Mt. Cammerer via Miner’s Stairs October 19, 2013Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: Leadmine Ridge, Mt. Cammerer, Rowdy Creek, Smoky Mountains Hiking Club
Today the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club made its annual assault on Cammerer via an off-trail route. Each year the club offers one trail hike and one bushwhack on the same day in October to this mountain that is always a favorite.
Three years ago the SMHC climbed up Leadmine Ridge to Cammerer. That is one of several parallel ridges on the north side of the mountain. This year’s offering overlapped with that route to a certain extent, but we climbed up Rowdy Creek (the stream just east of the ridge) past the waterfall before getting up onto the ridgecrest.
Despite having been up both Rowdy Ridge and Leadmine Ridge, I’d never been up Rowdy Creek. The waterfall is pretty, though in the current dry conditions it wasn’t spectacular.
We found a route to the left of the falls that used a narrow seam between chunks of bedrock. The route would have been easy except for the peculiar quality of the soil in these parts, a very slippery dark brown substance that I always think of as “chocolate pudding.” It is exactly the same soil that has made the Groundhog Ridge manway such a mess. I think the first person climbing has the advantage, because that person’s footprints turn into chocolate slime, and for each person after that it gets progressively slipperier. So it becomes a matter of finding a rock here and there for a foothold and a branch here and there that can serve as a handhold, if it doesn’t come off in your hand.
We passed through a beautiful boulderfield where each boulder sported a wig of rock polypody fern.
We encountered a tree that had the slimiest, most repulsive fungus that I’d ever seen.
Ed Fleming, our leader, had determined what he felt was the best elevation to leave the creek and get through the rhodo that guarded the ridgecrest. We had 15 or 20 minutes of pushing through fairly dense laurel and rhodo before we reached the Stairs. Speaking of Stairs, we had a nice view over to the Panther Stairs, the next ridge over.
We climbed the Stairs up the ridge.
Every now and then I’d look over my shoulder and enjoy the colors.
As soon as we reached the Cammerer side trail, the clouds moved in—we were lucky that didn’t happen earlier. We had lunch at the tower and serenaded David with Happy Birthday, as he had just turned eighteen.
We descended the Groundhog Ridge manway, which becomes more and more annoying every year. The “chocolate slime” gets worse and worse, and quite a few new blowdowns have added to the mess. Still, it remains the best way to descend Cammerer from any of these other great off-trail routes on the north side of the mountain. A fine day with good hiking companions.