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Pyramid route to Rocky Crag October 26, 2014

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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The most beautiful stream in the world. Do you notice that the water is gold?

The most beautiful stream in the world. Do you notice that the water is gold?

Yesterday Clayton and I set forth (I like that old-fashioned expression of “set forth”)  to climb the ridge of Rocky Crag (also known as Real Bunion or USGS Bunion) via the Pyramid side ridge.

I had climbed up via that route two years ago, but I was careless, following a group and not paying much attention to the exact point where we had to leave that first tributary of Lester Prong to get up to that exact spot.

So now someone had studied the pictures and wanted to go up that route. I had to get it right!

Clayton and I started around 7:45 and made good progress up the 3.6 miles of trail, hitting the backcountry campsite on Porters in less than an hour and a half. Throughout the whole trip I kept insisting on stopping for water and snacks, partly just because I am getting to be a tired old soul—but not too old and tired to do this kind of adventure!

So we followed the lower Porters Creek manway. As I said to Clayton, I think it’ll be totally gone in five or so years. It used to be almost like a maintained trail. But the blowdowns and the growth of vegetation around have made it harder and harder to follow. Plus, we had to deal with autumn leaves that obscured the footway.

We got to the Lester Prong junction, and we rockhopped up the stream pretty easily to the first tributary. That’s where I took the photo above. I calibrated my altimeter carefully here because I knew we’d have to hit the side ridge to Pyramid Point pretty precisely.

We hit the first big cascade on the tributary pretty soon.

 

It's more vertical than it looks in this photo. You climb hand over foot.

It’s more vertical than it looks in this photo. You climb hand over foot.

The wonderful, enjoyable thing about this whole area is that you get into really steep stuff but there are always handholds and footholds.

Climbing the tributary. Photo by Clayton Carver.

Climbing the tributary. Photo by Clayton Carver.

We continued up the first tributary of Lester Prong until we reached a ridge that I thought was the correct side ridge. If you approach it from the left side there are cliffs. We went on a bit further up more of the wonderful mossy cascades of the tributary and finally picked a spot. I wasn’t actually 100% sure we were in the right spot but it turned out I was right. We climbed steeply through brush at the bottom but soon found ourselves on a footway that could have been made by bears or possibly certain eccentric humans that I know.

 

Climbing Pyramid Point. Photo by Clayton Carver.

Climbing Pyramid Point. Photo by Clayton Carver.

Clayton climbing up the side ridge.

Clayton climbing up the side ridge.

We topped out on the ridge and had wonderful views to all the steep ridges in the Lester Prong drainage. We could hear the idiotic voices of tourists on what most people call Charlies Bunion, but actually that didn’t bother me, it only reinforced the difference of our situation.

View to Middle Crag and Bunion Crag. Familiar places to me.

View to Middle Crag and Bunion Crag. Familiar places to me.

So from Pyramid you have to climb up the “Tooth,” as my Jefferson City friends call it. Clayton is a stronger hiker than me but he opted to have me lead the way up the Tooth. We got there and looked back down at the route we’d climbed.

We climbed the rocky bump you see up another rocky bump. Hard to describe.

We climbed the rocky bump you see and up another rocky bump. Hard to describe.

So we continued up the ridge, following the footway that I strongly suspect is mainly created by those terrible Jefferson City folks, and got up eventually to the top. Right about that time a nice innocent family arrived at the same spot, the father sure that this was an obscure spot no-one knew about. There we were, dirty and sweaty. He said, “I never see anyone else here!” We explained that we had come up from the bottom.

He didn’t understand—of course, no one understands.

A wonderful day.

Looking down Porters Creek valley.

Looking down Porters Creek valley.

Here, by popular request, is a map of the upper section of our climb.

OK, Al, here you go! Just shows the upper section, but if you ain't smart enough to get to the first tributary of Lester, you shouldn't be there.

OK, Al, here you go! Just shows the upper section, but if you ain’t smart enough to get to the first tributary of Lester, you shouldn’t be there anyway! And you know that area quite well.

 

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Comments»

1. Al - October 26, 2014

liked the pictures, my favorite was the Porter’s Creek color.

That path Clayton was pictured on looks pretty wide, almost like a trail.

Jenny - October 26, 2014

In that particular section of the climb, it really did seem almost like a trail. But that was a short stretch in between a lot of clambering up bluffs and hanging onto myrtle or laurel. You know better than anyone what these places are like, Al!

2. Kent Hackendy - October 26, 2014

Looks a bit more arduous than the hike I did yesterday at my little state park in East Central Illinois.

It looks like the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.

Jenny - October 26, 2014

Yeah, it was a pretty challenging hike! I hope we can do something similar when you visit the Smokies next month.

3. Steve Keeble - October 26, 2014

“He didn’t understand—of course, no one understands.”

This made me laugh. Thanks for sharing Jenny.

Jenny - October 26, 2014

Glad you enjoyed it, Steve!

4. Jeff G. - October 27, 2014

I agree re: the Porters Creek Valley picture. Outstanding. Next time I make it down there I’d love to do this hike, Jenny!

5. norman medford - October 27, 2014

Liked all the pictures, (wall papered ‘looking down Porter Ck. Valley’) and enjoyed the article!

6. Al - October 27, 2014

any chance of a blue line map showing your route from Lester Prong to the AT ?

Jenny - October 27, 2014

See above, my friend.

7. Hoover - October 27, 2014

He didn’t understand — of course, no one understands. Jenny, what a great quote… as long as the reader understands that there is a pause and a sigh between “of course” and “no one understands.”

Jenny - October 27, 2014

Yes, there should be a punctuation mark for a sigh.
Well, I’m surprised there was no objection to my careless remarks about those “terrible Jefferson City folks”.

Hoover - October 27, 2014

I know some of those terrible JC folks and agree with you 100%!! 😉

8. Al - October 28, 2014

tnx Jenny

9. Brian Reed - October 29, 2014

Sad to hear the grand old manway is on the verge of disappearing. You’d be one to know. I could machete the rhodo in a day but without footwear it’ll end up like Breakneck Ridge. Went pretty much the same way with Seneca once trying to recreate these three Dutch Roth photos. We worked out he’d climbed the next rib down the ridge from where you all went up but the film didn’t come out. Film? Man it’s been a while. Speaking of I think I’ve set my time duration record for not visiting the Smokies. Killed me to miss fall again. Finally on the verge of finishing my mega home renovation though and have plans for Christmas, May and July visits.

http://diglib.lib.utk.edu/cgi/i/image/image-idx?sid=66359e38a32f492904bf4d65e0531aa5;q1=bunion;rgn1=All%20Categories;op2=And;q2=may;rgn2=All%20Categories;g=gsmc;op3=And;rgn3=Subject;c=rth;size=20;type=boolean;view=thumbfull

Jenny - October 30, 2014

Glad to hear you’ll be coming back to the Smokies before long. It would be great to connect on your May or July visits (I’ll be out of town at Christmas).

In the Dutch Roth photos, it’s really striking not only how big patches of spruce have grown back but also how much the soil has washed away along the crest. It’s a lot rockier now. The photo that shows Harvey wearing a hat looks as though it was taken from low down on the tributary, with Pyramid Point showing up as the second point along the crest.

10. Al - November 2, 2014

…making the rounds, recent BIG snow on LeConte, at the lodge, was pictured on the main TV networks this morning.


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