Ascent of Maple Camp Bald on 2019-07-04

Climber: Zachary Robbins

Date:Thursday, July 4, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Maple Camp Bald
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:5613 ft / 1710 m

Ascent Trip Report

Hike #4 for the Black Mountains Hiking Challenge

After 2 months I returned to the Black Mountains for my 4th hike of the challenge. On this day I would tackle what I consider the hardest, practical day hike in the Blacks and one of the hardest day hikes in North Carolina. That hike would be the Colbert Ridge, Black Mountain Crest, Big Tom Gap, and Buncombe Horse Range Trails loop. Starting at the Colbert Ridge Trailhead, I began the hike climbing west towards the heights of Colbert Ridge. At first it is a moderate grade, then gets much steeper a mile in as the trail condition deteriorates below two prominent knobs. These two knobs around 4,100 feet elevation have decent views north and south. The upper knob has a more open view south of the South Toe River valley.

The Colbert Ridge Trail levels out for a spell and passes by campsites and a connector to FR 239, then begins an assault on Deep Gap climbing 1,050 feet over 1.1 miles. This last section of the trail is filled with large boulders and roots covered in moss, making every step treacherous whether you are hiking uphill or downhill. The trail ends at Deep Gap, where I turned south on the Black Mountain Crest Trail passing by 2 excellent grassy campsites before the state park boundary. Then I continued climbing up to Potato Hill, another difficult climb of 730 feet in 0.8 miles. In total, the climb from the Colbert Ridge Trailhead to Potato Hill is a nearly continuous ascent of 3,700 feet over 4.9 miles. You will be hard-pressed to find an ascent as long and grueling as this in the Southeast.

The Black Mountain Crest Trail/Deep Gap Trail descends steeply from Potato Hill into a narrow gap with interesting views and forest features. After passing through the saddle the BMCT climbs gradually around the west side of Cattail Peak without ever touching the summit. It then continues on a more level path across the summit of Balsam Cone before descending to Big Tom Gap. There, I left the BMCT and the state park on the Big Tom Gap Trail, which was steep and rocky. This is the first time I've descended this trail, and it is hazardous when the rocks are wet and grasses cover the path. Fortunately it is short, and I followed the Buncombe Horse Range Trail out to Maple Camp Bald. Here I snacked and drank the last of my water, admiring the views of the South Toe River valley and the highest peaks in the East rising above.

Unfortunately, I still had almost half the hike remaining to reach my car. The BHRT below Maple Camp Bald descends quickly, 1,200 feet over 1.2 miles on numerous switchbacks. Surprisingly, this section was well-maintained and blazed, thanks NC High Peaks Trail Association! But after the switchbacks ended the BHRT follows an old forest road chock full of small rocks. It also began to rain. The last 4 miles took 2 hours as it rained heavily and made the road slippery and hazardous. The BHRT ends at Colberts Creek Rd, which required a 0.7-mile road walk to finish. This loop definitely lived up to its reputation, it is indeed one of the toughest day hikes in NC.

Distance - 13.6 miles
Elevation gain - 4,400 feet
Time - 9 hours and 40 minutes

Trails completed:
Colbert Ridge Trail <178>
Big Tom Gap Trail <191A>
Black Mountain Crest Trail <179>, section 179c
Buncombe Horse Range Trail <191>, section 191a
Summary Total Data
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Zachary Robbins
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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.

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