Ascent of Little Pisgah Mountain on 2019-03-21

Climber: Henry Pharr

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Thursday, March 21, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Little Pisgah Mountain
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:4412 ft / 1344 m

Ascent Trip Report

There are two Little Pisgah Mountains in NC, and both are in Henderson County.

One is the forested HP of Henderson County, just a short hike from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

This post details the climb to the OTHER Little Pisgah Mountain which lies on the Eastern Continental Divide at the northernmost point of the Hickory Nut Gorge. Just as its cousins Bearwallow Mountain and Burnshirt Mountain are "balds", this Little Pisgah has wide open views of the Gorge below that are simply stunning on a good day.

I lucked out on the weather this day (I thought),as it was the end of a cold snap in late Spring 2019. I had heard and read about the routes up to this peak. Some recounted a "well shaped" dirt road that begins off of US 74A near Gerton, NC. The description was supremely understated. I tried the drive up "route" in 2018. True, there is a single track unmaintained road that leads up from the highway to a gap at .5 miles. Then there is a gate and beyond it a huge swells and drops meant to deter, you know, cars! My Mustang was done at that point, so I hiked the lesser peak next door (Tater Knob - see other post) and vowed to return soon to claim this summit.

On this chilly March morning, I took the route Zach Robbins and Peter Barr had written about, starting at the Florence Nature Preserve Trail pull off on US 74A. The sun was shining as I wound my way up the path that would eventually lead me to the intersection with Little Pisgah Road some 800 feet from the summit.

The trail is well maintained and sloped slowly with switchbacks, then moderately upwards through ridges and creek beds to the surprisingly well maintained dirt road at approximately 3510 feet. From here it was a road walk to the HP. However, even as the sun shone brightly the temperatures dropped significantly from the low 50's to th3 30's. As I crested the gap below the summit, the wind hit me like air blown firehose and I dropped my pack in order to pull out everything I had to put on to stay warm.

5 layers later, I continued the ascent past some beautiful Swiss-like houses and followed the tower ro up and around the peak. As I kept ascending, the snow got deeper, the wind gusted stronger and the temps dropped again. Just before the summit I realized I could no longer feel my hands; yet I kept walking. At the HP (amidst the expected towers), the wind was howling, but the views were spectacular to the North, East and South. I watched the sunshine shingle through airborne snowfall, leaving a rainbow haze on my vision. At the summit I paused to watch the weather dance and prey there and about while taking in views of the Black Mountains and the length and breadth of the Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure. Shivering in the chill, I realized that the temperature at the Lake was hovering around 60 degrees.

I walked slowly through snow drifts from the Summit to eventually made it down to the Gap. I was just too cold and hungry to hike to Blue Rock Knob across the barren windy fields. I will come again though. As I descended to the FNP Trailhead, I noticed an amazing increase in air temperature and lack of wind. Both welcome signs for me.

I hiked Burnshirt Mountain from a bushwhack from the north off the trail on the way down (see this post as well). Simply amazing. Finally making it to my car I collapsed in the driver's seat and slammed gatorade and water until I was strong enough to begin the 2.5 hour drive home.

A hike well worth it, but take care to check the conditions first!
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2563 ft / 781 m
    Total Elevation Loss:2563 ft / 781 m
    Round-Trip Distance:6.4 mi / 10.3 km
    Grade/Class:Class 1
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Snow on Ground, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Frigid, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2563 ft / 781 m
    Distance:2.9 mi / 4.7 km
    Route:Maintained Trail and Bushwhack
    Start Trailhead:Pull off on Maintained Road  1849 ft / 563 m
    Time:2 Hours 5 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:2563 ft / 781 m
    Distance:3.5 mi / 5.6 km
    Route:Maintained Trail and Bushwhack
    End Trailhead:Pull off on Maintained Road  1849 ft / 563 m
    Time:1 Hours 30 Minutes

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