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Cammerer via Whiterock Ridge December 16, 2013

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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Hoar frost on upper Whiterock Ridge

Hoar frost on upper Whiterock Ridge.

You won’t find Whiterock Ridge on the map. But I’ll be nice and show you where it is.

It's the half-ridge between Groundhog Ridge and Rowdy Ridge.

It’s the half-ridge between Groundhog Ridge and Rowdy Ridge.

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.

This is what the forest looked like in the lower elevations.

This is what the forest looked like in the lower elevations.

Even individual rhodo leaves had the windblown frost.

I like the way you see the action of the wind in the frost.

I like the way you see the action of the wind in the 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.

Chris grapples with the brush.

Chris grapples with the brush.

We climbed up steeply and reached the junction of two worlds.

Here to there---is connection possible?

Here to there—is connection possible?

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.

The tower is visible as a faint shape on the horizon. Note the cliffs directly below.

The tower is visible as a faint shape on the horizon. Note the cliffs directly below.

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.

Cindy climbs last boulders to the tower.

Cindy climbs last boulders to the tower.

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.

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Comments»

1. Jeff G. - December 17, 2013

Nice pictures, Jenny . . . looks like a great hike.

Jenny - December 17, 2013

Thanks, Jeff!

2. Al - December 17, 2013

Muffins, wow, great pics as usual. Any sign of a phone line up that way ? That picture of climbing the rock (s) looks scary.

Jenny - December 17, 2013

According to Peter Barr’s great book, “Hiking North Carolina’s Lookout Towers,” the live-in lookout tower had a radio with a 90-volt battery bank rather than a phone line. When the batteries went dead, the watchman would use mirrors by day or flashlight by night to send signals over to the Mt. Sterling tower.

3. gary howell - December 17, 2013

wow, pretty pictures .. good luck with your eye.

Jenny - December 17, 2013

Thanks… my eye looks totally ghoulish right now. I’ve been wearing a hat with the brim pulled down to try to hide it when I’m out in public.

4. Kent Hackendy - December 17, 2013

Whoa, scary to hear about your accident with that branch. Glad to hear it wasn’t too serious.

Amazing photos and write-up, as usual.

Jenny - December 17, 2013

Thanks for your good wishes!

5. tom lundberg - December 18, 2013

nice trip report-yet another challenging route to the top of White Rock.

6. James Locke - December 22, 2013

Nice stuff Jenny! I have yet to do any of the off-trail routes up that way. Looks like you had a good day with some nice hiking buddies. Where’s the picture of the eye injury? It would add to your “street cred” in case anyone thought you might be getting soft. Great pics!

Jenny - December 22, 2013

Yes, I’ve had other requests for that. Trust me, you don’t want to see it. Six days after the injury, the eyeball is still completely red around the cornea. I’ve been wearing sunglasses or pulling my hat brim down, it’s so hideous. The red is starting to fade a little, though…


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