Blount County Highpoint Trip Report

Thunderhead via Defeat Ridge

Date: March 24, 2005
Author: Hiram Rogers

We started from the Lead Cove Trailhead and accessed the Defeat Ridge manway via Bote Mountain Trail. The manway between Bote Mountain and Defeat Ridge is something over 4 miles long and took about 3 hours 15 minutes to traverse. The west end is fairly clear to the crossing of Middle Prong. The east mile or so is also fairly clear. The "middle half", especially near the crossings of Bee Cove Branch, is rough going. Much of the trail bed is covered by thick rhododendrons, so the route clings to the steep slope below, running through thick dog hobble, greenbrier, and blackberry. Expect a lot of crouching, crawling and clinging. We intersected the main manway at about 3,900 feet on Defeat Ridge. This next section took about 2 hours for a little more than 2 miles to Thunderhead. Again, the route is not too hard to follow but is tough going particularly on east facing slopes. The manway comes out on the AT just a bit west of Thunderhead.

As mentioned by Ken Oeser after his trip from 16 August 2003, the top would be tough to find in the open area around the summit. Our group returned to the Lead Cove trailhead via the AT, Bote Mountain, and Lead Cove trails finishing a 16 or so mile day in 10 hours. Since it was a warm day, we got fairly scratched up, got a few bruises, and lost one hat somewhere along the way. Instead of doing a semi-loop via Bote Mountain again, I'd rather have gone up via the Thunderhead Prong nanway and returned the same way. Thunderhead Prong (which we walked about a month earlier) is fairly clear to the 3,900 foot junction with the exception of a few blow-downs. Much of the route to New World is a wide old railroad grade and sees moderate use (for a manway). However, this route is potentially longer and has several tough stream crossings. Thunderhead Prong also has the advantage of being shown on the topo the entire distance. I wouldn't recommend Defeat Ridge from the top down, in summer (it looked like it would be impassable after leaf out), or for anyone who hasn't done a lot of off-trail hiking in the Smokies.