Ascent of Pilot Rock on 2017-08-20

Climber: John Hasch

Others in Party:Harold
Sarah (Stayed behind)
Date:Sunday, August 20, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Pilot Rock
    Elevation:966 ft / 294 m

Ascent Trip Report


Sunday, 8/20/2017

I drove along KY-507, approaching the Rock from the west. The first thing I noticed were two signs marking the county line, one on each side of the road announcing entry into each respective county. Shortly past this point, I noted a small parking area to the left. I quickly spied a “No Trespassing” sign, so I decided to continue scouting along the road. As I reached the crest, I turned my head to the left and noted the presence of a path that led toward the Rock. A single car was parked on the rock side, and there was room for another car to park in front of that car. I drove down the road just a bit, did a 7-point turn, and returned and parked along the road just in front of the other car. The path to the top was near the hood of the Jeep.

We popped out of the car, and our 6-pack began heading up the path. Not far beyond, we came to the staircase that was in place to lead adventurers to the top. My daughter made the choice to drop out, and she stayed at the base of the rock because she was wearing only flip flops. The remaining 5 of us climbed the stairs which got us a bit more than half way up the rock. At the top was a T-intersection. To the right was a path leading to somewhere that was being explored by other hikers who were present. To the left was a comfortably-wide chute between rocks that was easily climbed. Exiting out of the top brought us near the former tower footings. A quick glance around disclosed the highest areas, and we stepped on them to declare the summit reached.

On this sunny, clear Sunday afternoon of the eclipse weekend, there were several people on top of the rock. I would guestimate the number was around 25-30, including some who were roped up to rappel down the cliffs. As we wandered around, I made conversation with a man who identified himself as the landowner’s son-in-law. I mentioned there were a lot of folks willing to trespass today, and he used that opportunity to correct me and declare that he was not trespassing. He said he had last climbed the Rock about 10 years ago. He went about his business with no apparent concerns for the others, including our party, who were present on the summit.

Continue west from the tower footings to find the declining elevation and the short drop that announces the county line area. I carefully climbed down to the lower rocks, although it was easily jumpable by younger, more nimble folks like the 3 boys. I looked around and immediately recognized the location from the photo that is posted on Glaringly noticeable was the amount of graffiti that adorned the rocks in this area. There was plenty of graffiti all around the rest of the summit rocks, but this spot seemed to be a “taggers’ paradise”. It was nearly impossible to see any clean rock surface.

With GPS in hand, I located what I believed was a point on the county line. But basically, if you wander around the lower rock surface, you will tag the liner CoHP. When you are satisfied, you can safely say “been there, done that”. You have just completed a near-twofer.

We returned up the rocks and back across the summit area, and we returned to the base of Pilot Rock the same way we came. We explored around the base of the rock, and we found an interesting ledge about 10 feet above our footing. My son-in-law boosted the three boys up onto the ledge, and we had a nice photo opportunity. The boys also explored up and into some of the deep cracks that were found just left of the stairs that we used to climb the Rock.

It was the weekend of the Great Eclipse of 2017, and I was in western Kentucky with my family at a campsite arranged by my daughter. Three adults and three children had crammed into my Jeep Grand Cherokee to make the trip to observe what was billed as a “once-in-a-lifetime” event.

I was not sure whether there would be time for hiking, but I prepared myself just in case. I had researched several counties in the area, and I identified plenty that were within easy driving distance of the campsite. I printed my standard package of paperwork for each county just in case, and I threw the pages in with my other packed items.

I was pleasantly surprised when I noted that we were camping a mere 30 miles north of the Christian/Todd near-twofer summits on Pilot Rock. This pair of summits had been on my wish list for years since I first learned of the unique geological feature. I hoped time and the family would agree to make this hiking detour.

We left home Saturday around 6pm and arrived at the campground around 1am Sunday local time. After getting some sleep, and having not experienced the anticipated swarm of cars to this area, I described Pilot Rock to the family. Their faces immediately perked with interest, and the hiking trip materialized. We loaded into the car and followed its GPS to the base of Pilot Rock.

Overall, our rock adventure was a great success. Everyone commented that they really enjoyed this outing. Most importantly, we learned that adventurous boys aged 7-12 did not have a problem climbing to the top; all stayed safe because they exercised caution when they approached the cliff edges on top.

Trivia Note – today’s summit of Pilot Rock marked a new high-water mark for me. I shared this CoHP with 4 other family members, marking the most members of our family to be on a summit at the same time and “eclipsing” the former mark of 3 (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun opportunity). Moments later, the feat was repeated as the 5 of us summited the western liner. The record of 5 at one time was extended to the occurrence of two times in the same day.

A quick note about the eclipse – it arrived on Monday right on schedule, and we enjoyed a partial eclipse for about 3 hours with a 1.5 minute period in the middle when we had a total eclipse. Viewing the total eclipse was definitely worth it, and I would strongly recommend this to any who have a chance to witness one. We had glasses to protect our eyes during the partial eclipse; but it’s hard to describe the magic that occurs when the sun disappears totally and all you can see is the umbra. You see a totally-black moon outlined with 360 degrees of white light that is safe to look at without protection.

Surprisingly, there will be another “once-in-a-lifetime” eclipse in April 2024 that will cross the US from southwest to northeast. I would strongly urge all to travel to the path of totality. I don’t think you will be disappointed.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:116 ft / 35 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear
Hot and sunny
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:116 ft / 35 m
    Route:Stairs and Rock Chute
    Start Trailhead:Road by Stairs  850 ft / 259 m
Descent Statistics
Ascent Part of Trip: Summit-Liner-Summit

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Pilot Rock2017-08-20 a116 ft / 35 m
2Pilot Rock-West Slope2017-08-20 b0 ft / 0 m
3Pilot Rock2017-08-20 c16 ft / 5 m
Total Trip Gain: 132 ft / 40 m    Total Trip Loss: 116 ft / 35 m

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