Sunday, January 13, 2013

Peak 2900 - The Other Peak On Short Hills

Stephanie on the summit of Peak 2900. Photo by Dave Socky

Where is Short Hills? Well, Short Hills is the somewhat uninspiring name of a 10 mile long mountain in the Valley and Ridge province of Botetourt County, Virginia. True to its name, it’s not particularly high, even by Virginia standards - the high point that anchors its southwest end is only 3,217’ in elevation. That makes it rank as the 361st highest in the state - not very impressive. It makes up for this in other ways. Statistically, it has nearly 1,400’ of prominence. That gives it a more respectable ranking of 39th most prominent in the Old Dominion, more than all but 17 of the state’s peaks over 4,000’ in elevation. It also has some unusual topography. From this high point, the southwestern half of the massif forks into two parallel ridgelines a half mile apart that extend northeastward for miles with a shallow, gently descending 200’ deep valley between them. At the end of that five miles the valley floor drops more abruptly into the surrounding lowlands, forming a hanging valley of sorts. But perhaps best of all, at least to my thinking, are the two spectacular viewpoints near the summit. Along with my buddy +David Socky  and a friend of his, +Tommy Tracy , we did a hike here soon after the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries had bought it as their newest wildlife management area and established a public access point. That was back in October of 2010. Despite some difficulties with dense mountain laurel and steep terrain, that was a great hike, one I’ll definitely do again one of these days. In addition to the views, we also found a boggy area with grass-of-parnassus in bloom - a lovely flower I had only seen in the Smokies before. And we also saw a bear. Some of the pics are posted here.

But where is Peak 2900, and what does that have to do with Short Hills? Well, it is the only other ranked peak on the Short Hills massif, and is about five miles northeast of the higher summit. It is unnamed, and therefore designated only by its elevation. We, or at least I, had hoped to get to it on the hike in 2010. Things didn’t work out and we didn’t get that far, but I have kept it in mind ever since, partially just to be able to say I’ve been there, and partially to discover some more potential views. In particular, there is a large outcropping of bare rock about 1 ½ miles northeast of the summit that I’ve been hoping to get to.

Off-trail and headed up
A free day arrived and I met up with Dave and also +Stephanie Petri  to give it a try. We headed up the same way that we had descended last time, on an old woods road that makes it to within about 3/10 mile of the southern ridgeline. Then the route climbs steeply off-trail to gain the last 400’ of elevation. But up to this point, it was easy walking even with a little snow on the ground higher up. And we also had the good fortune to see a pair of coyotes as we hiked up the old road. They crossed it about 75 yards ahead of us, and I don’t think they ever did see us. About 100’ below the crest, and just above a short, steep scramble, we found a small outcrop with some great views to the south. These pale in comparison, however, to the essentially 360° views from a much larger outcrop we found on the ridgeline a little farther northeast the last time we were here.

The Peaks of Otter
This large rock has a splendid panorama of the Blue Ridge with the pointed peak of Sharp Top especially conspicuous. But it also has a good view of the Short Hills highpoint as well as of Peak 2900. To the north, with the exception of House Mountain, you can’t see beyond the higher ridgeline across the high valley of Cedar Creek, but there is a good view of much of that valley. This is also where Stephanie got blown off a cliff by a violent 100 mph gust of wind. O.K., maybe a slight exaggeration. Maybe a big exaggeration. Actually, we don’t know what happened. It was very windy though, and the rocks were covered with snow. As Stephanie was clambering about on them, only a few feet away from me, she suddenly pitched off backwards as I watched helplessly. It was about a six foot drop, but fortunately the low shrubs on the ground, as well as her pack, broke her fall very nicely. Either that, or she is exceptionally tough! She walked away from it with nothing more than a hole in her pants leg and a nice little scrape. And no idea of just how it had happened.
Bushwhacking damage!

After enjoying the views sufficiently, we dropped down to Cedar Creek, rockhopped across, and climbed up to the higher northern ridge. There were a few blowdowns and briars, and no trail, but for the most part it was fairly easy travelling over the next two miles to our summit. There were a number of spots I had noticed on Google Earth where I had hoped there might be a view, but most were surrounded by trees. One or two small outcrops had open enough views to be worth taking a couple of pictures from though.

Dave crossing Cedar Creek
Soon enough, but not quite soon enough, we made it to the top. We had been under some time constraints, and were not early enough to continue to the rock I had hoped to reach. But, fortunately, there was a small opening at an outcrop on the top that offered a splendid view to the northeast, really the only good view we had had in that direction. And it got better. There was a considerably larger series of outcrops visible a couple hundred feet away and a short distance down the north slope. It was a bear of a little bushwhack through rhododendron and greenbriar to get to them, but mercifully short. The reward would have been worth a good bit more difficulty and a little blood. The outcrops allowed for a wide-open 180° view that swept from southwest to north to northeast. The views at the two extremes were especially nice, with Sugarloaf and Grassy Mountains dominating to the southwest. Possibly even better was the scene northeast of Big and Little House Mountains, Big Butt and Jump Mountains, and a distant Elliot Knob crowning Great North Mountain.

Big and Little House Mountains, Big Butt, Elliot Knob, and Jump Mountain

Sugarloaf and Grassy Mountains.
From here we backtracked a mile or so, and crossed Cedar Creek farther downstream. It was quite thick and steep near the stream, on both sides, possibly the hardest travel of the day. Fortunately, the worst part was only about a quarter of a mile long. Then we hit a road on the ridge that hugs the boundary of the state lands and joins up with an older road that we were able to follow all the way back to the trailhead. And I still have a reason to go back again - to explore the last few miles of the ridgeline and get to those rocks.

*Note - hiking on Virginia Wildlife Management Areas requires either a valid state hunting or fishing license, or a daily or annual access permit. See the link below under Resources for more info.

The route of the hike to Peak 2900. To see a larger map click here.

Hike Stats:
11.2 miles
2,120' cumulative elevation gain

Peak 2900, VA
Pictures from this hike

gpx files and topos
DGIF Short Hills page
WMA Access Permit info

Trailhead coordinates:

Google map for trailhead

Scan QR code to navigate to trailheads with Google Maps on your smartphone

No comments:

Post a Comment