Ascent of Coldbranch Mountain on 2011-04-02

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Saturday, April 2, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Coldbranch Mountain
    Location:USA-South Carolina
    Elevation:3357 ft / 1023 m

Ascent Trip Report

I lived in Greenville almost 20 years but never climbed its highest peak till now. Greenville County has some nice mountains (especially around Caesar's Head, Jones Gap, and Camp Greenville, where Mary and I were married in 1980), but except for hard-core hikers, there are not many folks who could name the Greenville COHP, much less reach it.

Greenville has three peaks that top out in the 3320 contour (40-foot contours). Coldbranch has a spot elevation of 3357 on the USGS quad and is listed at 3355.9 on the Greenville County GIS maps. The others are Slicking Mountain (GIS=3328.6) and Little Rich Mountain (GIS=3320.3). When I first hiked them I thought Slicking might be a contender, but the GIS maps certify what most high-pointers have concluded: Coldbranch is highest.

I followed Fred Lobdell's 2003 report. From the L turn off East Fork Road, it's 3.4 miles to Gum Gap. The gravel road is fine till you enter the Watson-Cooper Heritage Preserve, where it has not been maintained. My fearless Accord made it to all the way to the gap, which is unsigned but obvious--all the other roads are gated. There's room to park a half-dozen cars, but there was no one else here on this Saturday.

Gum Gap is on the Eastern Continental Divide, which follows the SC/NC border for several miles from Ellicott Rock (N of Sassafras Mtn) to Standingstone Mtn (near Camp Greenville).

The blue-blazed Foothills Trail crosses Gum Gap and is the starting route both to Coldbranch Mountain and Slicking Mountain, which I hiked later in the day. I estimate 4 miles roundtrip to Coldbranch Mtn, including a side trip to Battered Rock Mtn.

From Gum Gap, walk E (downhill) on the Foothills Trail for 15 minutes and then cross Julian Creek on a wooden bridge.

There may be access issues here, depending on how you interpret the conflicting "Foot Travel Only" and "No Trespassing for Any Reason" signs.

If you don't want to take the risk of trespassing, look for the green-blazed boundary of the heritage preserve on the L just after crossing the creek. Follow this boundary straight up the hill and you can stay on public land. However, that way is steep and overgrown.

The road ahead is on private land. It continues past a picturesque swimming pond (probably well-used on summer weekends) and ends at the saddle SW of Coldbranch Mountain, where there is a trail camera and deerstand. This is about 20 minutes from the bridge. Turn left and continue up the ridge about 15 minutes to the summit. There's no BM or other marker on top.

On the return, you can continue SW beyond the saddle to bag Battered Rock Mtn (3308+) with a 20min side trip. Nice views of the rarely-seen cliffs on the north side of Table Rock.

If you don't mind bushwhacking, you could continue W from Battered Rock about 2 miles directly to Slicking Mtn, following the red-blazed boundary of the Greenville Watershed. But the laurel looked thick to me, and I didn't yet have the topos loaded in my brand-new GPS, so I took the safe but longer route back to Gum Gap.

See Slicking Mtn for the remainder of this trip report.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:597 ft / 181 m
    Elevation Loss:597 ft / 181 m
    Distance:4 mi / 6.4 km
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Open Country
    Weather:Cool, Windy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:447 ft / 136 m
    Extra Loss:150 ft / 45 m
    Distance:2 mi / 3.2 km
    Route:Foothills Trail EB, Cooper Road, ridgeline
    Trailhead:Gum Gap  3060 ft / 932 m
    Time Up:50 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:447 ft / 136 m
    Extra Gain:150 ft / 45 m
    Distance:2 mi / 3.2 km
    Route:Ridgeline, Cooper Road, Foothills Trail WB
    Trailhead:Gum Gap  3060 ft / 932 m
Ascent Part of Trip: Greenville Divide

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Coldbranch Mountain2011-04-02 a
2Battered Rock Mountain2011-04-02 b
3Slicking Mountain2011-04-02 c

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