Russell County High Point Trip Report

Beartown Mtn (4,689 ft)

Date: June 9, 2001
Author: Fred Lobdell

This report is intended to be used as a supplement to Ron Tagliapietra's report of November 12, 2000 and not to stand by itself; therefore, it will not be as detailed as his report.

Allen de Hart in his Virginia guidebook refers to Beartown Mountain as "remote and rugged". It certainly is. One thing that the four of us were strongly unanimous on is that this should not be attempted alone. In addition to the possibility of not being able to be found if a lone hiker should become disabled, there is also the fact that two (or more) heads are better than one when it comes to route-finding.

We followed Ron's report pretty well on the ascent. When you've made your way to the broad east-west ridge, try to stay near the south edge for the most part; bushwhacking seems to be a little easier here. Also, there are some use trails that may be followed for a time. And you'll need to keep track of your ups and downs to figure out where you are, and when to turn north. Once you do turn north, try to stay near the steep slope on the west side, where there is a decent use trail and some blazes and boundary markers for the Wildlife Management Area. In places, there are some steep boulders and small cliffs, and in places the rhododendron thickets make for unpleasant bushwhacking. The summit area is marked by some boulders and a couple of cairns erected by Ron and his friends. Just north of these, visible through some rhododendron to the left (west) of the use trail, are a couple more boulders; one of these contains bench mark "Beartown". This was found through the persistence of Kevin Williamson, who pushed through the growth to check the possibility that the BM might be there. However, it appears to be at least several feet lower than the true summit.

On our return trip, we did pretty well until we rejoined the east-west ridge and turned east. Here we found a good trail descending gradually on the north side of the broad ridge. We followed this for more than a mile as it gradually deteriorated, finally petering out altogether. From there we felt we had lost too much elevation to bushwhack back to the ridge, so we continued our descent, occasionally finding fragments of what appeared to be old roads but more frequently bushwhacking. DO NOT DO THIS! Go back the way you ascended -- it will be considerably easier. Eventually we found ourselves across Tumbling Creek from the road on which we had parked. Wading this swiftly-flowing, knee-deep stream with boots on was the preferred mode of crossing. The total trip was about 12 hours. Bob Packard, looking closely at the map, estimated our trip as about 12 miles. Total estimated elevation gain, including significant ups and downs along various ridges, probably amounted to about 2,400 feet or so.

On our ascent, as we bushwhacked up what appeared to be a 30-degree slope, Ken wanted to know why the rest of us were sweating. "You only sweat when you exert yourself", he said. To add insult to injury, he was also the only one who didn't fall at least once. On the descent we discussed knee-capping him but he was also the only one wearing shorts, and we had our revenge when we encountered large patches of waist- high stinging nettles. His cries of anguish lightened our hearts and quickened our steps, and we concluded no further punishment was necessary.

To summarize, this is a long, arduous hike, and may well deserve Ron's rating as the toughest county high point in the East. Do this one at a time of year when you'll have plenty of daylight, and bring food and (at a minimum) two quarts of water. (Three would be better.) No water is available along the ridges, which is where you'll spend most of this hike. A flashlight, just in case, would also be a good idea. But once you've done this hike, you'll feel that you accomplished something.