Ascent of Black Mountain on 2007-03-24

Climber: John Hasch

Date:Saturday, March 24, 2007
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Summit:Car
Peak:Black Mountain
    Elevation:4139 ft / 1261 m

Ascent Trip Report

Saturday, 3/24/2007

It was 10:13pm Friday night when I left home on my way to Black Mountain. My birthday was a few days away, and I decided to treat myself to a trip south to collect the Kentucky and Virginia HP’s. It was raining at home, and projected to stay that way all weekend. Down south, in contrast, daytime temperatures were expected to be sunny and in the 70’s both Saturday and Sunday. I was fairly caught up with my tax work, and I knew I could get back Sunday night to go to work Monday. And, as recommended, I had downloaded, signed and mailed in the Waiver Agreement for Access to the Summit of Black Mountain, KY to the Kentucky Coal Museum in Benham, KY.

The waiver form is required for all visitors to Black Mountain because the mountain has several active mines beneath the surface. The coal mining companies seek to protect themselves from liability by getting visitors to acknowledge the risk of a visit. The form can be downloaded from the following web site:

I drove south along I-75 to Cincinnati, OH and Lexington, KY. After a couple hours rest in Lexington, I began winding my way through the mountainous region as I approached the Virginia border and Black Mountain. I passed through Benham (home to the coal-mining museum where the waiver agreement for access was mailed) and Lynch, KY on KY-160. Lynch is basically a one-road town located in the valley between mountains on both sides of the road. I soon came to a sharp eastward bend in the road. Looking around, I spied the now-faded blue FAA Radar Site sign as well as the bullet-ridden “Welcome to Kentucky” sign that was behind me. It was now about 9:30am, and I knew I was near the destination.

I took the road up the mountain, less than 2 lanes wide. Though paved, there were many spots where two vehicles would find it difficult to pass. In fact, some of the pavement was in disrepair and had to be carefully driven to avoid damage to my solitary car. Eventually the road drove past the FAA radar site, and I knew I was close. Continuing on about 0.2mi farther, I came to the turn I knew would take me to the top. The gate was open, but the road was steep and rutty. I thought my car might bottom out, but I tried it anyway. After scraping a couple of mounds in the road, I backed up, parked, and made the ascent on foot. I took a relative altimeter reading (RAR) of 3895ft at the car.

The short hike to the top was easy. I found six radio towers of varying heights, and my altimeter recorded 3937ft at the summit under the old observation tower. Thus, the hike to the top was less than 50ft by my calculation. I looked around and spied the rock pile a short distance away. When I arrived there, I found the BM in the top of one of the rocks. These rocks were slightly downhill, so the actual HP was correctly located under the observation tower.

Others have written about the lack of esthetics at the summit. I must say I concur. It’s too bad the state will not take a more active role in preserving this geographic treasure. The top of Kentucky will not stick in many minds as the highlight of HP visits. I heard ATV’s roaring in the distance, so I accelerated my exit from the summit. After a total hike of about 0.4mi, I drove away to visit Mt Rogers, VA. When I got back to KY-160, I spied several of the ATV’s and their riders. A large group had parked just around the curve in VA and was off to have some fun on this Saturday morning.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:42 ft / 12 m
    Route:Gated road to summit
    Trailhead:Radar Road below summit gate  4097 ft / 1248 m
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike
Ascent Statistics
    Time:5 Minutes

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