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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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Anakeesta Knob and Upper Anakeesta Ridge April 27, 2014

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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5 comments
Heath-covered ridges and mighty LeConte.

Heath-covered ridges and mighty LeConte.

There was a method to my madness. I needed to get a good view of the landslide scars on No Name Ridge. And what is the best vantage point for that? Upper Anakeesta Ridge.

I looked across the upper valley of Alum Cave Creek.

I looked across the upper valley of Alum Cave Creek.

On July 20 I will lead an outing for the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club up Alum Cave Creek to the crest of No Name and then on to the Boulevard trail and over LeConte to return to our starting point at the Alum Cave trailhead. I’ve been up No Name before, but the route I took up the side of the ridge wasn’t ideal. It would be best to follow one of the scars, thereby postponing the inevitable crawling through the heath until close to the top.

It’s possible to reach my vantage point several different ways. I took the easy way: hiked out from Newfound Gap to the Boulevard trail, and then bushwhacked the short distance over the top of Anakeesta Knob and down the ridge until things opened up. Then I retraced my steps. I figure the trail mileage was about 9 or 10 roundtrip.

The place where Anakeesta Ridge hits the trail was familiar to me, as it is essentially a continuation of the Shutts-Boulevard divide ridge on the other side of the Boulevard. A piece of that ridge was part of my marathon outing up Shutts Prong last August. The trail makes a sharp little turn where it crosses over the “Anashuttsevard” ridge.

Intersection of Boulevard trail with the ridge.

Intersection of Boulevard trail with the ridge.

For those of you interested in bagging one of the highest sub-6K peaks, it’s a very short, easy bushwhack to the top of mighty 5988′ Anakeesta Knob. Only a few people are crazy enough to bag it because it’s a 5K. (You know who you are—ha, ha!)

I walked through fairly open woods, through glades filled with trout lily foliage.

None were blooming, but the foliage was pretty.

None were blooming, but the foliage was pretty.

Before I knew it (whatever that expression means), I had reached the summit.

The not-very-exciting summit of Anakeesta Knob.

The not-very-exciting summit of Anakeesta Knob.

As I descended off that fearsome cone, I had a view of the parking lot at Newfound Gap. It seemed just a stone’s throw away (since I seem to be using hackneyed expressions).

A telescopic view made the stone-throwing even easier.

A telescopic view made the stone-throwing even easier.

The ridge had clearly been traveled by bears and by bear-like humans—I know who the usual suspects are.

The narrower the ridge, the clearer the path.

The narrower the ridge, the clearer the path.

I had a great view down the Alum Cave Creek valley.

Valley of Alum Cave Creek.

Valley of Alum Cave Creek.

And, looking off the other side, across the valley of Walker Camp Prong.

I could practically see all the people hiking the A.T.

I could practically see all the people hiking the A.T.

The view back to the Knob showed me that not all approaches are easy.

The Knob shows its more dramatic side.

The Knob shows its more dramatic side.

I pushed along until I reached some dense heath, then went back to my best vantage point and stopped for lunch. I took a telescopic picture of the slides on No Name. It seems to me the side of the ridge is more bare than it used to be. Perhaps some of the slides were enlarged during last year’s heavy rains. If you look closely, you can see how the spine of the ridge has a rock backbone, which is what makes it such a great place.

The Y-shaped slide looks like the way to go.

The Y-shaped slide looks like the way to go (click for zoom).

A pleasant outing on a beautiful spring day.

The myrtle is full of buds.

The myrtle is full of buds.

Mt. LeConte via Shutts Prong August 6, 2013

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, Smoky Mountains.
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Looking down from the Shutts/Boulevard divide ridge

Looking back down where I climbed up on the Shutts/Boulevard divide ridge

With my latest adventure, I have completed a project I started many years ago: the Twelve Streams of LeConte. Shutts was one of the most challenging of any of the stream routes, amounting to roughly three miles of off-trail and 15 miles of trail. Total elevation gain approached 5000′ because of the ups and downs on the Boulevard trail.

Last week I went out the Boulevard trail to look at the route options from the top. I decided that if I did the trip solo, it was too steep and too risky for me to go directly up the upper basin of the right fork of Shutts Prong. Instead, I opted to head west to hit the top of the Shutts/Boulevard divide ridge. I noticed a large landslide area on one of the side ridges.

A landslide area is visible in this photo taken from the Boulevard trail.

A landslide area is visible in this photo taken from the Boulevard trail.

Studying the map, it appeared to me that the side ridge with the slide went up close to Point 5386. You’ll notice that there are two knobs of nearly the same elevation. Point 5386 is the one further south.

Map showing off-trail portion of my route.

Map showing off-trail portion of my route. (Click for zoom)

As it turned out, I didn’t go up the landslide side ridge after all, but the one next to it, for reasons I’ll describe below.

I started my day by hiking up Porters Creek trail to 2700′ and dropping down to the stream. Fortunately, the Boulevard/Shutts junction is located in a place where Porters is close to the trail—the section in between is pretty jungly. I found the confluence without any problem. Boulevard and Shutts join shortly before running into Porters. I suppose that short stretch should be called Shuttsevard or Bouleshutts.

"Shuttsevard" runs into Porters at the cascade to the right. Porters runs straight ahead.

“Shuttsevard” runs into Porters at the cascade to the right. Porters runs straight ahead.

Large pool on "Shuttsevard."

Large pool on “Shuttsevard.”

I bore left at the split and started to encounter one small cascade after another, often spilling into deep pools. Shutts is a beautiful stream.

Cascade and pool, cascade and pool is the name of the game.

Cascade and pool, cascade and pool is the name of the game.

I did a fair amount of wading up the stream, as it was much easier than working through the rhodo along the sides and quite pleasant.

Asters along the stream.

Asters along the stream.

Magical pool.

Magical pool.

I encountered the first Anakeesta in the Thunderhead sandstone/ Anakeesta divide fairly low, around 3300′. One cascade in this section had a neat division between Anakeesta on the left and sandstone on the right.

Anakeesta on left, sandstone on right.

Anakeesta on left, sandstone on right.

Fern garden beside the stream.

Fern garden beside the stream.

Anakeesta cascade. It was fun scrambling up these little stairsteps.

Anakeesta cascade. It was fun scrambling up these little stairsteps.

Mysterious regions of a Smokies stream pool.

Mysterious regions of a Smokies stream pool.

Tilted strata of Anakeesta.

Tilted strata of Anakeesta, each one neatly edged in moss.

Mossy cascade.

Mossy cascade.

Geological stripes.

Geological stripes.

As I got higher in the stream, I started to run into debris and logjams from past flooding.

Quite a mess.

Quite a mess.

In one place, the streamwater had become completely acidified. I’ve seen this happen in places like Alum Cave Creek and Trout Branch where severe localized flooding occurred. Fortunately on Shutts this was restricted to a very small area.

It smelled like sulfur.

It smelled like sulfur.

Things got more and more messy as I proceeded upstream.

Things got more and more messy as I proceeded upstream.

Now it was time to look for my side ridge. Its location was clear both from the elevation and because the stream turned from southwest to south just before the ridge came in.  Unfortunately, that whole area was a complete jungle of rhodo, nettles, and blackberry. I looked at it and figured it would take hours just to get to the bottom of the landslide area I’d seen. I decided to continue upstream and see how things looked. At the next side ridge, I found relatively open woods at the bottom. I decided to go up that one.

Soon I found that the open woods closed up again, and I got into a truly ferocious snarl, mainly rhodo. It became a real struggle to climb steeply while pushing through all the twining branches at the same time. I came out on open rock for a bit, but it didn’t last. The top photo was taken from this point. I had a nice view to the major surrounding features.

Looking across to Horseshoe Mountain.

Looking across to Horseshoe Mountain.

Interesting clouds over upper basin of right fork.

Interesting clouds over upper basin of right fork.

I got back into myrtle, and then into more rhodo. It transitioned from large-leaf rhododendron to Rhodo minus, which I usually like, but this was a terrible nuisance.

Tangle of myrtle.

Tangle of myrtle.

The struggle with the rhodo was extremely tiring. Things didn’t get any better when I reached the ridgecrest and plowed through a combination of rhodo, blackberry, and blowdown. Only toward the very top, where the ridge reaches Anakeesta Gap, did the woods open up a little.

Incidentally, this ridge runs together with Anakeesta Ridge on the other side of the Boulevard. I wonder whether the two ridges should really be considered as one continuous formation?

When I reached the point where the ridgecrest approached the trail, I dropped down and was very glad to be done with the bushwrestling. I rested for a while, had food and water, and got a second wind.

I was still about three miles from the Lodge and the Trillium Gap junction. Along I went over the gentle ups and downs of the Boulevard trail. I saw some nice wildflowers.

Coneflower and filmy angelica.

Coneflower and filmy angelica.

Monkshood.

Monkshood.

Made it!

Made it!

Now all I had to do was descend the nine miles of the Trillium Gap, Brushy Mountain, and Porters Creek trails. At least I saw more flowers along the way.

All in all, a very challenging but worthwhile experience. In the end, you have to work pretty hard to reach these valuable places.

Yellow fringed orchid.

Yellow fringed orchid.