Details: COLD MOUNTAIN IN SHINING ROCK WILDERNESS. Backpack. Rated strenuous for elevation gain from the trailhead to Flower Gap (elevation 2,400 ft) and Saturday from Flower Gap to the top of Cold Mountain (peak is 6,030 ft. I am not sure of the elevation on the Narrows where the climb to the peak begins). Also cold weather and snow, residual or fresh. Scouted; I did this trip several years ago in the spring.
February bombed out even with a Plan B. The first weekend the weather forecast was so bad for our primary and Plan B destinations, and participants could go the second weekend, that we postponed a week. The second weekend the weather forecast was even worse and we cancelled. Too much risk of icy roads and the possibility that Skyline Drive, which we had to drive to reach the trailhead, would be closed.
This trip begins at the Big East Fork parking lot on NC 276 off the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Pisgah Inn. This is the trailhead for Shining Creek Trail. Shining Creek Trail up to Flower Gap is difficult, not much view and there was a recent rock slide on the last trip that added difficulty. We follow Shining Creek Trail to its intersection with the Shining Rock Trail at Shining Rock Gap (5800 ft). Flower Gap is a quarter mile or so to the left. We will base camp a short distance to the right of this trail intersection where we found camp sites, water and protection from the wind that can be very strong in Flower Gap.
Both nights on the first trip we walked out to Flower Gap for the sunset. There are vistas from the gap on two sides into the valley and, with a short hike to the top of a knob (probably Flower Knob), a 360 view. Saturday evening we were treated to a thunder storm rolling up the valley below us.
Saturday we will day hike north on the Shining Rock Trail. Pass the Shining Rock, a huge wall of quartz rocks that give the area its name. Through Crawford Creek Gap. Over Stairs Mountain (5,869 ft). Across the Narrows (5,200 ft) and through Deep Gap. This, after passing through Deep Gap, in my mind, is where the ascent of Cold Mountain begins. It is a steady, unending climb from Deep Gap to the top of Cold Mt (6030 ft). I do recall good views along the way and at the top.
Sunday will be an up-and-out for our return home. Old Butt Trail splits to the right shortly after leaving the parking area on NC 276. Old Butt is more strenuous than I want to experience. We will return to the parking lot on Old Butt through Beech Spring Gap, over Dog Loser and Old Butt Knobs to the trail intersection with Shining Creek Trail. The trail intersection is a short distance from the parking lot.
Group size is limited depending on the experience of the participants. More information on the NC Sierra Club web page http://northcarolina.sierraclub.org/ $25 (per each person in a group/family) refundable-at-the-trailhead deposit required.
Directions: Located south of Asheville off the BRP in the Shining Rock Wilderness. More details upon inquiry.