Mt. Gibbes, Mt. Hallback, Mt. Mitchell, & Mt. Craig, NC (6-4-14)
It had been over a year since I had added any peaks to my SB6K list...time flies when you're having fun I guess. To kick off what I hope to be a rather productive summer of 6-er's I decided to head over to the crown of the Appalachians, the Black Mountain Range. My goal for this day would be to knock off four peaks along the southern end of the range...Mount Gibbes (6,571'), Mount Hallback (6,391'), Mount Craig (6,648'), and the big guy Mount Mitchell (6,684').
The 9-miles required to hit all these peaks is, all things considered, pretty straight forward despite two of the peaks involving bushwhacks. Starting at Steppes Gap, I'd make the loop south to Mt. Gibbes (which involves an optional downhill bushwhack). I'd then head north via the Old Mitchell Trail, making the short bushwhack up to Hallback before continuing on good trail to the summit of Mitchell. I wasn't originally planning on including Mt. Craig on this hike but it was such a nice day and I was feeling pretty good so I figured why not do a bonus peak?! From the Mt. Mitchell summit parking lot its only a 2-mile out and back to Craig which, in my opinion, is not a lot of effort for what your rewarded with at its summit! I'd then backtrack as far as the Camp Alice Trail at which point I'd drop down to the Commissary Trail for the hike out. With the exception of a couple very short stretches, this entire hike stays above the 6,000-foot contour for its entirety...a perfect escape when temps in the valley's start to get uncomfortable. That and, despite a chance of rain in the forecast, I stayed dry and enjoyed more than a little sun and blue sky on the way. Come on along as I knock off #18, 19, 20, and 21...passing the halfway mark on my South Beyond 6000 quest...
Route Type: Double Loop & Out-and-back
Hike Length: 9.0 miles Hike Duration: 4:15
Trailhead Temp: 60'F Trail Traffic: 50-100 people
Min. Elevation: 5,770' Max. Elevation: 6,684'
Total Vertical Gain: 2,450' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 272'
Trails Used (blaze color): Old Mitchell (yellow), Mount Mitchell Summit (unblazed)