View Full Version : SOBO in late september???

06-26-2008, 00:40
Is it possible to start in late september early october or is this something that shouldn't be done. I see that the weather is quite errattic and sometimes harsh.

Has anyone been on the trail at those times?

My problem is that Katahdin is closed in the middle of October and that is when I have to start this hike. If I could I would wait until January and go NOBO but this is my only chance to hike the WHOLE trail. However, I am not suicidal and would like to hear from some VETS on this subject.

Jack Tarlin
06-26-2008, 01:11
It is perfectly doable, as long as you realize you may well encounter some serious weather, especially in New Hampshire.

Most folks take 21-27 days to hike Maine, and 11-13 for New Hampshire, tho you may take more, as these figures apply to folks who've been hiking for four months or more and are in tip-top shape. This means you'll be in the White Mountains in late October or early November, which can be treacherous in the extreme.

However, if you're in good shape; plan accordingly; bring extra supplies and appropriate gear and clothing it can certainly be done, tho the sooner in the year you get to Vermont, the better. Absolutely bring maps and know how to use them in case you have to bail off the Trail somewhere or seek an alternate route because of bad or threatening weather.

Lastly, be aware that Katahdin isn't "closed" in October. The park is open all year round, it's just that you can't OVERNIGHTin the Park after 15 October. However, if you're willing to not sleep in the park, you can certainly day-hike Katahdin well after the 15th, tho the Rangers may want to talk with you first to make sure you're adequately dressed and equipped.

Good luck.

TJ aka Teej
06-26-2008, 08:40
"Has anyone been on the trail at those times?"
Sure, many GAMErs will still be trudging north, September has great hiking weather, and Baxter's often full on weekends.
You should plan a start date that gets you south of Mt Washington by October 1st, unless you're prepared to have to skip past the Presidentials. Expect winter conditions, hunters, closed hiker services, short daylight hours, no Kennebec canoe, grumpy bears and rutting moose. And that's just north of Massachusetts.

06-26-2008, 08:45
We woke up to 1/2 inch of snow on the shelter roof in mid-September '90 between Katahdin and Monson. A brief whiteout on the ridge that afternoon. But by late afternoon -- sunny and sixty degrees. Go figure.

Red Hat
06-26-2008, 10:24
When I started in 05 there were a couple of SOBOs finishing on March 13th. They had started in September.

hammock engineer
06-27-2008, 09:45
What sounds like a serious winter hike. Fun if you are up for it. Lots of darkness.

06-27-2008, 10:00
I agree on the darkness part. You never know about the weather.
I started on Oct 15 SOBO a few years ago although it was a supported hike, we had lots of great weather. It depends on the year.
Also, beware of hunting season. WE followed it through 10 states (deer season)
Wore orange and also had some orange streamers attached to the shoulder straps (front ) and back of the pack.
Can be a great hike. no leaves on the trees, no people, better views.
But we had a warm fall that year and except for a few 3-12" snowstorms, were hiking in shorts and lightweight poly tops most of the time.

Also beware that many places will be closed. Bear Mt., many AT hostels, motels, state parks. YOu will be alone most of the time. To me, that's a good thing. (there were 3 of us and we had a great hike)
Other years, it's lots of snow though. be prepared to bail out and wait out some storms and possibly even change your plans and flip flop.

hammock engineer
06-27-2008, 10:11
How could I forget about hiking season? You got me I only saw it from PA to GA. Bear season with all the dogs running around and the deer drag/blood/air on the trail was my favorite.

07-02-2008, 10:59
So as far as the re supply points go.......are they still the same or should I plan on carrying more gear?

Also I have a sleeping bag rated for 0 with all I have read that sounds sufficient to me but maybe someone who has been there might think different. Any advice.

Another question and this may sound stupid but I was wondering how you kept your extra water from freezing while you were walking? This used to give me fits when I would hike in Germany. Not a whole lot worse then walking for 2 hrs and being thirsty only to find your water is frozen solid and you still have to walk back.


07-02-2008, 11:00
So as far as the re supply points go.......are they still the same or should I plan on carrying more gear?


08-18-2008, 10:47
Resupply points are all still the same. I hiked SOBO through the winter in '06-'07 and was lucky enough to get great weather for the first half of my trip. I carried a zero degree bag and added a silk mummy liner for GSMNP. When it was very cold I would sleep with all my water in my sleeping bag (warmed up first), and would warm up my water in the morning before leaving. Anything you can wrap it in the insulate at all will help to prevent freezing. I would wrap my bottle in my down sweater or my tarp and that slow the freezing down a little.

A winter thru hike was an amazing experience I will never forget. You have to be mentally prepared for the cold and being alone, day after day.

08-18-2008, 20:11
I think the biggest challenge of a winter thru-hike is simply the short days. Getting any farther than shelter to shelter is got to be difficult. Be sure to have a good supply of batteries, your going to need that headlamp a lot!

I would suggest you get a gortex bivy sack. Extra warmth in a shelter and good for "cowboying" if you fall short of one. Since its unlikely to rain, you don't really need a full tent, but you need something in case you need to camp out.

You can get (or make) an insulated sleeve for Nalgine bottles which will keep your water from freezing. A wide mouth Nalgine bottle is good in the winter as you can usually get the top off and break through any ice crust on the top if you have to. You can also fill it with hot water at night and put it in the foot of your sleeping bag to keep your toes warm for a while - just make sure the cap is on tight!

Even when its -10 out, I usually don't need much more than a layer of polypro and a gortex shell to keep warm when moving, but you'd better have some real good warm and dry stuff to change into when you stop!

Good luck and stay warm!

08-18-2008, 20:46
...you'd better have some real good warm and dry stuff to change into when you stop!

I really like the Raku in the winter. (Admittedly, I was way down South by the time it got cold.) Put it on as soon as you stop hiking, wear it while doing camp chores, and you never have a chance to get chilled.


Expensive, yes, but you can dispense with carrying a down jacket and a bunch of other camp clothing.

Jim Adams
08-18-2008, 21:11
Since its unlikely to rain, you don't really need a full tent, but you need something in case you need to camp out.

I would definitely carry some type of small tent. You should be fine with the 0* bag but just in case, a small tent will warm up about 15* warmer than the outside air just from your body heat. May mean the difference of just surviving a night compared with sleeping well, especially in the Whites, SNP, GSMNP, etc.:-?


08-18-2008, 21:15
with an internal pack with hydraytion pocket (most packs) just use a platypus without hose against your back it will not freeze, of course water and a lot of other items will have to be in the sleeping bag at night

hammock engineer
08-19-2008, 13:08
Last winter we carried a cheap clear tarp to tarp off the front of shelters. That made a huge difference.

I think it's safe to say most shelters are built with good weather use in mind. There are some that in the winter are head into the wind. A tarp will block the wind and the moisture from the fog from coming in and soaking everything.

08-19-2008, 13:23
Like Coffee said... Several times I used either a 10x12 silnylon tarp (when I was carrying that) or my Tarptent (when I was carrying that) to keep wind-blown rain or snow out of the shelters. I also liked having a space blanket to put down under me on the floor, to block airflow from underneath.

You can pretty much count on having the shelters to yourself from October on.