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Ice Climbing in Smokey Mountain National Park
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By Josh Whitmore
Dec 22, 2013
In the pure spirit of adventure and exploration, this year I've been scouting and climbing some ice routes in Smokey Mountain National Park along the NC/TN border. The area has the right ingredients, 1) Altitude, routes between 4800 and 6400ft 2)North facing - no sun at all 3)Colder than pretty much anywhere else in NC/TN and 4)Decent weather data available.

The downsides however are 1)long approaches, sometimes ridiculous long, my next objective is 10miles one way but mostly 3-5miles approaches so far. 2)Sometimes mega thick vegetation off trail and lots of near vertical vegetation groveling 3)Road closures can ruin your day

I've come across a few vague references to ice in the park but never any specifics. Crowder's book mentions the existence of ice, but not much to go on. I'm curious is anyone has done any routes there or know of any specific routes in the park. The couple that I have done have been similar to the Crecent/wishbone climbs on Celo knob in the Black Mountain Range - 1500+ of elevation gain in old landslide gullies that go up in steps. Mostly a few WI2 steps with the occasional WI3 or W3+ bulges. So far, the stuff I have found isn't mega fantastic quality but I think there is potential to find better stuff in there. I've seen the potential at least for a couple good WI4 climbs, but it just hasn't been cold enough yet this year for them to fully form.

I really enjoy the big days out hunting for hidden ice, although its been more about the process so far than the end result. Any of this look familiar?
One good WI3 pitch
One good WI3 pitch


Landslide gullies
Landslide gullies

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By Kenneth Cole
Dec 25, 2013
Rainier summit
is that northwest side of Charles Bunion?

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By Josh Whitmore
Dec 27, 2013
Kenneth Cole wrote:
is that northwest side of Charles Bunion?


Yes, there are a lot of hidden pitches of decent ice on that aspect of between Charlies Bunion and Mount Leconte.

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By Kenneth Cole
Dec 29, 2013
Rainier summit
Josh, that's only a 3mi hike via the AT from 441. Do you think it is accessible from to the top to lower or rappel onto ice? There also looks to be steep rock gulley w water just under the Jumpoff where the Blvd Trail t's into the AT...have you investigated that??

I'll be searching for climbable ice New Years day and probably Sat/Sun. Hit me up if you're not racing!

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By Josh Whitmore
Dec 29, 2013
Walking in from Newfound gap is what I've been doing looking for ice on the north facing aspect between Charlie's Bunion and Leconte. Ya it's 3 miles to the top of some routes but that's the easy part. Rappelling down any of the routes is not an option. You'd never find any of the gullies from above and rappelling down 2000ft of 50 degree gully would take forever. You gotta get down to leister prong and then hunt along there. I've bushwhacked down to the west of the jumpoff towards horseshoe mtn and then down to Leister creek or down the porter creek man way (google it). Once in the bottom, you gotta just sniff out any of the drainages heading back up towards the AT. Be warned, this is very wild terrain for this area. It has some of the thickest, steepest, bush wacking I have ever encountered. Phones don't work, GPS gets confused and looses accuracy. When your retreat option is to just keep going up to get back to the trail, your options are limited if something goes wrong. The ice I have found isn't particularly fantastic, but the adventure is worth it.

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