Ascent of Big Bald on 2016-01-16

Climber: Zachary Robbins

Date:Saturday, January 16, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Big Bald
    Location:USA-North Carolina/Tennessee
    Elevation:5516 ft / 1681 m

Ascent Trip Report

This is one of the easiest 13 mile, 5,500 ft peaks you'll ever hike. Big Bald is magnificent, according to pictures I've seen. On this day I wasn't so fortunate. Usually the NOAA topo spot forecasts are spot-on, but this is one of the first times it wasn't accurate at all. It was supposed to start mostly cloudy and clear to partly sunny by mid-afternoon with temps in the 40s-50s. The mountains were shrouded in thick clouds, and as I approached Big Bald I was treated to a wind/ice storm with wind chills probably below 15F. My hands were numb for at least 20 min and I luckily brought a hard shell because otherwise I just had a fleece top, lol.

Starting at Sam's Gap you'll encounter the hardest climb first when the Appalachian Trail climbs steeply up unofficially named West Street Gap Peak. There is a grassy bald on the north side of this peak with views of the Wolf Laurel ski area and your destination. Beyond Street Gap the AT very gradually gains elevation for many miles without climbing or dipping too much. The final approach to Big Bald is also gradual, and even with complete blanketing of clouds the transition from trees to open bald was stunning. Everything was covered in rime ice, it felt like one of those survival shows in northern Scotland. There is very little cover on top if you hike in conditions like I did. I had to bunker down in the road bed trench to hide from wind.

Big Stamp is close on the map and probably really easy to tag, but I needed to get out of the wind. It is only a subpeak anyways. The climb back up West Street Gap Peak is easier from the north. I highly recommend planning this hike for a sunny day to fully enjoy the 360 views from Big Bald. I've read the hike from Spivey Gap south is similar mileage but more elevation gain. Sam's Gap is probably the best start, plus it is much easier access right off I-26.

Full hike info and video
Summary Total Data
    Round-Trip Distance:13 mi / 20.9 km
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

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

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