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Anakeesta slide February 4, 2015

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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Clayton climbs up one of the steeper sections.

Clayton climbs up one of the steeper sections.

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.

Going up Walker Camp Prong.

Going up Walker Camp Prong.

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.

Toward the bottom of the slide.

Toward the bottom of the slide.

From here on up, it was a great adventure that got harder and harder toward the top. This stretch wasn’t hard.

Clayton climbs the lower slide.

Clayton climbs the lower slide.

Log and icicles on lower slide.

Log and icicles on lower slide.

We reached the steep, smooth, slabby section shown in the top photo. I found this somewhat difficult. Clayton took the photo below.

You can barely make me out at the bottom---kind of a dark shape looking a bit helpless.

You can barely make me out at the bottom—kind of a dark shape looking a bit helpless.

After thinking I could bypass what Clayton did, I finally realized that his route was the best and I followed it.

Clayton waited patiently for me.

Clayton waited patiently for me.

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.

Water discolored by Anakeesta pyrites.

Water discolored by Anakeesta pyrites.

Looking down a snowy stretch.

Looking down a snowy stretch.

Above this point it got very, very steep.

Clayton took this nice photo as we made our way down.

Clayton took this nice photo as we made our way up.

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.

View from ridge where we topped out, toward the subsidiary ridges of LeConte.

View from ridge where we topped out, toward the subsidiary ridges of LeConte.

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.

Typical section of the crest of Anakeesta Ridge.

Typical section of the crest of Anakeesta Ridge.

We could see down to the Newfound Gap Highway (Hwy. 441).

You can make out the highway far below.

You can make out the highway far below.

We descended another open Anakeesta slide.

Clayton going down our descent slide.

Clayton going down our descent slide.

He also took this picture of me descending. At this time my legs were kind of fried from the ascent, and I was going down in crab-like fashion.

He also took this picture of me descending. At this time my legs were kind of fried from the ascent, and I was going down in crab-like fashion.

It was a great trip, very worthwhile despite the difficulties.

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Comments»

1. Kent Hackendy - February 4, 2015

My legs feel kind of “fried” just imagining the difficulty of that adventure. Today, I took a one-hour walk out the boring fitness trail east of town, as the snow came down and the temps plunged toward the teens. I’m longing for my second home, right now.

The images made my day!

Jenny - February 4, 2015

Kent, I have faith that you will end up in the Smokies. You love that place (as I do too), and it will happen sooner or later.

2. Al - February 5, 2015

The pictures make my hair stand on end. Well, whats left. I liked that one of the NFG road that shows the Gap parking lot all snowed in.

Jenny - February 5, 2015

My own hair stood on end in a few places! Clayton asked me how this compared to climbing the Bunion (from the bottom). I told him that was easier because the rock is solid and it’s just a matter of mental focus due to the high level of exposure. Here, it seemed as though you could start sliding and go a long, long way down.

3. Brian Reed - February 8, 2015

Looks like an exhilarating climb Jenny! I agree the Bunion has a nice easy angle to the rock layers, but the surroundings are… distracting. Do you know when that slide occurred? Looks very fresh. In Google Earth historical images I see a huge slide off a trib a short ways up Walker Prong in 2013 that is not there in 2010. I got inspired to do the same comparison to date the other big, new looking washouts I could spot:

-the head of Frowning Rock between 2008 and 2010.

-off of the Pinnacle ridge near Ramsey Cascades between 1998 and 2005.

-Trout Branch between 2010 and 2013.

-The biggest of all is Balsam Corner Creek off Straight Fork between 2010 and 2013. A guy who posted as Yellowhammer on the Griztrax board found it and it’s over two miles long.

Jenny - February 8, 2015

Clayton and I plan to explore the Balsam Corner Creek slide after the Straight Fork road opens for the spring (April 3) and also the Frowning Rock slide. Would you like to join us? We would try to coordinate. I don’t know when that Anakeesta slide occurred, but I would guess fairly recently because it was very loose and unstable.


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