Ascent of Choctaw County High Point on 2018-02-26

Climber: Chris Gilsdorf

Date:Monday, February 26, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Choctaw County High Point
    Elevation:723 ft / 220 m

Ascent Trip Report

The below route, on a weekday outside of hunting season, is the way to do this pair.

I came in from the south along good condition dirt Happy Hollow Rd, passing innumerable logging clear cuts, none showing any activity. I parked at spot elevation 618 and walked the road to McCool, passing one horrific washout at the one steep spot in the road. You'll see the highpoint--surprisingly non-obvious--from several tenths of a mile off once you emerge into a long stretch of road cleared out on the right, offering expansive, if hideous views. I made it to the lookout in good time, and started tagging bumps, but suddenly heard, then saw an approaching vehicle from the east! I was understandably spooked, but decided to play it...well, McCool. Luckily, whoever he was, he wasn't a hunter, and with just a quick wave, I left and had no further issues. Seemed to be a guy up there doing maintenance...

Given the numerous access issues surrounding the direct approaches to Choctaw, I opted to try following in Edward Earl's footsteps and just hike it directly from McCool. If you look at satellite imagery of the area, about halfway between where you park and the top of McCool, there's an ATV track that heads NE and dead-ends. I took this, with plans to follow the ridge all the way to the summit. This ATV track actually has a gnarly, man-eating sinkhole along the way that necessitates bushwhacking off the track for a minute! However, past the end of this overgrown track, the woods remain open and easy. I made good time along the ridge, figuring I had a few tenths of a mile before things opened up...when suddenly, I happened upon a massive clear-cut extending in both directions! This certainly wasn't on satellite the north, the clear-cut dropped very steeply, undulated its way uphill from there, and unless I was mistaken, made a beeline to just left of the Choctaw highpoint! Score!!

I followed the clear-cut, which had several nasty areas of standing water and small creeks at its low points, but still made steady progress toward the substantial rise ahead. This clear-cut was a highpointer's dream: didn't appear to receive much any traffic, was direct, and ran to the west of the main ridge, keeping an intrepid hiker virtually completely out of sight of surrounding homes! As the clear-cut topped out, I took an obvious right onto an ATV trail, which promptly dumped me out at the summit. Except for the buzzards, I was alone.

I retraced my steps and decided to continue along the clear-cut, as I was wanting to return to McCool and finish the gridding that had been interrupted by the truck's arrival. Beyond where I'd first emerged from the woods, the clear-cut bends to the left a bit on the way back, then makes some massive, insanely steep ups and downs. It honestly would probably just be easier to follow the ridge bushwhack instead. I finally picked up the dead-end road seen on satellite imagery that comes in just NW of McCool, and walked it back to the lookout, finishing what I'd started. The remaining hike and drive out were uneventful. For the heck of it, I drove around to the east side, which I understood to be heavily posted. That it was--except for a gated, but unposted pullout where the same clear-cut passes just west of the small white structure on Hopewell-McCool Rd seen on satellite imagery. If you're hell-bent on an eastern approach, this would be your best bet.

Since it doesn't show on the map, the clear-cut is reached at the Attala-Choctaw county line along the main ridgeline between McCool and Choctaw. For the best chance of success, I'd strongly recommend future visitors plan for this route. At any rate, I was ecstatic to have knocked off the trio of peaks contending for Mississippi's most prominent and isolated summit!
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