Four hours and twenty five minutes to the top from Sterling Gap (this included a side trip to Mt Sterling). The final hour of the ascent was the typical bushwhack up the east side ridge over Big Butt. On the descent I angled too far to the northeast and ended up in the wrong valley, necessitating a climb out of said valley and aiming southeast to connect with the Sterling Ridge Trail for the way back. Thus the climb down actually took more time than the climb up. The summit is clearly marked with a tiny summit cairn and there is a marked (with orange plastic strips) herd path to the summit that appears to come from the south side of the mountain.
Hike up from Cataloochee via Palmer Creek Trail and the Balsam Mountain Trail. I could not find the "manway" that I've seen mentioned in various sources, so it was a bushwhack.
Jen & I hiked Big Cataloochee via the Mt. Steriling Ridge > Balsam Mountain Trails. We parked at Pin Oak Gap located on on the unpaved Balsam Mountain Road, which goes from Heintooga Ridge Road to Cherokee. At 4.1 miles it meets the Mt. Sterling Ridge Trail, where the hiker may access Big Cataloochee. Steep hike>>views limited>> bushwhack at summit was very challenging>>summit difficult, but not impossible to find>>TAKE A MAP & COMPASS!!!
The exact top is not marked. There's also a huge amount of deadfall all around the summit.
Climbed with high school friends on my 16th birthday.