.

There are great views to the east toward the Charlotte skyline. Looking south down the power-line route, the prominent hill is Jackson Knob southeast of Gastonia. Further west, two-humped Henry Knob is visible and Crowders Mountain is partially obscured by trees. Even better was what I did not see--not a single adverse sign anywhere along the way. Even the security sign on the old TV building was more informative than threatening.

I'd be curious to know more about the geology of Spencer Mountain. To my untrained eye, it looks like similar to Pilot Mountain near Winston-Salem, but older--as if there was a capstone that collapsed.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
The power-line chute up Spencer Mountain. Sorry if this displays sideways--it's upright in the enlargement. (2017-03-26). Photo by Tom Layton.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:480 ft / 146 m
    Round-Trip Distance:1.2 mi / 1.9 km
    Route:Power line right-of-way
    Trailhead:George Poston Park  760 ft / 231 m
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
Ascent Statistics
    Time:45 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:25 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Tom Layton
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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