Ascent of Chambers Mountain on 2017-06-03

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Saturday, June 3, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Chambers Mountain
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:4498 ft / 1370 m

Ascent Trip Report

Chambers Mountain couldn't be more straightforward unless they added an exit ramp where Chambers Mountain Road crosses I-40, just east of Exit 27. Finding the trailhead is the only navigational challenge. Enter 600 Lookout Point, Clyde NC into your GPS, and show some faith when it leads you on some unexpected turns. It should eventually guide you to the gate (el. 3340). There is room to park a couple of cars on the inside of the curve if you're careful and compact.

The hike up is 1.9 miles climbing 1150 feet on a good gravel road. There's a step-over stile at the gate. The middle third is through a pasture, so be prepared for sun and bovines. On top, the fire tower was decommissioned by the state of NC at the end of 2016. It's open for climbing, but you don't need to climb it to enjoy the panoramic view. USGS benchmark Chambers (1934) is centered under the tower.

I had the pleasure of meeting Orval Banks, who manned the fire lookout for many years and lived in the cabin at the foot of the tower. Here's a Facebook post I wrote about him on Oct. 19, 2017:

A sad little story with a beautiful ending:

Orval Banks and his dog Buddy lived for many years in a cabin atop Chambers Mountain, where he manned the fire tower for the state of North Carolina. Buddy was a search-and-rescue dog. I met them up there on a June 3 hiking trip.

Orval knew his days on the mountaintop were running short. Cancer had sapped his strength, and the state had decided to close the tower. Over the ridge near Hendersonville, his son was preparing a place for them to live. When I visited, Orval was working on a crate for Buddy to ride in the back of his pickup truck. It wouldn't be long until they had to leave.

Orval welcomed me to climb his tower and was sorry he could not longer do that. He fondly pointed out the mile-high mountains that encircled us: the Pisgahs, Balsams, the Lyn Lowry cross, the Smokies, Crabtree Bald, the Roans, Mount Mitchell, and others; as well as the landmarks below: Maggie Valley, Waynesville, Lake Junaluska, and Asheville.

The photo I've posted here is the view from his driveway looking southwest through Balsam Gap toward Cullowhee and Georgia. I'm sorry I don't have a picture of the two of us, but I'm not much for selfies, and I doubt that Orval would have wanted to pose.

One of the commands Orval taught Buddy was "show me," and the last thing Buddy did was show Orval the way out of this world. Orval was already on his deathbed on Tuesday when Buddy suddenly became sick. The family took him to the vet, but there was nothing they could do, and at 8 o'clock Tuesday night, Buddy died. Orval’s grandson told Buddy that when he got to heaven, "Stay!" and wait for Orval.

Buddy didn't have to wait for long. Just two hours later, Orval followed him. They had an amazing life together, and they were inseparable to the end.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1158 ft / 352 m
    Round-Trip Distance:3.8 mi / 6.1 km
    Route:Lookout Point Rd
    Trailhead:Gate  3340 ft / 1018 m
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike
    Weather:Hot, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:50 Minutes

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