Elevation: 9,980 ft
This peak is not in the book. Published November 2022
Peak 9980 is one of two ranked summits located on a high ridgeline that sits west of Prairie Creek in the Smoky Mountains. The peak is most easily climbed from the Prairie Lakes Trail/FST-134. It is often climbed in combination with Peak 9885, its ridgeline neighbor to the north. USGS Galena
Same as for Peak 9885. This is the second leg of a 2-peak adventure that includes Peak 9885 and Peak 9980.
North Ridge, Class 2+
From the 9,540-foot connecting saddle, scramble south up the open, rocky ridge (with some ridge pines to skirt) to the small, rocky summit of Peak 9980. There was a minimal cairn on top so I built a new summit cairn atop the highest boulder.
North Ridge/East Gully, Class 2
From the summit, descend the loose talus/scree on the north ridge then leave the ridge before reaching the Class 3 ridge towers in the connecting saddle. Descend right/northeast down a STEEP, loose chute of scree/gravel and ledges to reach the massive gully that separates Peak 9980 from Peak 9885. Once in the main gully, boot-ski down a steep slope of scree/gravel to reach gentler talus/scree slopes below. From the flatter “basin” area, descend the center of the gully in rock and scrub. Pine forest soon joins the mix on the right/south side. Stay just left/north of the thick forest in rock or semi-open forest.
The gully bends right/southeast farther down and is a mix of angled scree (left side) or pine forest/veg with underlying talus/scree (center and right side). It is a bit tedious to descend. Lower down, the gully now has a stream and willows. Stay to its left/north side in open rock and scrub. Eventually, Prairie Creek becomes visible below you. The final descent is through thick-ish veg with some underlying talus/scree on a face that leads down to Prairie Creek Trail just on the west side of the creek. Follow the narrow, well-beaten trail for about 1.8 miles back to the trailhead.