Ascent of Plott Balsam Mountain on 2016-09-20

Climber: Tom Layton

Others in Party:Vince Kloster
Date:Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Hi-Clearance Vehicle
Peak:Plott Balsam Mountain
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:6088 ft / 1855 m

Ascent Trip Report

From the cross atop Mount Lyn Lowry, it is 1.75 miles to Plott Balsam. The path down the north side of Lynn Lowry is steep—descending 400 feet in less than a quarter mile. Then you stroll 1.2 miles along a mostly level woods road before a fairly easy bushwhack 0.3 miles up to the top of Plott Balsam.

The start of the path from the Lyn Lowry cross can be tricky to follow. It starts to the right of a plaque mounted on a rock. The first 20-30 yards are overgrown as you descend through an area that has been clear-cut to maintain the view of the cross. In general, stay to the right of a couple of brush-piles. Once you are in the woods, the path is easier to follow.

At 0.3 miles from the cross (N35.46747 W083.10704 (NAD 27), elevation 5770), just after crossing a knoll, the path becomes a grassy woods road. Follow this road across the ridge to Plott Balsam. This is a boundary between private and public land and it looks like there is frequent 4-wheeler traffic. A surveyor working for the National Park Service had been there recently, flagging the line with orange tape and blue blazes.

At 0.6 miles from Lyn Lowry, reach a meadow where roads descend on both sides of the ridge. Bear right at the first fork (following a sign that says FIRE ESCAPE TRAIL) and left at the second fork to stay close to the ridge. You’ll soon pass Oldfield Top on the right—an unranked 40-foot bump that peakbaggers will want to climb since it is listed on Peakbagger and ListsofJohn.

At 1.45 miles, the road becomes overgrown and forks. Take the right fork for just a few yards and then find a path on your left that heads up the ridgeline southwest of the peak. My GPS shows the start of this path as N35.47734 W083.09190 (NAD27), elevation 5815. However, the GPS was off by a hundred yards on the summit, so I can’t swear by this waypoint.

There are occasional pink and orange flags to reassure you that you are on the right path. It’s mostly open, though there was one place we had to crawl under a fallen tree. Near the top, you’re on the knife-edge of the ridge, but nothing difficult or dangerous. The top is marked with a silver survey stake, more blue blazes, and an NPS BOUNDARY sign tacked to a tree.

Trip statistics include our approach to Lyn Lowry from a private gated road.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1328 ft / 404 m
    Extra Gain:640 ft / 195 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4.2 mi / 6.8 km
    Route:Unblazed path, ridge road
    Trailhead:6040 ft / 1840 m
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 

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