Ascent of Rich Mountain Bald on 2018-06-03

Climber: Tom Layton

Others in Party:Vince Kloster
Date:Sunday, June 3, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Rich Mountain Bald
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:5583 ft / 1701 m

Ascent Trip Report

This hike was only 3.3 miles roundtrip but was one of the hardest climbs I've done because of the intense bushwhacking and route-finding challenges. It might be a little better in winter or early spring.

We drove up Forest Road 4665 (labeled 1755 on some maps) from Charleys Creek Road, parked at Sugar Creek Gap (el. 4560), and hiked the ridgeline heading northeast. In June, this was a brutal half-mile through skin-clawing thorns and blossoming blackberry. Learn from our mistake and avoid this route in summer. It would be easier (though steeper) to start in the woods east of the gap. Further down FR 4665, at about N35.2865,W-83.0040, there is a newer forest road that might get you to 4800 feet.

Once you're past the briars and into the woods, it's a steep 500 yards up onto the ridge, which the topo suggests will be a gentle climb to the top. Unfortunately, the ridgeline is overgrown and tangled with blowdowns, and there's no obvious way through.

On the final 200-foot ascent to the summit, the woods are more open with a grassy understory that may be a remnant of the time when this was a bald. It's now overgrown with limited views north and west toward the Blue Ridge Parkway between Mount Hardy and Richland Balsam. We searched in vain for BM Waynesville 12. If you have energy left to burn, consider continuing northeast to bag Brushy Knob, which rivals Rich Mountain Bald for prominence on this spur ridge of the Great Balsams.

On the way down, pay attention to your GPS. The attached GPX file is from my descent and shows that I briefly followed the wrong ridge (veering northwest) until Vince Kloster steered me straight. In his honor, I'm naming the 40-foot bump on the western ridge Knob Kloster.

There are two mile-high peaks in NC named Rich Mountain Bald. The other is in Watauga County. I'm proud to have completed this duet.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1023 ft / 311 m
    Round-Trip Distance:3.3 mi / 5.3 km
    Route:Bushwhack SW ridge
    Trailhead:Sugar Creek Gap  4560 ft / 1389 m
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
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

This page has been served 207 times since 2005-01-15.

Copyright © 1987-2020 by All Rights Reserved. Questions/Comments/Corrections? See the Contact Page Terms of Service