View Full Version : What was the worst weather you encountered while hiking the AT?

06-01-2012, 16:11
Need some mental preparation as it is cold, rainy, with high winds today. Thanks.

AT 2013

coach lou
06-01-2012, 16:18
Need some mental preparation as it is cold, rainy, with high winds today. Thanks.

AT 2013

3 days of rain on the Long trail in July.....I almost froze to death

06-01-2012, 16:44
9 degrees and 50mph wind at Roan Mtn with no trees and no wind blocks. It was Nov though, not normal thru hiking time. It was a wee bit chilly.

06-01-2012, 17:01
I try not to think of weather as being good or bad. Weather just is whatever it is. But some kinds of weather are more conducive to certain activities than other kinds of weather are. For me, it is day after day if interminable cold rain that can make hiking start to seem like a chore. But once it's over, it's just fodder for more stories.

Sunshine, rain, hail, snow, thunder, crazy winds; bring it on, it's all part of why I'm out there.

06-01-2012, 17:22
One stormy night followed by a day of miserable wind, snow, and cold- in Georgia. I got my worst day ever on the trail over with early on, complete with more than 2miles of a near-death march to the nearest shelter that day. But the next day, March 14, 1993, was gorgeous, and we found out they were calling it the storm of the century. Not enough snow to keep prepared folks off the trail in GA, but it really slowed everyone down for weeks.

06-01-2012, 17:39
Max Patch in April 2001. Day before was beautiful and 60 degrees. The next day, snow! Started up Max Patch and hit a huge blizzard! Wind was blowing so hard that we lost the trail. Had to turn around and go back down to the road. Waited a bit, saw a break in the weather and hauled ass up and over. That night it dropped to about 10 degrees!

06-01-2012, 17:49
Hurricane Floyd-white mountains 1999
rained heavy & steady for 2 weeks

coach lou
06-01-2012, 18:05
Hurricane Floyd-white mountains 1999
rained heavy & steady for 2 weeks
My son and I were on Old Speck Mtn. during Floyd.

06-01-2012, 18:19
i was on the presidential range when the storms rolled in 50+ winds, when i finally made it to Gorham NH. there were tons of hikers who made it to town from all over the trail north and south of town, 50 miles in each direction. all the hostels and motels were full of hikers waiting out the weather. it just poured day after day. there were dozens of hikers who just decided to go home from gorham, once i reached the 100 mile widerness there were so many blowdowns, it was up, down, under, around trees to keep hiking. :-)

06-01-2012, 18:42
Hard to say, been in whiteout conditions on Whitetop Mountain in Virginia on the first day of Spring '81, got down to 12 below that night, spent a day and a half melting snow for water. Been out in a blizzard in SNP in November of '86 or '87, ended up hiking the Skyline Drive for a day since it was closed to traffic by 12 foot drifts and the trees on the trail were all bent down by ice and two feet of snow turning it into a mouse tunnel. Maybe it was the several days on steady, heavy rain that turned the trail to a river in sections. Many miles mid calf deep, quite a few miles 5+ feet deep. Had to detour several of these sections in PA in June of '06.

As others have said, if you plan to hike very far or very often, you will learn to take what you get and make the best of it. As pointed out, these are some of the more colorful stories and aren't nearly as bad as they sound when looking back on them from you warm dry living room.

06-01-2012, 19:13
I was in VA last year when the storms that caused all of the tornadoes in Alabama rolled through. It was a torrential downpour with lightning striking all around us and high tree snapping winds. I smiled the whole way through it! The next day, the sun was shining and the weather was perfect. What a difference a day makes. I like the saying, "Who cares if it is raining. It isn't like you can go on a picnic, so you might as well hike." Enjoy.

06-01-2012, 19:15
I was awoken in the middle of the night, camped out on top of a southern bald, in the absolute middle of a thunder and lightning storm. Rain, 80+mph winds, lightning jumping cloud to cloud less than 200' away.

Frankly, I'm still a bit nervous when I'm camped up high and the wind starts to pick up.

Mountain Mike
06-01-2012, 19:37
Drought in 88. The leaves fell off the trees in July. Had to plan days around stops at stores for water through NY & NJ

06-01-2012, 19:38
Hurricane Floyd-white mountains 1999
rained heavy & steady for 2 weeks

I was in the Smokies at the time,.....and had no idea why it was raining so much.
Day after day I would think to myself, "It will stop soon."
Yet day after day,.....it rained. All day.

06-01-2012, 20:06
July 4' 2009 going over Mt. Monroe trying to make it to Lake of the Clouds hut. Thunderstorms, vivid lightning, hail, and 40-50 mph winds hit like a bomb. I stumbled into LOC hut on verge of hypothermia and thankful my new trailname wasn't "Sparky".

Mountain Mike
06-01-2012, 20:32
It was the 4th! You should have exspected fireworks.

06-01-2012, 21:10
There is nothing better than extreme weather on the AT. Admit it we all kinda like it.....

Biggie Master
06-02-2012, 00:07
One day it started raining, and it didn't quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain... and big ol' fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath. Shoot, it even rained at night... (Forrest Gump)

Top of Cheoah Bald one night -- heavy rain and 50-60 mph winds. The rain that night fit all of Forrest's descriptions.

Del Q
06-02-2012, 12:32
Southern PA, early March 2006, who knows how high the winds got, I love wind, went to college in Oklahoma, love a great storm, about 3-5 degrees out, wind chill by the charts was in the -30 range.............there was nobody on the trail that week, alone in a shelter, in my tent, all clothes on, rain suit, two hats, two pairs of gloves, two pairs of socks...........was expecting a tree to crush the shelter..........

Rookie mistake - did not eat enough dinner, freezing cold sleepless night. Got off the trail the next day at Route 30/Caledonia, was colder the next night and they got 12 inches of snow. Good decision.

Red Hat
06-02-2012, 12:40
hmmm, was it the thunderstorm as I climbed Dragon's tooth in 03, or the blizzard-like condtions as I entered the Great Smokey Mountain National Park (then turned around at Shuckstack and headed back out) in 05, the drenching rains that forced me off the trail when my raingear gave up in 09, or maybe the horrific heat in New York in 2010....All are now a blurr in my mind and I still love that trail!

06-02-2012, 13:26
The day I climbed out of Lehigh Gap the thermometer at the bank in Port Clinton read 106 degrees. It was still in the high nineties at 6pm when I actually did the climb. The next day the temps were in the mid-hundreds and there was a long waterless stretch, that whole day I felt like I was hiking drunk. The entire summer was pretty brutal, there were several days in Maine where the temps were in the high nineties and a few of the springs that are considered reliable had dried up.

06-04-2012, 12:10
First off, chickens aren't allowed on the AT...ok, that was a dumb joke (full disclosure...I'm a Clemson fan).

Being a section hiker I'm out there on some trips outside of the confines of the thru season, so some of this is relative. I've hiked in snow, sleet, ice, rain, high heat, etc. For me the worst weather is long periods of rain. In particular I'm speaking of the multiple days of rain where it rains steadily the whole time or lightly on and off the entire time. This is usually accompanied by fog and just general dampness. That's the worst weather in my opinion cause constant wetness with no sun not only makes the logistics harder, it gets into your head too. Most other weather events I have been privy to have passed during the trip, but the multiple days of rain are the most challenging in my opinion.

06-04-2012, 12:22
I once hiked on a day when scattered showers were predicted. But I have a rep as being core like that.

Cat in the Hat

Jim Adams
06-04-2012, 13:14
To me the heat is the worst...drought summer of 2002...had to walk to houses at every road crossing just for water, all springs, streams, water sources were dry.

There is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing but you can only take off so much before you get arrested!


Del Q
06-04-2012, 20:33
I vote agreed on the heat...............cold is just cold, you can get away from it............super hot is brutal.

Am planning on doing the CDT and PCT at some point, plan is to hike at night or go when it is not that hot during the day. Don't really care how cold it gets at night, I mean, New Mexico, how cold does it get at night?

06-04-2012, 20:49
A couple summers ago on Mt. Rogers. They day before it was in the 90's. That morning at Old Orchard it was hot and muggy. When I got on the mountain it got cold and stormed, lightning, some hail, and heavy rains. Managed to get to Thomas Knob before all hell let loose. It started blowing sideways and raining buckets as well as cloud to ground lightning every couple seconds. It poured for 3 or 4 hours and then that night the temps got down to almost freezing. I froze in my summer bag. The shelter had about 10 people that night and we all froze.

I remember sitting and watching a stream form in front of the shelter.

but I imagine the night of the tornado(4/27 or 4/28) last year was one the worst if you were around southwestern virginia. I live a couple miles from TRIMPI and we had a funnel cloud pass right over the house and head that way. I couldnt imagine having to stay out that night.

Wolf - 23000
06-05-2012, 19:01
Three days of extremely brutal tempertures. I got hit with 5 feet of snow with the wind chile tempertures of -50, -40, -20 (yes that is F below 0).


06-05-2012, 19:15
Not weather on the trail,but right now were socked in with clouds and I'm trying to catch a veiw of Venus as it Transits the Sun.maybe in another 100 or so years.:(

Montana AT05
06-05-2012, 19:32
The worst weather I've experienced on the AT? That's easy. I remember the day precisely.

It was Day 86, It was in June. I was in Pennsylvania.

It was maybe 78 degrees.

The sky was Mediterreanean Blue with puffy, impossibly white clouds. No sign of a storm or even a small rain in sight.

There was a very light, almost soft breeze that whispered through green leaves and kept me cool while hiking but didn't chill me when resting.

It was, in short, horrible. I had virtually nothing to complain about. Nothing to whine about. I was completely taken by surprise and had not a clue what to do.

I was forced to say things like, "Well, this is a nice day". I even realized I had overpacked Snickers Bars and could nearly double my daily intake until my next planned resupply.

At that stage in my thru-hike, I was left without my usual bitter rantings of bugs, heat, rain, and mud.

I felt lost.

Then I caught up to a hippy at a stream crossing and balance was restored.:p

Real response: Just prepare yourself to roll with WHATEVER weather comes your way--the often uncomfortable weather you'll encounter will, in later times, make your hike seem even more worthwhile (when you reflect on it from the comfort of home).

Papa D
06-05-2012, 20:27
Worst weather on my thru-hike was certainly not the worst weather I've encountered on the AT which includes deep snow, below zero temperatures, punishing rain, etc. but when I went SOBO in '85 I did get freezing rain, then sleet and then snow from about Max Patch all the way to the NOC. I slept in a Pyramid (megamid) by Chouinard which was a super shelter but it still sucked for this stretch.

English Stu
06-06-2012, 17:52
On my first section hike in early Sept 2004 I was in the rain spin of Hurricane Ivan. Sat it out in a hostel near Catawba. Later the stream crossings going south were, for me, too strong to cross and I took the high water trail which was also very wet. Never seen rain like it. At a road crossing I saw a snow plough pushing mud off the road.
Further south a week or so later we had more rain from effects of Hurricane Jeanne. Plenty of blow downs to get around. Having lost time with Ivan in some of Jeanne I recall walking with an umbrella for a while till I tripped and broke it.

Then in 2010 in Maine I had the effects of Hurricane Earl which again dumped lots of rain on the trail, sat that one out in a shelter.

In these cases hikers had plenty of warning to get off the trail or get in a shelter and then just had to watch the rain till it stopped.

It certainly is not all bad I also had great weather in Georgia and Maine

06-06-2012, 20:14
smokies in march several years ago see my gallery for pictures a college guy doing a loop hike got hypothermia and was airlifted out by the Tenn National guard


Wise Old Owl
06-06-2012, 21:52
Yea for me - two seperate hurricanes over the years, 6-10 days of solid non stop rain. On one trip - I was responsible for several very young scouts. So after day two and no break I got the weather off a micro radio and bailed. - which was cool with the parents as they were loosing it - due to lack of signal for phones.

06-06-2012, 22:12
July 4 96.

lightning storm. strikes every 2 seconds within what seemed like 100 yards of the tent. Instantaneous thunder report. went on for about an hour. I knew we would be next.

06-06-2012, 22:23
Worst, hands down, was my first short jaunt on the AT at Bear Mountain, CT. It was a Saturday in September 2006, I think the 9th. Thunder was rumbling in from the NW, slowly, as we ascended from the south. As we got to about 0.3 south of the summit cairn, a more experienced hiker, headed SOBO to safety, urged us to turn around. We knew it was a risk, but we didn't want not to summit having come so far. Just as we climbed the cairn for photos, the storm started bearing down off Frissel. As my friend tried to snap pics with his rickety old flip phone, I waited for a bit, then bailed as the storm bore down on us, lightning flashing and thunder screeching. I ran as fast as I could and got as far as just before the last major overlook. My friend passed me and made it below the scrub/tree line. As hail, 40-50 mph winds and heavy rain hit and lightning flashed, I crouched in a ball below a pitch pine. The worst of the storm passed to my northeast by maybe half a mile and I, too, luckily didn't have to take on the trail name "Sparky."

Caught up with my friend shortly after. It was an exhilarating intro to the wonders of the Trail.

Honorable mention: heavy winds on May 12 ascending to Lakes hut caused me to bail on trying Washington or Monroe. The gusts were enough to knock me over a time or two in the last bit of ascent - didn't help that due to poor marking and a misplaced quarter-mile-from-the-hut no camping sign, I had gone left where the Ammo trail had gone right and was bushwhacking and post holing it in heavy moss and some snow drifts. Yet another adventure. ...

Different Socks
06-10-2012, 02:18
1992, thru hike: mid may and 3 feet of snow that fell in the Smokies--what an experience!!