Wayne County High Point Trip Report

Clark Mtn (1,440+ ft)

Date: February 18, 2002
Author: Michael Schwartz

On my recent run through southeastern Missouri, I climbed Clark Mountain, the single Wayne County highpoint. After an uneventful hike up a jeep road, I reached the flat summit and was greeted by several boulders of various sizes that could have been the true summit.

As I looked west, I saw a large upright potato-shaped boulder that looked both sheer and high. I estimate its height at about 15 feet above the surrounding ground. Repeated hand-leveling led me to estimate that it is about two feet higher than its two next highest contenders. Two sides are unclimbable without aid. Another side has a boulder about thigh-high, but sheer rock above it. I could not reach the top standing on that rock. The side facing the summit radio towers has a couple of shallow toeholds that I was able to use to get about halfway up. Above there, the grade eases a bit, and I'm sure I could have scrambled to the top, but the down climb would have been beyond my meager bouldering abilities. I spent an hour trimming and lugging a nearby downed two-trunk tree to the side of the boulder with the toe holds. I eventually propped it against the boulder, bottom-up, and it reached about 8-9 feet up the boulder, still leaving a few feet of boulder above. I climbed the tree and scrambled up high enough to put a hand on top, then sort of slid down onto the top of the tree. From there I scrunched down and grabbed the tree, ending up using it as sort of a fireman's pole, scraping my shirtless arms badly in the process. The time spent above the top of the tree was scary.

This boulder struck me as true Class 3 material. Noting that David Olson had ascended Clark Mountain in 1997, I asked him for his impressions. He did not have a hand level, and estimated the boulder at 8-13 feet high. He remembers standing in a "pigeon hole" on the west side and just being able to reach high enough to place a hand on top. David is several inches taller than I. He also remembers not being able to control the step down from that perch, and falling and hitting his head. In my opinion, Wayne may be the truest Class 3 CoHP east of the Rockies. That boulder, assuming it is the high point, is much nastier than the quartzite boulder on Rib Mountain in Wisconsin, and likewise worse than a couple of butte highpoints in the upper Midwest. I left the tree in position, and would be surprised if anyone bothered to remove it. The road can barely be driven by a 4WD with high clearance, due to a couple of high rock ledges. I met a couple of technicians at the trailhead who said they have a tough time making it in their 4WD pickup.

From the state highway to the trailhead, which is at some satellite dishes, the road is OK for passenger cars. Find it by driving east 2.3 miles from the northern junction of MO 34/49 at Piedmont. The access road, shown on the topo as a jeep trail, starts out as blacktop, opposite a wide gravel driveway on the other side of MO 34. Go 0.2 mile to good parking in a saddle on the southeast side of the mountain.

Twenty minutes to the summit plateau.