Ascent of Mount Rogers on 2007-06-22

Climber: John Hasch

Date:Friday, June 22, 2007
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Rogers
    Elevation:5729 ft / 1746 m

Ascent Trip Report

Friday, 6/22/2007

With some free time this weekend, I decided to embark on the return trip to Mount Rogers. I knew it was late, but this weekend might still give me a chance to see some of the famous rhododendrons in bloom. I also had a Trails Illustrated map, and Mount Rogers would be the first stop of the day to allow ample time for hiking. Once this peak was conquered, I hoped to roam south to Mount Mitchell before returning back to liberate (conquer) Clingman’s Dome.

For a direct route to Mount Rogers, I chose to follow the familiar route our family has frequently traveled to my hometown of Martinsville, a VA town about 100 miles east of the summit. Leaving around 8:00pm Thursday night, I drove through Ohio to Columbus. I cruised past Campbell Hill, this time aware of its trivial standing as the Ohio HP. South on US 23 to the Ohio River, I crossed into Kentucky and coursed generally east to Charleston WV. The final leg of the trip rode I-77 and the WV Turnpike past its southern terminus to Wytheville VA via two mountain tunnels. I still get excited as I honk my horn deep within the bowels of the mountain that passes overhead.

I make good time and arrive in Wytheville around 6:00am. I stopped and got a brief rest before continuing on to Grayson Highlands State Park and the Massie Gap trailhead. I made a brief stop at McDonald’s for some OJ and a couple of breakfast sandwiches, one of which I saved for an after-summit reward.

I arrived at the park just before 9:00am, and the front gate had not yet become manned. I began filling out the self-registration to pay the park entrance fees. Before I was finished, two female rangers arrived and manned the front gate’s office. I gave them my entrance money and was on my way to Massie Gap.

The day was beautiful, and I just knew this day would be successful. I packed some things into my pack – water, camera, rain gear, first-aid, other essentials – and I set off to climb to the summit of my home state.

I traveled north along the Rhododendron Trail and then chose to follow the map along the horse trails as they trended NNE to the Rhododendron Gap. At the state park boundary, I crossed through the fence and immediately was met by some wild ponies. I snapped several pictures as I wished my horse-loving daughter could be here with me.

The trails to Rhododendron Gap did indeed take me past some rhododendron bushes. However, most flowers had already fallen away, so color was sparse. I took a picture or two of some of the flowers that were seen.

As the horse trail neared the Crest Trail (a short trail to the Gap), I recognized that this was the area I had reached when I aborted the last trip to Mount Rogers. The hike from here was on new turf, virgin to my hiking boots.

I reached Rhododendron Gap soon after encountering my only two horse riders of the day. I paused for a bit to enjoy the view and take a brief rest. Then, I departed west along the Appalachian Trail as it trended west to the Thomas Knob shelter. The trail was mostly flat at this point, winding through two more fence stiles and through some trees before taking a turn and exposing the shelter building.

There were several hikers resting and passing the shelter while I was there. Some were eating, some were napping, others were just resting briefly. All were traveling the AT, and the few who spoke of Mount Rogers’ stature did so with clear disinterest. They had either been to the summit before or did not care to take such a trivial side trip.

So I left the shelter pumped that I was near the turnaround summit. I continued west on the AT for maybe ½ mile before coming to the spur trail that left to climb to the summit. A sign was seen that clearly pointed the way to Mount Rogers. I followed this rocky, climbing trail as it entered the forest that blankets the head of this mountain. I passed a man and his boy as they declared “You’re almost there – only another 1000 feet or so”.

Not seeing many people and no longer needing the contents of my pack, I dropped it in the forest just off the side of the trail. I took my camera and GPS and continued on to the summit. When the rocks seemed to climb no higher, I looked to my left and found the BM atop the boulder that marked the HP of Mount Rogers. I was there!

I paused for a few minutes to take some pictures and record some data. As many before me have pointed out, the view from the HP was totally blocked because it rests in the middle of the forest. So it wasn’t very long before I was on my way back down to my pack and Thomas Knob shelter.

At the shelter, I paused to eat and rest a bit longer than most other rests. Now more than half way done, I was making my last significant stop. I returned to Massie Gap along the same route. I was back at the car after about 6 hours.

The hike itself was pleasant, but when I got back, I was drained of energy. I had underestimated the amount of food to take on the hike. I had not eaten nearly enough, and at the car I was feeling sick from low blood sugar among other things. I ate the sandwich and an apple that was in the car, but that did not quench the need for fuel. I rested for about an hour before driving to the park’s campground store where I bought a couple energy drinks and a candy bar. Not the best, but this nourishment did restore some of the missing energy. A short while later, I was back on the road to my next stop, Mount Mitchell. I stopped at another McDonald’s, and I drove a couple more hours before crashing at a rest stop on I-26 north of Asheville NC.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1510 ft / 460 m
    Extra Gain:250 ft / 76 m
    Round-Trip Distance:9 mi / 14.5 km
    Route:Horse trails on/near Appalachian Trail
    Trailhead:Massie Gap Parking Lot  4719 ft / 1438 m
Ascent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 50 Minutes

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