Ascent of Signal Pole Hill on 2012-10-25

Climber: Edward Earl

Date:Thursday, October 25, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Signal Pole Hill
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:3459 ft / 1054 m

Ascent Trip Report

On US-64, just 0.2 mile W of the NC/TN state line, I turned N on Golf Course Rd, which is paved but narrow. Call this point mile 0.0. At mile 0.8 I turned L at an intersection with no official street sign, following a sign to New Hope Holiness Church. At mile 1.1 I turned R on Burger Town Rd, following a sign to Bethlehem. At mile 3.4 the road becomes wider, its condition improves, and a centerline begins. I suspect this is the state line, though no sign says so. At mile 4.1 I parked at Tanbark Gap.

I hiked initially up an undriveable road that switches back a couple of times as it approaches the summit of Pack Top. Finally I reached a sharp L turning switchback at which point it became clear that the road would not be of any use in getting any closer to my destination, so I abandoned the road and began bushwhacking toward the saddle about 800' E of Pack top. The brush was thick and unavoidable in places, but I eventually reached the saddle. I then continued SE through somewhat more open forest toward Harris Top. An overgrown road began to appear; usually it was useful, but sometimes it was blocked by a thicket. Its condition gradually improved until it became useful full-time shortly before Harris top. As the road traversed the very crest of the ridge that connects Harris Top to the main mass of Signal Pole Hill, it was a life saver because of very thick brush on both sides. The road reached a camp site at the point where the ridge joins the main mass of Signal Pole Hill itself. After this point the road traversed around the R side of Signal Pole Hill and began descending slightly. It appeared that the road would not help me get any closer to the top, so I located a much smaller road that re-entered the forest on the L. The road divided and soon faded as I climbed cross-country in the forest up the NW ridge of Signal Pole Hill. I had to detour the occasional thicket. The hill steepened near the top, and I traversed slightly to the L side to avoid the worst brush. As I neared the very top there was a clearing, but that was bad news; it was choked with thick immature brush. Luckily I found a breach in the brush, which I travelled though and switched over to the W side of the crest of the mountain. Just as I re-entered the forest, I intercepted a road which showed signs it would probably reach the top. I followed the road southbound until it left the brush behind and soon did go right over the summit in mostly open forest. Very near the summit is a widening which is probably enough to turn around a Jeep Wrangler.

I decided to give the road a try on my descent; with any luck, it would reconnect with the road I had declined to use beyond the campsite I had passed on the way up. The road switchbacked down the W face of the mountain. After losing ~500' elevation, I reached a junction at which the main road continued downhill to the W and would probably not be of any more use in getting me back to where I had parked my car, so I opted to turn R. The road was good for a few minutes, but then it dead-ended. I was left to fend for myself, so I bushwhacked the remaining 200' down to the campsite (not finding the road that descended from the campsite any sooner).

Later, after gaining the saddle a short distance E of Pack Top, I did not want to repeat my experience with the thick brush I had previously encountered on the S side of Pack Top. So I opted to go down the gully to the SW. I did so for a few minutes; then, when I was pretty sure I would not encounter the heavy brush I had had to contend with above, I began traversing the NW side of the gully so as not to lose too much elevation. I soon entered the tiny gully immediately E of Tanbark Gap, climbed it a short distance, then climbed up its W side, and gained the rim within 20 feet of my car.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1519 ft / 462 m
    Extra Gain:100 ft / 30 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4 mi / 6.4 km
    Trailhead:Pack Mtn Rd  2140 ft / 652 m
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Open Country, Bushwhack
Ascent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 20 Minutes

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