Ascent of Chimney Tops on 2015-11-07

Climber: William Musser

Others in Party:Karen Musser <3472>; Mike
Date:Saturday, November 7, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Chimney Tops
    Elevation:4800 ft / 1463 m

Ascent Trip Report

Ok so it was raining and the 10 people on the wedding party that were excited to potentially join us fora group hike all baled out except Karen and Mike. Karen was going to accompany me regardless of rain and we were prepared with full rain suits the question was - will it be safe enough? Mike agreed to come as he was young and experienced in the outdoors. He is a rescue guide, white water guide, rock climbing guide, so he was well prepared like us with good foot wear and rain protection and in for a challenge rain or shine. I do not have Mike's last name all I can say is he is my wife's sister's husband's sister's daughter's husband! Yikes! But a heck of a nice young man. So we set out to do the most popular hike in the Smokey Mountain National Park.

It is 4 mile round trip and fairly steep the entire way. Many tourists were on the trail that had no business trying this hike. I saw a women in fashion boots! Several kids barefoot or in cotton jeans and cotton shirts. It was drizzling with hard rains predicted to follow with the temperate dropping to 47F in a few hours. What if you slipped and fell on the spine? The scrambling at the top requires proper shoes for a class 3 to 3+ ascent and rain. Fortunately, most of the hikers realized it and most turned back. Karen was feeling the pitch and had to stop several times to catch her breath but we still made very good time and climbed the 1500 feet and 2 miles in one hour. The slatey textured spine is highlight of the hike and it is at the very end. The slatey-shale beds are at angles that make for very good foot and hand holds or this finish would be a class 4. the spine starts out class 2 and then becomes class 3 because of awkwardness more that pitch until the first crux move. Then it is unmistakable class three fun scrambling. The hardest part of the first crux move has some danger sou exposure on both sides of the move so I call it class 3+. When wet or in the rain, I agreed with Mike, it feels class 4. Then the spine is simple class 3 till the last crux move that is also exposed (where the spine narrows) and it feels 3+ again. The top Finnish is all 3 but with some precarious crevices to avoid at the summit.

The views were excellent and the finish of the hike is very rewarding. I was concerned that the down climb would be tricky through he two crux moves of the scramble, especially that now the clouds moved in and we had rain again. We wanted to get down with just a drizzle before it rained hard and it made it tricky. Fortunately we timed it all right and avoided hard rain and the down-climb was actually far easier than I expected as the layered beds were at angles that are easier to find going down hill than up the spine. Normally down-climbing is harder. Not with this feature. I would not recommend this scramble in the rain or in non good footwear. Most people decided not to try with wet rock. We only saw two people up there while we explored the summit - 2 young ladies on the spine (2 very nice and chatty nursing students from FL and TN). One stopped short of the first crux move and photographed her friend while the other went to the top. I would guess that only 20% of the hikers did the summit in the wet conditions that day.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1560 ft / 475 m
    Total Elevation Loss:1560 ft / 475 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4 mi / 6.4 km
    Grade/Class:1, 1+, 3, 3+
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble
    Weather:Drizzle, Pleasant
60F and foggy and raining dropping to 48F by end of hike
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1460 ft / 445 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 1360 ft / 415 m; Extra: 100 ft / 30m
    Loss on way in:100 ft / 30 m
    Distance:2 mi / 3.2 km
    Route:Standard Trail
    Start Trailhead:Chimney Tops Parking Area  3440 ft / 1048 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:1460 ft / 445 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 1360 ft / 415 m; Extra: 100 ft / 30m
    Gain on way out:100 ft / 30 m
    Distance:2 mi / 3.2 km
    End Trailhead:same  3440 ft / 1048 m

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