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Ascent of Potato Knob on 2012-09-02

Climber: Coby King

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Sunday, September 2, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Potato Knob
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:6400 ft / 1950 m

Ascent Trip Report

Based on previous reports, including the “private trail” issue that presents problems from the north from Steppes Gap, I decided to go the Mountains to the Sea Trail route. Finding the trailhead was pretty easy, and the trail west of the road is actually marked with an MST decal. From there, the trail is perfectly straightforward, steep, rough and slippery at times, but always obvious. I started at about 10:15 am, and reached the place where water trickles over a rock at about 11. I then continued up the trail, which starts to switchback up the west flank of the peak. For me, this was the crux, and I wasn’t entirely successful. It’s important to not turn off the MST until you are pretty much to the very top of the ridge, and then turn right (east). I left too early (at about 382797mE 3954750mN, and ended up bushwhacking through difficult and wet terrain for a while until I found the use trail proper). On the way back, I was able to follow the use trail pretty much all the back to the MST, and the junction is at 382790mE 3954801mN, a bit northwest of where I originally left the trail. However, this bit makes all the difference in the world.

After reaching the top, I was able to follow a very obvious route that followed the north ridge toward Clingman’s Peak. Maybe I’m wrong, but this route seemed to have been worked pretty heavily relatively recently. The raspberries were very ripe and were delicious. The route crosses a saddle, which is marked with tape and orange blazes, and then starts uphill toward Clingman’s. The route also has periodic signs on the east side of the route, saying “Property Boundary / National Forest Boundary is the center of the ridge / State Game Lands / North Carolina Wildlife Bear Sanctuary.” Eventually the route leads to a clearing, marked by a few ducks, and a sort of grassy road leads to two nice buildings with two radio towers visible behind them, one of which is the cabin mentioned in previous reports. It was not posted in any way, and I circled around the cabin, and continued to head north up a trail toward Clingman’s. Soon, I encountered a wire fence which was easy to go under, and was at the radio facility in a few more minutes. After looking for an alternative route out of the fence, I went back to where I got in, backtracked almost to the cabin, and headed up the gravel road in the general direction of Gibbes. I reached the main gravel road, found the road to Gibbes, went past the Hooch, and found the Gibbes benchmark with little difficulty.

Retracing my steps, I hoped to figure out a way to get to the MST so I could avoid climbing all the way back to the top of Potato. Plus, I then saw the multiple “Private Trail” signs mentioned in previous reports. After walking down the gravel road toward Steppes Gap looking for another trail, I eventually turned around, used the trail to get to the cabin, then up to Potato and back to the car, tracing the entire use trail from Potato to the MST in the process. I saw no one the entire trip until I was about 15 minutes from the trailhead on the way back.

Round trip stats per my GPS:

Mileage: 6.69
Moving Time: 2:37
Stopped Time: 1:22
Moving Average: 2.3
Overall Average: 1.5
Total Gain: 1715
Summary Total Data
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Partly cloudy to overcast, on the warm side
Ascent Part of Trip: Potato Knob to Gibbes (0 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
OrderPeak/PointDate
1Potato Knob2012-09-02
2Clingmans Peak2012-09-02
3Mount Gibbes2012-09-02



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