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ncwild
10-06-2018, 07:28
Has anyone ever done or have opinions on starting an Appalachian Trail thru-hike in Nov./Dec.? I believe Katahdin opens up in May. That would avoid the crowds and the heat. Of course more stuff to carry, shorter days and colder, but maybe that would get one through the Smokies before really bad weather?

HeartFire
10-06-2018, 07:36
Many southbounders finish in November/December, but what will the conditions be in January/February in Virginia

ncwild
10-06-2018, 07:38
Those are lower elevations, so, maybe not as bad?

Dan Roper
10-06-2018, 08:55
People explore this idea from time to time. A few of them try it from time to time. Most of them learn very quickly that it's awful and no fun. The exception are the real "mountain men" (and women) who enjoy living on the margins - sorta like Army Ranger types.

JC13
10-06-2018, 09:14
People have done this and they either end up waiting for Katahdin to open or they make such slow progress that the bubble catches up to them anyway. The other issue is getting to the Kennebec before the shuttle starts running for the season.

tdoczi
10-06-2018, 09:30
itd be more cumbersome for sure but if i wanted to hike the trail during that time period i'd start in front royal and head north until i hit too much snow to continue (might make it to VT if things arent too bad in the south taconics) then go down south and hike to front royal, then finish up with wherever i stopped the first leg to katahdin.

i'd also be prepared to take a few weeks off before the last leg.

i have a sort of related problem ive begun to mentally wrestle with for a likely hike in 2 or 3 years- when can one hike monson to katahdin and not be around a whole bunch of thrus? seems like there is no good answer.

Slo-go'en
10-06-2018, 09:58
"Viking" hiked the AT SOBO in the winter a few years ago. But it was a warm winter with exceptionally little snow. If he had tried it the following year, he would have been up to his armpits in snow.

Depending on conditions, Baxter State Park may not open until very late in June. May 15th is the earliest they will let people in. But between the short hours of daylight and weather, it is unlikely you would get anywhere close to Baxter before they open. Plus the mountains of NH and Maine typically still have significant amounts of snow well into April. Then it gets insanely muddy.

Slo-go'en
10-06-2018, 10:00
I should have said Baxter may not open until late in May.

RangerZ
10-06-2018, 10:02
People explore this idea from time to time. A few of them try it from time to time. Most of them learn very quickly that it's awful and no fun. The exception are the real "mountain men" (and women) who enjoy living on the margins - sorta like Army Ranger types.

This <old> Ranger type disagrees. I’m well past the travel light and freeze at night phase of my life. An April start was right for me.

saltysack
10-06-2018, 10:14
Why not start in November and go few months till too miserable take few months off then resume early spring well ahead of the bubble. Nov and December are some of my favorite times to hike in SE.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

FreeGoldRush
10-06-2018, 10:27
Why not start in November and go few months till too miserable take few months off then resume early spring well ahead of the bubble. Nov and December are some of my favorite times to hike in SE.

Sounds like a great idea, especially if you live in the southeast. Might as well make some of those training and shakedown hikes be part of the thru hike.

Dogwood
10-06-2018, 13:28
Has anyone ever done or have opinions on starting an Appalachian Trail thru-hike in Nov./Dec.? I believe Katahdin opens up in May. That would avoid the crowds and the heat. Of course more stuff to carry, shorter days and colder, but maybe that would get one through the Smokies before really bad weather?
That scenario opens up a different can of worms, a larger one in my opinion, that respectfully you're not detailing and addressing because I'm 95% sure you're not aware of them. There are other very worthy to explore AT thru hiking scenarios that avoid the crowds and heat more in line with a greater number of people's abilities.

Venchka
10-06-2018, 22:08
My C. R. S. is acting up again.
A couple started January 1 2 or 3 years ago and I think they finished. There experience might be helpful. If someone knows who they were.
Seasonal trail oriented businesses wonít be available.
Extra time and money will be spent bailing out after storms and getting a motel and town meals.
Snowshoes and winterish boots would not be out of the question.
A Zero sleeping bag would be handy. No, not a quilt. A WM Antelope or warmer. And an R-5+ pad.
Maybe a new pack to handle the load.
Itís always something Hey?
Wayne

Traveler
10-07-2018, 10:59
It has been done, but not by a lot of people. There are some considerations.

It has been a very wet year along most of the AT corridor, which according to a lot of meteorologists is not likely to change anytime soon. A lot of regions are predicting a heavy snow season, so its likely you will need to have two different types of snowshoes with you, the broader "powder" snowshoes that provide better float in loose snow (before melt/freeze cycles cause it to harden enough to support a few hundred pounds), and the more narrow trail type snowshoes so you don't posthole your way north on broken in trail and really anger people. Crampons may be required for some ascents/descents, micro spikes would be advisable for most of the trek as long as there is ice on the trail.

Expect to be pinned down for a few days at a time when nor'easters set up and drop many feet of snow over a few days. These storms are not uncommon from mid January into late March from VA north, and can be an issue much further south depending on circumstances. These storms can cause real problems when they start as ice and change to snow. Its nearly impossible to keep your footing, even with crampons or snowshoes with a snow pack of several feet above inch thick ice coating everything under it.

As Venchka points out, a Zero sleeping bag will probably be what you want, along with a heavy duty tent that can shed snow and ice. With the cold weather gear, and a few days of food in case you are weathered in, it won't be a light pack to haul around. If you don't already use them, rekking poles will be a must as well to maintain balance and probe for footholds.

Business services that many thru hikers rely on for resupply, rides, and lodging will be limited in the winter months, access to those that are open will probably be challenging along the way.

Mud season will probably impact a December start, which some State trail organizations close trails and/or ask people not to hike them from early April to mid May, depending on conditions each year in VT and NH. Katahdin does not always open at the advertised date the Park itself opens depending on snowpack and other circumstances.

But, over the miles and miles of unbroken snow covered trail, you are not likely to see anyone, will have most shelters to yourself, not see a single snake, no bears, and the work you do to get to the next stopping point will make that much more of a reward.

Hikingjim
10-07-2018, 11:18
if someone is up for a lot of winter and variable weather hiking, solitude, short days, lots of things closed, then it certainly would be a good adventure

Getting passed the smokies is only one issue. You can face very difficult conditions in new england in march/april

moldy
10-07-2018, 11:26
There is a reason why this is hardly ever done. It's too hard. If your goal is to complete a thru hike you need a better plan. If you want to be a failed thru hiker then start in November.

Mother Natures Son
10-07-2018, 12:26
I thought back a few years ago, several hikers had to recused by the local S&R unit . A heavy Snow/Ice storm hit the area and they hiking through several inches of the stuff. (Or tried to that is.) It wasn't a good thing. Many of them spent some time in the hospital for Frostbite.

Slo-go'en
10-07-2018, 12:30
This spring, I hiked SOBO from Harpers Ferry starting April 21th. The first NOBO I met a few days south of HF started early January. Then I started meeting some who started in at various times in February. Not many of those either. It wasn't until I got past the SNP that I started meeting those who started in March. That shows me that those who started in Jan-Feb and managed to stay on the trail didn't get all that much farther ahead of those who started in March.

The Solemates
10-07-2018, 18:26
We started 1 feb. it took us 150 days to do the trail. We had at least 50 of those days with snow. Up to 3 feet of it at one point. We had 8-10 nights below 0, and 80 or so below freezing. We were experienced (southern) winter backpackers before starting. Be prepared and know what you’re doing. We’re out in the south every winter still. Some years are mild; others can be miserable.

bigcranky
10-07-2018, 20:43
It's not Baxter opening in May that I'd be concerned about. Assuming you keep something close to 10 mpd with a Nov 15 start, you're in the Whites in March, which is still pretty deep winter. And hiking faster doesn't help at all in this case.

Emerson Bigills
10-07-2018, 21:20
It's a bad idea. Too many long, cold nights and lots and lots of opportunities to get caught in the backwoods in lots of snow. Mother Nature is indifferent about outcomes. Bad stuff can happen in cold weather and there are not a lot of folks on the AT in many sections in the winter to help. I started NOBO on Feb 20 and don't think I would want to start much earlier. I experienced about 35 warm days on the entire hike.

George
10-07-2018, 23:15
some people like bad ideas - keeps life interesting

if an 87 yo can do it in season, us young guys should be able to do it off season

fiddlehead
10-08-2018, 08:06
We did it in 2001 starting October 14th @ Katahdin and finishing Feb 14 @ Springer
But we had van support most of the time.
It was a mild winter and the only problems we really had were in the whites we had a fairly big snowstorm and had to hike in about 18" of snow one day.
Then in southern VA we had some cold cold weather (below zero) for a day or 3.
The smokies turned out to be unbelievably mild that year and we had ice at a few spots but it wasn't a big problem.
We were lucky.
And like I said, we had van support so were able to be hiking by first light and usually finishing within an hour of dark because we could cook in the van.
But it was great.
Because we saw almost no people except for a few hunters (we followed the latter part of deer season as we went south) and on weekends we'd see some day hikers.
Problem of course is long nights.
And most of the places and even many of the hotels near the trail are closed.
Hostels were closed, hotels in New England were closed.
So, it would be tough and lonely without the vehicle support AND if you are going alone, very lonely.
I doubt you'll see any other hikers except perhaps in the first 2 weeks.
But that being said, it is nice to hike the AT and have a wilderness experience.
You'll need: Big sleeping bag, extra batteries for your headlamp, boots for snow, gaiters, and be prepared to bail out for snow or you could get in a lot of trouble. And where are you going to go when you do bail out if all the hotels are closed?
I was a lot younger then and quite adventurous but there's no way I'd try it again.
We were lucky.
Finding the trail was usually OK, when it snowed it was very difficult to see the white blazes, but I guess the apps out now-a-days would make that not as much of a problem but you'd have to charge your phone somewhere and THAT could be a problem.
I think I'd take a Garmin GPS with the trail on it instead just because of the battery problem.
Keep the phone for emergencies and weather reports.

George
10-08-2018, 21:39
all you nay sayers, come on out with me and be converted - it's not all that bad - unless all the keyboard time has made you too soft??

yeah, I guess you are right - it is too hard for you, might want to get another blankie for your lap while you spend the best 5 months of the year cyber hiking

Another Kevin
10-09-2018, 06:27
all you nay sayers, come on out with me and be converted - it's not all that bad - unless all the keyboard time has made you too soft??
yeah, I guess you are right - it is too hard for you, might want to get another blankie for your lap while you spend the best 5 months of the year cyber hiking

A lot of us don't spend those 5 months cyber-hiking. We just don't spend them long-distance backpacking. We switch to peak bagging.