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Rocky Crag via Pyramid side-ridge October 28, 2012

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: , , , ,

I could have pretended I took this photo yesterday. In fact, it was taken on the ridge last March under identical conditions.

I took no photos at all yesterday. Partly because it was foggy and drizzly all day and partly because the pocket I usually carry my camera in developed a huge rip in it early on in the trip—I think it happened when I stepped on a slippery rock in Porters Creek and landed butt-first in the water.

I am not successfully maintaining my dignity these days. It seems every time I go on a hike I develop new problems with holes and rips in my clothing, which my dear companions don’t hesitate to point out. Hah! They are not exactly models of immaculate apparel themselves.

This time I was part of a group of six which briefly expanded to seven when the elusive, much-sought-after Greg Hoover graced us with his presence for a short while, having come out from Newfound Gap and descended the top part of the Rocky Crag ridge to join us on The Tooth. He would have done the whole trip except that he was in the throes of a head cold.

Chris Sass and I were out for more punishment after climbing the Bunion last week. We joined a group led by Greg Harrell whose main goal was to introduce a couple of long-time serious off-trail hikers, Ed Fleming and Hiram Rogers, to the adventure of The Crags. Charlie Roth also joined us.

The map below gives you the basic idea. The red line represents yesterday’s route. We started in the Greenbrier, went up the Porters Creek trail, followed the Porters Creek manway to Lester Prong, took the first tributary of Lester (which is near the boundary of the map), and left the Lester tributary to climb a side-ridge up to a rocky prominence called by some Pyramid Point.

The blue line represents the route that Chris and I took last week.

The red line started and ended at the Porters Creek trailhead. The blue line started and ended at Newfound Gap.

The Pyramid side-ridge is steep with some sections of rock scrambling, but it presents no serious obstacles. We arrived on the top and enjoyed being swaddled in fog, then proceeded up the main ridge to the top of The Tooth, where we met with the beaming countenance of Hoover.

After once again enjoying the fog for a while, we continued to the top of the ridge and dropped down to the A.T. There, Ed, Hiram, and Hoover turned toward Newfound Gap (where they had vehicles waiting) and Harrell, Chris, Charlie, and I descended the Dry Sluice manway and exited via Porters Creek.

Despite the lack of views, it was a fine day, shared with a good group of off-trail eccentrics. But then, people who do this kind of stuff are eccentric by definition.

Photo added at reader’s request. Jenny near top of Pyramid Point. Photo by Greg Harrell.


1. Tommy McGlothlin - October 28, 2012

That’s an awesome ridgeline Jenny. I would love to traverse the whole ridgeline from the confluence of Lester and Porters one time. We went up a few weeks ago by way of the slide on up the first trib at 4600 or so. When we topped out we were amazed to see 3 climbers coming up the route you describe and surmised it was the Gregs. We waited for them up near AT and and out came Keith Oaks then Lucas, a student from Carson Newman. While we waited to meet the infamous Greg Hoover, Ronnie hatched a plan to reenact Greg’s hilarious 3 generation ordeal. Ronnie played the part well and Greg was equally quick with his comeback. All good fun, but it was great to meet those guys, all kindred spirits doing what we love to do. I’m glad there’s some college age kids out exploring too. We were incredulous about meeting another group of off trail explorers on the same ridgeline; as far as we could all remember that had never occurred before. Keep them coming for all of us stuck at work most of the time!

Jenny - October 28, 2012

That really is amazing that you guys arrived at that point at the same time! Routes in that area have infinite variations. I’ll warn you, however, that I’ve heard that doing the whole ridgeline from the Lester/Porters confluence involves an awful lot of brush crawling in the lower sections. A nice alternative is to angle up to the ridge through open woods shortly after the first tall mossy cascade. But, on the other hand, doing the whole ridge from start to finish seems intrinsically worthy.

2. Dusty - October 28, 2012

Great account Jenny! When Tommy, Ronnie, Seth and I made the climb a few weekends ago, I knew that I would want to come back soon and repeat the ridge ascent you describe here after watching Greg Hoover, Keith Oakes, and Greg’ student climb that side ridge. Hope to catch a scramble with you and Chris soon!

Jenny - October 28, 2012

We’d love to have you along. Chris is getting into a period of intensive teaching obligations plus travel plans between now and the end of the year, which will make it a bit more difficult, but we’ll have to try to work something out. And likewise, if you plan something interesting, let me know.

3. BrianR - October 29, 2012

Haha. Only a matter of time before you all will have to wait in line at the narrow spots. Seneca and I went up that same way about seven years ago. We were trying to find the exact spots where Dutch Roth took these 1937 photos. We determined they had climbed up 50-100 yds down the valley, where the edge of the slide was. It’s overgrown and not an obvious place to leave the trib anymore but I’d like to do it just to recreate two of the photos. The first one is looking at tooth from the pyramid, if I understand you nomenclature.


Jenny - October 29, 2012

It’s really interesting how the whole area looks different after all these years. As mentioned in my last post about the Bunion, I was impressed by how much things had changed in the last 30 years. let alone since the 1920s. It’s hard for me to identify the particular spots with slides from those old photos, but I might say that any area on either side of a ridge in this type of terrain has a gigantic slide on it by now.

BrianR - October 30, 2012

I know exactly where they were taken from examining them during our climb. The ridge in the foreground of the middle one is the one you all (and me and Seneca) climbed. Been meaning to go back for years to take matching photos but I never seem to get to it. Our film from that trip was messed up.

4. Tom - November 3, 2012


Thanks for including the topo map for the those, like me, who are still trying to learn to read countour-lines! Quite fascinating to look at the map and to look at the pictures, including those from the prior post on hiking the Bunion which shows the two ridge lines.

I still find it tricky to look at a map and look at the ground and figure out where I am. I got lost both times I walked the Porter Creek Manway.

(I note you still did not include picture of the author!)


Jenny - November 3, 2012

OK Tom, here you go…

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