Ascent of Clark Mountain on 2010-10-03

Climber: John Hasch

Date:Sunday, October 3, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Clark Mountain
    Elevation:1440 ft / 438 m

Ascent Trip Report

1440+ ft.
Clark Mountain

Sunday, 10/3/2010

Having successfully summit the first of 6-planned state highpoints, I now set my sights on the most anticipated climb of the day, perhaps of the entire trip. I had read much about the boulders atop Clark Mountain. I had wavered about doing this one because of the possible need for climbing assistance to succeed.

I did not have a professional quality climbing rope with me. I debated the situation with myself that morning, and the winner was my belief that I would regret not attempting this one if I had enough time to do so. So when I got up this morning after camping at another local Wal-Mart, I went inside and found a nice 75-foot, braided utility rope whose load capacity was listed at over 500lbs. Though not a professional-grade climbing rope, I believed I could make use of this tool to get me on top of Clark Mountain. I also picked up a 12-pack of bottled water for today and the rest of the trip.

From Taum Sauk, the approach to Clark Mountain is from the north along SR49. I followed my GPS blindly because it had done quite well for me – before now. From SR49, I wound my way along CR341 (Canyon Road) before turning onto Canyon Club Lane. This is the long road seen on the topo on the west side of Clark Mountain just NW of the “13” at approx. N37.19013 W90.67682. There was a gate across the road here. But there was room to turn around and park. A nice road led up the mountain, and my GPS said the summit was about 0.5mi away, so I loaded up my supplies and set off up the road.

To make a long story short, this road led to an (apparently) unoccupied home that sat up the hill some 300ft. The road died, and I did not see any easy way to continue up the hill other than a bushwhack. I decided this was not an approach to use, so I went back down the hill to my truck. This gave me 24 minutes of hiking, 300ft of gain, and a failed effort to reach the summit.

Armed with prior trip reports, I then decided to set my sights on the approach used by others. I set my GPS for the more traditional SE approach from SR34. I drove to Piedmont and SR34, traveled northeast past the drive-in theater, and soon found the approach road to the left. I knew I was on the right road when I soon arrived at the satellite building and dishes described by others.

Now at the known trailhead, I loaded a backpack with a few supplies and set off for the summit. The road climbs the mountain in a general north-northwest direction. The road was easy to follow on foot. But I would be amazed by anyone who could actually drive this route all the way to the summit. Perhaps an ATV or a carefully-guided 4-wheel drive could do it, but I would still applaud the success of such a vehicle.

I had water, but I did not have much nourishment with me. I left my truck at about 4:07pm, and I did not reach the top until just before 5-ish. The climb was trouble for this climber whose out-of-shape condition was soon obvious. I made several rest stops along the way, sometimes taking fluids. For a seasoned climber, this was not really a big climb, I believe. But for me in my current condition, it was quite a challenge.

Once atop the mountain, I could see the towers ahead of me. Knowing the high boulders were to my west, I immediately veered that direction and was soon in the field of boulders. I looked around at some very impressive candidates before I saw THE one. Sheer sides. Tall. The clincher was the piece of radio tower that I saw laying against the eastern side. THIS WAS IT!

Others had used the tower to climb the boulder, so I immediately mounted it and climbed to the top. From here, there was a gap of 6-8 feet up a decent slope to arrive at the true top. I saw no way for me to confidently and successfully ascend this final distance. So it was back down the tower to view the boulder from all sides and decide how to climb.

I finally decided to use the rope I had with me. Along the NW side, I found some trees next to the boulder. I got out the rope, reclimbed the tower, and tossed a length across the top toward the trees. I bow-hitched one end to the trees. I then returned to the tower side, pulled the rope tight, and tied it off to some trees found on this side.

To get atop the boulder, I climbed the tower once again. This time, I had a rope to assist me. I walked up the sloped surface of the upper boulder while pulling myself up with the rope. I got atop the boulder, and Clark Mountain was mine.

The experience was not as grand as I had hoped. I was feeling a bit sick because of the effort exerted to climb the mountain, and I was actually feeling a bit lightheaded from the lack of nutrition. I moved around the top carefully, and then I used the rope to walk back down the boulder to the top of the tower. I climbed down, untied the rope, put it away and began my descent at about 5:25pm.

Going downhill is obviously easier than climbing. But I was still feeling a bit sick, so I traveled at a very leisurely pace. I was back at the truck by about 6:10pm. My trip statistics: Time = 2hrs, 4min, with an additional 24 minutes for the failed approach; Distance = 2.56mi for the round trip, plus perhaps 0.5mi for the failed approach; Elevation gain = 716ft total gain, plus about 300ft for the failed approach.

This was not a professional-quality ascent, but, as Frank Sinatra sang, I DID IT MY WAY! The day as a whole was a successful one for me. Starting with the park in St. Louis, I had visited 4 county HPs, including the top of Missouri. I had collected another Washington. And I had used a rope for my first assisted-climb up one of our most noted HPs east of the Mississippi (well, actually, I was just a bit WEST, but what’s a few miles among friends?) I was satisfied as I drove away in my truck, done with Missouri for this trip. That night, I drove as far as I desired, continuing south toward my next goal, Driskill Mountain of Louisiana.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1016 ft / 309 m
    Extra Gain:179 ft / 54 m
    Round-Trip Distance:3.2 mi / 5.1 km
    Route:Rocky road to summit
    Trailhead:Microwave tower building  782 ft / 238 m
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Aid Climb
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 14 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 14 Minutes

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