Cammerer via Whiterock Ridge December 16, 2013Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: Groundhog Ridge, Mt. Cammerer, Whiterock Ridge
You won’t find Whiterock Ridge on the map. But I’ll be nice and show you where it is.
I have to give credit to Greg Harrell for pioneering this route.
I started out with my hiking buddies Chris Sass and Cindy McJunkin. We were fueled by muffins provided by Chris’s wife Bethann—sweet potato muffins with crystallized ginger and chocolate chips, if I am remembering the details right.
Actually, our original plan (pioneered by me) was to explore the upper left fork of Shutts Prong starting from Newfound Gap, going down to the stream from the Boulevard trail and then following the stream up to the Horseshoe Lead. But the Newfound Gap Road had been closed for more than a day and we couldn’t take a chance on wondering when the road would re-open today. So we shifted plans.
It was an utterly beautiful hike that entailed all the different degrees of frost with their distinctive patterns as we climbed from the no-frost elevation up to thin snow and beyond that to the hoar frost zone. It was a day of a luminous blue sky and crystal formations in the trees.
Even in the lower elevations we could see the patterns of frost and wind on the trees and the understory vegetation.
Even individual rhodo leaves had the windblown frost.
We decided to go up to the ridgecrest directly from the Lower Cammerer trail. The ridge was inhabited by a fair amount of vegetation, but it was manageable.
We climbed up steeply and reached the junction of two worlds.
We tackled a series of rock bluffs, the last of which was the most difficult, leading up into a rock slot with one handy laurel to aid the way to the top. It led us to a viewpoint where we had open views of worlds of frost.
We saw the view over the glowing ridgeline shown at top, and we could also see up past some serious cliffs to the tower. If you look very closely at the photo below, you’ll see the famous tower.
Above this viewpoint, we gradually merged with the Groundhog Ridge manway, with a few points of uncertainty, but it didn’t matter, because all we had to do was continue upward. Eventually we got up above the forest and onto the open rocks close to the summit.
It was an incredible day. The one strange thing was that I managed to get my eye injured early on the way up even though I always wear glasses. Somehow a branch stabbed me from the side. It was the kind of injury that looks a lot worse than it really is, the eye swelling and saturated with blood. I saw a doctor this evening and, after examination, she told me it’s not a big problem—my eye will just look “impressibly horrible” for a week or so.