Anakeesta slide February 4, 2015Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
Tags: Anakeesta Ridge, Walker Camp Prong
My friend Clayton Carver and I ventured today up one of the slides that runs down from Anakeesta Ridge into Walker Camp Prong. He had been telling me that I needed to do this slide. And he was right. I hesitated when he suggested that for this week, as the Smokies heights have a fair amount of ice and snow right now. But I saw a forecast for temperatures in the mid-50s in Gatlinburg, and I figured we’d get at least in the 40s up there not far from Newfound Gap. We started late (11:00) to try to get the warmest temps. Well, there was still a lot of ice and snow! We started where Walker Camp Prong flows under the Newfound Gap Highway. It was very pretty, but a bit treacherous because of the thin coating of black ice on many rocks. Clayton did better than I did on this stretch (and, actually, on all of the hike), but we both found ourselves skidding on icy rocks. But still, it was pretty.
The thing about Walker Camp Prong is that you pretty much have to stay in the stream. It is lined with walls of rhodo. Clayton had been up the lower part of the slide before, so he knew where to look for it. Like a lot of slides, the very bottom features a rather flat area with a lot of rubble.
From here on up, it was a great adventure that got harder and harder toward the top. This stretch wasn’t hard.
We reached the steep, smooth, slabby section shown in the top photo. I found this somewhat difficult. Clayton took the photo below.
After thinking I could bypass what Clayton did, I finally realized that his route was the best and I followed it.
This little section featured a different kind of difficulty than what we encountered toward the top. It was steep and pretty smooth, but solid. The problem toward the top was that all the rock was incredibly loose.
Above this point it got very, very steep.
I have to admit that I found this upper section quite difficult. The grain of the Anakeesta rock was all vertical (horizontal makes for much easier climbing), and it was incredibly loose. We had to test each handhold to make sure it wouldn’t just break off at the touch of a hand. Quite a few times I found myself in a place where I needed a good solid foothold for my next upward step, and I had trouble finding it. What made it even worse was that the myrtle, which I normally find fairly reliable as a handhold, was often dead and brittle and broke off in my hand. The whole place seemed crumbly and unreliable, which isn’t great when it is also very steep. So—no photos in this top stretch. I was too preoccupied. We topped out between 5750′ and 5800′, not far from Anakeesta Knob in elevation but a fair distance horizontally. In any case, our plan was to descend the ridge to the saddle just northeast of Point 5582, and then drop down from there. I had done this descent before on a trip with Chris Sass and Greg Harrell, starting from the Alum Cave Creek side of the ridge.
After a short break which featured my finger bleeding profusely (I had somehow skinned off a section of my forefinger on the sharp Anakeesta slabs), we started down the ridge.
We could see down to the Newfound Gap Highway (Hwy. 441).
We descended another open Anakeesta slide.
It was a great trip, very worthwhile despite the difficulties.