Ascent of Bunches Bald on 2017-06-03

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Saturday, June 3, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Bunches Bald
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:5480 ft / 1670 m

Ascent Trip Report

Bunches Bald and Soco Bald are two sides of the same mountain, which marks the tri-corner of Swain, Haywood, and Jackson counties. Both are easily accessible through the privately run Mile High Campground, (828) 269-2945.

From the Blue Ridge Parkway at Wolf Laurel Gap (milepost 458.2), take the Heintooga Ridge Road north (following signs toward Balsam Mountain and Black Camp Gap). Then turn left at Mollies Gap at the sign for the Mile High Campground. Follow this gravel road until you see the campground office straight ahead. Bear to the right past the bathhouse and proceed a short distance to a sharp switchback that goes left and downhill. Park here and follow the woods road northwest to the last campsite, T4. A faint path from here follows the ridge up to the summit of Bunches Bald, climbing just 80 feet. USGS benchmark Bunches Bald (1928) is set in a rock on the summit. No views on top in summertime, though T4 has a wide-open view into the Smokies.

Returning to the campground office, turn left into the main camping area, and drive a short distance to campsite 19 on the left, which is the highest ground on Soco Bald. Haywood County GIS has 5-foot contours and says this is 5465.

The campground is closed November through April, but assuming the Parkway is open, it wouldn't be a hard walk.

Does Bunches Bald belong on the NC P1K list? ListsofJohn says so, but this is suspect because of how they interpolate the summit elevation. The top contour on Bunches Bald is 5480, and ListsofJohn gives it credit for rising to 5500, which would be halfway to the next 40-foot contour. The key col is at Black Camp Gap (4496) so this would give Bunches a prominence of 1,004 feet. However, Swain County GIS shows the summit at 5486, which would make the prominence 990 feet. I looked for a datasheet on the USGS Bunches Bald benchmark but could not find it.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:80 ft / 24 m
    Round-Trip Distance:0.4 mi / 0.6 km
    Route:Short bushwhack from campground
    Trailhead:Mile High Campground, site T4  5400 ft / 1645 m
    Quality:3 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
Ascent Statistics
    Time:10 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:5 Minutes

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