View Full Version : Weather Challenges

03-28-2009, 15:15
With all of the challenges with the weather, what was the most weather challenge you have experienced on the trail. Rain is certainly one. Blizzards another. What have you faced and how did you do it.

This should be an exciting thread and it could be of help to others who may find themselves in the same situation.

03-28-2009, 15:20
I was hiking in VA during monsoon rains. Three or four days of just more rain than I ever knew was possible to fall from the sky. But it was weird -- it would pour down for hours, then stop, and start to clear up. Just when we thought it was over, it would start again. Unbeknown to us, it really was a monsoon weather system, which went on to wash out roads in PA and NJ that year (2006).

How did I deal with it? Well, I did spend more time hunkered down in my tent than usual, but other, I just kept hiking. Not much else to do, especially since I didn't know until after the fact that it was supposed to go on and on for days. A weather radio would have come in handy.

I will say that after three, four days of this, I had to get off the trail. Everyone out there did. It took all night inside a heated cabin for my tent to dry out.

SGT Rock
03-28-2009, 15:38
Faced all day slog in the rain for a 20 mile day. Sometimes rain is a good day to just make miles. I got to Partnership Shelter and found out that there was a bad front moving through with tornadoes and flash floods. Swole up a creek something fierce that had already had a bridge knocked out. Luckily Partnership shelter is a good place to order pizza. So I stood outside in the rain waiting for the delivery, then ate great. A few days later that bridge I mentioned was a ford I wouldn't attempt - ended up yellow blazing a road that paralleled the AT for 2 miles to get around the crossing. Good adventures.

Hiked a hard day in Tennessee where it started as rain in the low 30s. But it turned into sleet and rain before noon. By lunch it was sleet. By evening it was driving snow. I skipped the shelter and skipped hitching into Erwin - I just kept driving on. I got to where I wanted to camp and the conditions were bad. Snow coming in sideways, the temps were very low, and there was no where to get out of the wind for a camp. I took off my jacket and there was ice formed inside my jacket. But I climbed into my hammock under my low tarp and rode it out. The next day the woods were spectacular.

Another time I was hiking in Louisiana. The older son and I hiked in the first night on a planned 3 day 2 night hike. It started raining. We set up camp next to a creek which was about 5' below us in a culvert. It rained all night, and when we got up that creek was coming over the top of the culvert and it was still raining hard. We packed up quick and headed back out the way we hiked in. On the way out the water was so high all the bridges we had used to get out were knee high to me under water and up to my son's waist. We made it back to the trail head and got out of there.

03-28-2009, 16:08
Storms in the western mountains have been the most dangerous. I've had to go into "lightning position" a few times when I couldn't get back below timberline before a storm rolled. My spookiest was when I was actually down into the treeline though. A lightning bolt smashed a tree about 40 yards from me. It blew a large limb to pieces and thumped a 3 foot spear of wood into the ground about 10 feet from me.

The other big challenge is heavy rain leading to swollen, fast stream crossings. I had that one to deal with in the 100 Mile Wilderness on my thru-hike when the leftovers of a hurricane dumped 7 inches of rain overnight.

Cabin Fever
03-28-2009, 16:18
My first time over the Humps was the weekend before Christmas in 2007. It was in the 40s in the valley and in the 20s at Carvers Gap. We walked through 40+ mph winds with sideways snow to Overmountain Shelter. A great place to wait out that craziness. The snow stopped overnight, but the wind didn't. We finally got out of the wind around Doll Flats.

03-28-2009, 17:12
Ice storm in GSMNP back in the 70's. 1" to 2" of ice on everything. Trail was a sheet of ice, big trees and limbs cracking and falling everywhere. Really beautiful, but dangerous as hell. Hiked out a few miles to Rt 441 the next day.

03-28-2009, 17:56
1. Thunder and lightning on the peaks of the Smokies. I just couldn't handle another night crammed in the shelter that was overloaded.

2. Thunder/lightning and rain going up Wildcat last Aug. I busted my butt so many times before I reached the lodge. I almost hung up my AT boots for good. The caretakers at the lodge were great.

3. 70 mph winds on Webster cliffs climbing Mt Washington in in the sleet and snow in August. The winds were actually throwing me to the ground. This was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. I pushed over the top the next day instead of quiting like my partner, and it was one of the most awesome things that I had ever done. NH kicks my butt.

4. Last but not least, I had to be pulled out the wilderness from a side mt last August during the 10 day rainfall. The rivers were swollen and swift; no one was getting thru.

03-28-2009, 20:51
Anyone starting at Springer this week will have a story to tell. 5-1/2" of rain since noon Wednesday

03-28-2009, 22:07
Anyone starting at Springer this week will have a story to tell. 5-1/2" of rain since noon Wednesday

They didn't get as much as we did in Atlanta. Check the following link to see the rainfall amounts at Amicalola Falls:


Check the Precip info on the chart in the lower right. We got a ton of rain but the mountains are still in a bit of a drought. I was surprised to see that Franklin, NC had so little rain this month.

03-28-2009, 22:37
My most memorable weather experience was when I night-hiked south out of Duncannon in an early winter storm. It was snowing gently when I left town but soon turned to freezing rain as I climbed. It was quite lovely until the trees starting breaking. Huge branches and even trees were coming down with sharp "CRACKS" all around me. I had to go over and around many that landed on the trail. It was definitely an adrenaline boost. Probably one of my fastest paced hikes. That night a couple branches even hit the shelter I stayed in. Scary, but exciting at the same time.

03-29-2009, 01:47
I have several good rain, flashflood, lightening, and snow storm stories, but one of the weirdest experiences was ontop of Mt. Mansfield while thru-hiking the Long Trail southbound in 2007. From my maps I knew I was getting near where a gravel road and nature center was supposed to be. The mist and fog rolled in so fast visibility was less than 10 ft in less than 10 mins. I could barely see my outstretched hand in front of me, but I managed to stay on the trail because the ground was well worn on the trail so I just stared at the ground to find my way in the thick woods on the narrow trail. Finally I noticed gravel at my feet but no trail. A buzzing sound was in the air, but I saw no nature center building. I dared to wander around for 10 mins. Finally, I realized I should just stay put. I took my pack off and felt something brush up against it. I looked closer and groped around with my outstetched arms to see what it was. Not more than 6 ft from me was the 2 1/2 story white painted nature center!

Also, although not really weather related, I hiked the entire Ken Patrick Trail in 2007 at the N Rim of the Grand Canyon while the area was on fire. Large burning trees were falling to the ground. It was intensely hot! Every powdery step disappeared into 8 in deep cinder and ash on the ground and caused the air to explode with dust like it was a ticker tape parade. I lost the burning trail repeatedly. The soles of my hiking boots would melt if I stood still in one place too long. And, the weirdest thing - fire makes unusual noises! Not just the snap, crackle, hiss, and pop of burning wood, but noises like it's alive! I saw the fire jump 60 ft. across from one burning tree and start to engulf another tree. I did this stupid thing just once and realized that I would never hike through a large fire ever again! I also learned that when lost or confronting something like a whiteout it is often best to find protection and wait it out, at least for a while. Most of all, I know this sounds easy to do while sitting here in front of a computer, but never panic!

Darwin again
03-31-2009, 20:14
1. GSMNP: Arrived at Tricorner Knob Shelter just before dark, shelter packed, was wet and had been hiking in clouds all day, missing out on views from ZCjarlie's Bunion, etc. Got the last slot in the shelter, cocooned up and slept like a baby. It rained all night and the rain turned to ice. Had to beat the ice off the food bags in the morning in the dazzling sunlight. Dodged ice chunks falling from the thawing trees all morning. When they hit, the felt like someone was wacking me with a broom handle.

2. Did a long day from Vandeventer Shelter nearly into Damascus. Got caught in a HUGE thundershower, complete with hail, in the late afternoon. Lightning hit a tree 50 feet away and I jumped about three feet straight up in the air.

3. Hiking in that maze of relocated trail that didn't match any maps north of 19E, I could smell the ozone in the air from lightning strikes. That was scary. The sky was yellowish green.

4. Coming off Mount Washington summit on the AT, the wind was gusting stronger than I'd ever felt in mywhole life except when falling from an airplane. According to the weather info at the visitor's center, where I stopped for lunch, the temp was 45 degrees, wind was steady at 46 mph gusting to 68 mph. That was the only time in all my AT hiking that I wore ALL of the winter gear I had and was glad I had it. I was afraid if the wind suddenly died, I would be hurled against the rocks. When I walked out of the wind behind a boulder, I would fall toward it because I was having to compensate so much for the strength of the wind. I had trouble putting my hiking poles down in a straight line, it was that windy and roaring. Over time, the wind abated and the weather cleared.

03-31-2009, 21:08
Just south of the Beauty Spot I got hit with a pretty nasty thunder storm with a fair amount of hail. Not long after a second more powerful storm hit, as I was going up Unaka Mtn. Most of the way up Unaka I got drilled with hail about the size of grapes.

That being said, I would do it again. There was about 2"-3" of hail covering the ground when I got to the top of Unaka. With the pine forest and fog rising from the ground it was amazing. We couldn't see a trail at all, had to walk to a blaze, stand there and look around until we saw another blaze. Really cool.

03-31-2009, 23:00
Hail is very tough. Especially when there's no shelter from it.

But wind is worse (over 70 mph) That's getting to the limit where you have to crawl cause it'll blow you off your feet.

Rain is something that all hikers should be prepared to handle.

04-01-2009, 00:33
Fiddlehead, since you mentioned wind, have you ever heard of places where you can jump off a cliff and the super strong winds blow you back to where you jumped from? I want to do that!!

04-01-2009, 09:47
Fiddlehead, since you mentioned wind, have you ever heard of places where you can jump off a cliff and the super strong winds blow you back to where you jumped from? I want to do that!!

Looking for a spot in the record book (http://www.darwinawards.com/)?:confused::eek:

04-03-2009, 18:42
Last year on the AT in Massachusetts. Well, New England, but especially this one day in MA. It'd been raining a lot since NY, and would continue to until the day we hit Glencliff, NH, but this day was the worst. We just got done with this awesome trailmagic from Freefall's parents, brownies and fruit and chips and hummus... great stuff. We were all feeling good, ready to put in some miles. So we all left at once; there were about 9 of us hiking in a line, having a grand old time, except for that thunder which seemed to be rolling closer and closer.

A mile passes under our feet, and another half mile. Suddenly, it'd dark as night and we're hiking really fast. On and on we push, dodging as many puddles in the trail as we can. We know there's a shelter in another half mile or so. Now the storm is nearly upon us, we're racing the clouds to the shelter, a line of 9 hikers sprinting madly down the muddy trail. Just as we can hear the wind rushing in and the curtain of rain advancing noisily towards us, someone spots the shelter. RUN! and run we did. We all made it, safe and dry.

It got a little Biblical for a while out there in the Massechusetts woods; hard rain, and steady hail for ten minutes or so. A half hour of puddle watching and register reading passes, when one of us (not me) said, "well, it's over, let's keep hiking." Well, fine. It was all good for maybe a tenth of a mile, then we found the trail submerged in 6 inches of icy water, the surrounding woods not much drier. Mind you, I'd managed to keep my boots perfectly dry all day long, on the insides at least, much to my satisfaction. Now, well... I tried rock hopping for about ten steps, then gave up. It just wasn't gonna happen, and why postpone the inevitible?

Now the rest of the day was less hiking than it was wading. And wading through ice water that froze your feet and made you yell through your gritted teeth. Much of the trail for at least 4 miles solid was mid-shin deep, and the forest road was a waist-deep torrent. The streams were raging rivers that almost felt unsafe to cross, muddy as it was, you couldn't see the bottom, and the current was strong. And did I mention the ice cold water, the frozen feet, the bog-bridges under 4 inches of water?

Probably one of my hardest days on the trail.

Cedar Tree
04-03-2009, 19:34
Dragon's Tooth for me. The thunderhead totally engulfed the mountain. Marble size hail pounded me and the rain was torrential. I wanted to hunker down somewhere, but I was afraid of hypothermia. I just kept walking. Lightening was my biggest concern. The trail would go from dark to bright light with each strike. I walked faster. Lightening and thunder came from below my elevation. I skipped the trail to the tooth, and when I got to the bottom of the ladder, I stepped into a knee deep raging current that was the trail. It was by far the worst rain I've hike in.

About 30 minutes later, after the storm finally passed, I stood on a look out and watched it move down the valley. Huge black cloud and lightening was popping out of it like fireworks. Very pretty, especially since it was gone.

I walked to the nearest store at the next road. Water was just about to breech the curb and flow into the store. The parking lot was a lake. The ditches on the sides of the road were overflowing.

I called Down Home B&B and had a great stay. Very nice accomodations, and I was able to dry all my stuff.

Cedar Tree