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Ascent of Signal Pole Hill on 2018-07-15

Climber: Chris Gilsdorf

Date:Sunday, July 15, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Signal Pole Hill
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:3459 ft / 1054 m

Ascent Trip Report

This obscure peak is the most prominent summit in Cherokee County, NC, and a contender for the SE 50 most prominent list. I largely used the late Edward Earl's excellent trip report for my route. Unless you are able to gain access to the extensive private gated community of homes on the south side of the mountain, some variation of the above route will be your best bet.

I parked at Tanbark Gap, noting EE's probable undriveable road, gated and posted. Across the road were two private driveways, but no homes in view. Another road just N of the gap on the E side was unposted but appeared to dead end. I instead set off into the woods just S of the posted road, trying to contour and picking up an initially-helpful herd path. This ended, and I had to bushwhack through rhododendrons to the saddle E of Pack Top.

From here, an unused but obvious old ATV track follows the main ridgeline up and over Harris Top. The few thickets it traverses are mild. Once past Harris Top, the track becomes grassy and you pass a hunter's stand, before beginning to climb the main bulk of Signal Pole. The track opens up onto a loop at the end of a frequently-used dirt ATV trail. I followed a less-used track a minute or so to the left/east from this loop, then turned R and bushwhacked about 300' uphill through mostly open forest. I reached a first thicket which was traversable, then a second that was much more overgrown. Heading climber's left, I picked up an old two-track that cut R and uphill, still thorny but sparing one the worst of the brambles. This led to a more well-maintained dirt road, which cut uphill and L, then switchbacked R and became much more primitive and untraveled. This road eventually led right over both summit contours--high ground is no more than two steps into mild brush.

On the return, I mostly retraced my steps, but when I got to the gap E of Pack Top, I continued on the ATV trail, which led to the summit of Pack Top, disappeared for a few dozen feet, then continued down the west side, occasionally straight down, at other times switchbacking. This ultimately dumped me out at an ungated, unposted ATV trail about 0.1 mi north of where I'd parked. It's the very next track on the R driving north past Tanbark Gap. This is where I'd recommend future hikers park, as the paved road here, and for the next several tenths of a mile, has no homes in sight, and you can avoid the initial bushwhack.

Ascent took 1:15, return trip an hour. I wouldn't particularly recommend this peak unless you have a good reason to climb it; views are limited, and while hiking it from my recommended starting point would avoid any negative signage, I'm pretty sure this is all private property. The thicket area high on the mountain almost looks like something that someone had thought of developing into a home, then given up on...development on this ridge would certainly make the route more difficult, but I don't think anything is in danger of happening in the immediate future. Still glad to have this one in the books.
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