Ascent of Plott Balsam Mountain on 2020-07-19

Climber: Garth Brown

Date:Sunday, July 19, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Plott Balsam Mountain
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:6088 ft / 1855 m

Ascent Trip Report

So don’t make the mistakes I did on this one hike and take the wrong turn off Lyn Lowry! More on that later.

I did the three Roan Highland SB6K peaks on Saturday and thought I would try and do these four the next day. I knew it would be a much harder hike so I got to the trailhead (Watterrock Overlook) at 7 AM and headed out right after that. That hike is so easy to follow, the most map challenged person could get up to the top. Right before the top at the last turn, there is a small manway trail heading off to the left, which is the way to Lyn Lowry.

I found the benchmark on the summit of Waterrock and then backtracked a few feet heading down the trail. The first part was full of roots and rocks, but not hard to find thanks to the yellow blazes. It eventually goes over Browning Knob and pretty steeply drops off. Near a more level spot, I saw a manway off to the left with some flagging tape. I assume that is where the plane had crashed. I thought I might check it out on the way back, but I wanted to say energy for the rest of the hike (Oh, did I say that the day before, I set out to try and do the Roan Highlands peak in less than 4 hours and did? Well I was more tired than I wanted to admit.) The rest of the trail was straightforward to Lyn Lowry as long as you stay on the ridge. Sometimes you could not fully see the trail from the overgrown bushes and just had to trust you were going in the right direction.

I got to Lyn Lowry and I pulled the phone out of my side pocket to take a picture. Unfortunately, my pants were damp from the dew and in bouncing around, my phone thought someone had been trying to log into it and locked. It would not let me in for about 30 min. I should have sat down and taken a very early lunch. With that, I could not pull up the GPS and the map. I quickly looked around and saw a trail heading off the summit. I remembered it went to the NE (stupid me, I did not pull out my compass) down a very steep ridge and would eventually end in an old logging road. I saw a trail heading out, so I went that way. I remember thinking it was not that bad of a trail and better than most of what I had been on earlier that day. I made it to cell phone tower with a decent road. I pulled out the phone and realized I still had about 15 minutes before I could check the GPS. I continued down the road until finally something just seemed very wrong as the road was too good and the trail was not that steep. By that time, I could check where I was and saw that I had gone off the SE side of the peak. AGGHH!!! I then had to go back up and go the other way, which shows up on the GPS trace.

Once on the summit, I could not find the right trail, but with the compass and GPS knew I needed to go in the right direction. I started to the left of a fallen tree and lost a lot of altitude to the north and knew I needed to back to the ridge and to the east. Once around some bad climbing, I finally found the trail, if you can call it that. It was super steep, so I knew I was going the right way. I then continued until I found the faint logging road. I followed that until it came to a clearing. The old road seemed to curve to the east (right) and away from where I needed to go, so I went straight through the bush. Shortly thereafter, I found the road again. I followed that trail for a good mile or so. Then eventually you come to a point, where the road really seems to climb up to the right. There is a very faint arrow with branches in the road. That is the start of the bushwhack off to your left.

The climb to the summit is straightforward and you can clearly see that people have done it. Once on the summit, I made the return trip back to my car. Wow, the end of Lyn Lowry is very steep and when coming out at the cross and grass, I looked back at the trail I had just come up through the briars. It was so overgrown; I could barely see it and could tell how it could be easily missed.

Eventually I made it back to my truck in the parking lot. Along the way, I thought about not doing the last peak of Yellow Face as I was tired, scratched up, and muddy. I got a snack, reloaded with water, and headed out for the last one. Near end of that extra mile to the summit, it got steep, but compared to north side of Lyn Lowry, it’s almost flat. I am so thankfully I did that extra peak. It only added an extra 2 miles, but I did not want to have to come back for it. Make sure you get that peak to not come back. I then made it to the truck and drove home tired.

Total distance for the peaks: 12.9 miles (however, had I not done the stupid detour, it would have been 11.6 miles)
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Hike overview with comming off Lyn Lowery the wrong side (2020-07-19). Photo by Garth Brown.
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Summary Total Data
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

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

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

Other Photos

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Profile (2020-07-19). Photo by Garth Brown.
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