Ascent of Mount Le Conte-West Point on 2020-03-23

Climber: Keith Turner

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Monday, March 23, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Le Conte-West Point
    Elevation:6344 ft / 1933 m

Ascent Trip Report

Stayed the night at the Baymont in Cherokee. I was one of two people staying the night and found out that the reservation was closing the next day at noon due to the Corona Virus. Everything unplugged in my room. Weird feeling. Slept in to recover from the driving to Front Royal, down Skyline Drive, and down the entire Blue Ridge Parkway and knocking out Black Balsam, Tennent, and Grassy Cove yesterday. Plus there was some rain moving through. Starting climbing from the Rainbow Falls Trailhead at 12:10. 49 degrees and overcast. I guess the information the desk clerk gave me about every trail in the Smoky Mountains being closed was wrong. Crossed the creek with the first smaller waterfall at 2.7 miles and 1:45pm. Rainbow Falls at 3.1 and 2:00pm. At 3.7 there was another creek to cross. This one was sketchy with the high flow from the heavy rains. Had to cross a little downstream from the main crossing and doing a rock hop on wet rocks. Soon after this the rain started where I had to get the parka on. Looking at the forecast I was happy to have made it this far completely dry. Rain didn't last long. Heavy mist started once I got around the Rocky Spur Overlook Trail at 5.8 and around 6000 feet. 6.5 to the Bullhead Trail where I took a left. 7.0 to Alum Cave Trail where I took a right .2 miles to the sharp left turn in the trail and the manway to the right to West Point. 0.5 mile bushwhack over what I felt was a pretty easy to follow manway. The problem is that it is overgrown in spots. Got drenched sliding through the wet spruce needles. Plus years of people breaking off branches along the manway and leaving sharp ends lead to my $5 REI rain parka getting hilariously destroyed. Ended up with many holes, the left arm being ripped off and a large section hanging down to my feet. I was 99% dry when the bushwhack started. Now I'm wet. 0.5 miles to summit (25 min). A couple downclimbs necessary on the way. One was a minor class 3. Could probably go around the north side to avoid these areas but you'd have to go through more brush. Right before the summit is the 10-12 foot high class 3 rock climb that was tricky in the wet weather. Had to leave my poles behind. No views at the summit unfortunately with the rain clouds. No sign or indication of the summit. 7.7 miles overall and 4 hours and 50 min. Quickly headed back as I wanted to get the soaking bushwhack over with. At the class 3 spot near the summit I veered down the manway to the right this time. It was easier than downclimbing the wet rock outcropping I climbed up. Very overgrown though. I knew I'd be doing some hiking in the dark so I had to get moving...Quick 3:25 hike back. Most of the trail above Rainbow Falls was a creek. Back to car at 8:25. Garmin said 7.1 down so 14.8 overall in 8 hours and 15 min. About 30 min of hiking with the headlamp. Great overall hike. Wouldn't recommend in rain though. Especially bushwhack. Would have been so much better if I wasn't in the clouds the whole time but still I was happy to knock out West Point which seems to be one of the less summited 6k peaks in the east. 50 of 56 6k peaks in the east now summited. Maybe 20 people on the trail. Had most of the climb above Rainbow Falls to myself which was nice.
Summary Total Data
    Round-Trip Distance:14.8 mi / 23.8 km
    Grade/Class:A couple class 3 are
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Bushwhack, Stream Ford, Scramble, Rock Climb
    Gear Used:
Headlamp, Ski Poles
    Weather:Drizzle, Cool, Breezy, Low Clouds
Misty light rain over 6k feet
Ascent Statistics
    Distance:7.7 mi / 12.4 km
    Route:Rainbow Falls Tr to Bullhead Tr to Alum Cave Tr to
    Start Trailhead:Rainbow Falls  
    Time:4 Hours 50 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Distance:7.1 mi / 11.4 km
    Route:Bushwhack to Alum Cave Tr to Bullhead Tr to Rainbo
    End Trailhead:Rainbow Falls  
    Time:3 Hours 25 Minutes

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