Ascent of Mount Oglethorpe on 2018-04-02

Climber: Tom Layton

Others in Party:Charles Zerphey
Vince Kloster
Date:Monday, April 2, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Summit:Car
Peak:Mount Oglethorpe
    Elevation:3288 ft / 1002 m

Ascent Trip Report

Georgia's Pickens County is complicated. The maps are a mess, and the two top peaks appear to be too close to call. Mount Oglethorpe has been recognized as the county highpoint for more than a century, and I don't have any problem with highpointers who have claimed it as the COHP. But if you are planning a trip and want my advice, you should also plan to visit Burnt Mountain, which is an easy 2.6-mile roundtrip hike off the same ridge-top road.

To make sense of the maps, you need to know that the intersection of Monument Drive and GA 136 is not shown correctly on the topo maps. It has been relocated to the Pickens/Dawson County line, which is about 1.7 miles east of where it formerly connected at Sequoyah Lake. The old road still shows on topo maps and satellite photos, but it is now barricaded on both ends. (Also relocated: the namesake monument to James Oglethorpe, the founder of the colony of Georgia, now stands in the county seat of Jasper.)

As you start up the new Monument Road and reach the crest of the ridge, notice a gated road on the right (west) side. This is the top end of the original Monument Road and is the trailhead for Burnt Mountain. There is a gravel pull-off where you can park on the left (east) side. Bypass the gate, cross a berm, and hike west on the old paved road for 0.8 miles, Turn left past a steel gate on the left and continue 0.5 miles up an abandoned driveway to the summit, where you'll find impressive stone ruins of the old Connahaynee Lodge. It was built in 1930 and burned down in 1947. The roundtrip hike is 2.6 miles and is mostly level, with an easy climb of 180 feet in the last half mile.

Return to your car and continue south on Monument Road about 5 miles. It's paved until it enters the Eagles Rest Park atop Mount Oglethorpe. The park gate is open in daylight hours (and if you happen to arrive after dark, the gate would be easy to walk around). The fenced summit encloses communications towers and the original concrete pedestal of the Oglethorpe monument. Except for some stones piled against the pedestal, the ground inside the fence is no higher than the land outside the northwest side of the fence. It looks like the benchmark may be inside the fence near the western corner of the tower building, but there was no way for us to get close to it. Views from the top are blocked by trees, but there are spectacular views from four bird-watching platforms on the trail that encircles the summit.

Which mountain is higher?

The oldest topo maps (1885+ on ListsofJohn) show peak elevations of 3,290 for Mount Oglethorpe (then known as Grassy Top) and 3,251 for Burnt Mountain (also known as Burrell Top). That's probably why Mount Oglethorpe has been regarded as the county highpoint for so long.

The newest quads list Mount Oglethorpe at 3,288 feet. Twenty-foot contours indicate that Oglethorpe and Burnt Mountain both top out between 3,280 and 3,300. ListsofJohn interpolates elevations and lists Burnt at 3290--two feet higher than Oglethorpe. In this case, that's not a fair distinction. The top contour is a little larger on Burnt, but that's not necessarily an indicator of the height within. Both summits have been flattened by construction, and there are no significant outcroppings. I walked down to to the 3,280 contours, and from there, each summit appears to rise about 10 feet inside the top contour. Until surveyors say otherwise, I think it's a tie for the county high point as well as the P1K prominence.

Here's more about the history of Mount Oglethorpe and Burnt Mountain. Thanks to the Mount Oglethorpe Foundation for making the summit accessible. From 1958 to 2014, it was not.
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    Quality:2 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)

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