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  1. #1
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    Default Another February start weather concern thread. Last minute concerns.

    Sorry if this question has been asked a hundred times, however I have some pre hike concerns. My border collie and I anticipated a march 1st start date, however I am thinking about leaving just a week earlier due to obligations to be back by August 1st. My concerns are as follow, in no specific order,

    Hypothermia for myself or the dog (who has her full coat, rain coat, boots, winter jacket, and backpack) She loves the cold, but is it too much?
    Too high of snow to move. I would hate to just be sitting and waiting for the snow to melt or harden over. I like to keep on the move.
    Sleeping on snow. I have a sleeping pad, and a light weight down sleeping bag, with an REI quarter dome tent, which surprisingly keeps the cold out and body heat in.
    Emergency precautions, such as having to build a fire in the case of a snowstorm, or leaving the trail to stay in a hostel.
    AWOL's AT Guide ($15 version) shows the three nearest shelters. Is that where each campground will be as well?


    Am I psyching myself out?
    What else should I prepare? (Microspikes and winter clothes obviously)
    Pretty much I just need someone to smack the anxiety out of me until I get there. This final countdown is brutal.

  2. #2

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    A week earlier isn't really going to make a big difference, i.e. last week of Feb/first week of March. Sure you could have a big winter storm in the last week of Feb, but then again it could be a balmy end to Feb only to be followed by a record-breaking winter storm in the first week of March...there's no telling.

    Even if you were to leave in April there is a good chance of seeing snow (I saw it and it was cold even when it wasn't snowing) and all of March it is almost a gurantee to see snow. Just prepare for the worst.

  3. #3
    Registered User kayak karl's Avatar
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    the week earlier should not be changing your gear that much, even in march you can see snow, ice and single digit nights. i would suggest traction device of some king. don't know what you mean by campgrounds.
    I'm so confused, I'm not sure if I lost my horse or found a rope.

  4. #4
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    Concur with Pedaling Fool and kayak karl. What difference does a week make? All of your concerns are still possible even into May.

    Good Luck and Have Fun!

    See you on the trail,
    mt squid

    norovirus awareness

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  5. #5
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    To alleviate some of those concerns your best bet might be to wait until mid April and just hike as far as you can until Aug 1. Next year (or whenever) come back and finish . . . the trail will still be there.

    See you on the trail,
    mt squid

  6. #6
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    Sorry all, just pretend like the week earlier bit isn't in there. My original start was to be in April, then March 1, now last week February, I forgot to mention that. But my concerns remain the same (whether march 1 or February 20-something)

  7. #7
    Registered User kayak karl's Avatar
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    you will need zero degree sleeping gear, winter cloths, traction for feet. if you hiked the delaware watergap in the winter expect same temps, but much damper weather. many more elevation changes.
    I'm so confused, I'm not sure if I lost my horse or found a rope.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by akneisser View Post

    Too high of snow to move. I would hate to just be sitting and waiting for the snow to melt or harden over. I like to keep on the move.

    Emergency precautions, such as having to build a fire in the case of a snowstorm, or leaving the trail to stay in a hostel.
    Hate to sit and wait for the snow to melt? Your liking "to keep on the move" may go haywire when Miss Nature has other plans. A slight attitude adjustment may be needed. It is winter backpacking after all where things will go against your plans. The mileage monster may not be able to be fed.

  9. #9
    mountain squid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by akneisser View Post
    But my concerns remain the same (whether march 1 or February 20-something)
    hmmmm . . . . but there is still only a negligible difference between those dates . . . .

    I'll still suggest to go back to your original start date of April . . . otherwise be prepared for the worse. Be prepared to spend extra nights in town to wait out storms. We can't tell you how well you will handle the cold . . . and having an earlier start date is not a good way to avoid cold weather . . .

    Stay Warm! It is going to be cold. (A couple of years ago in May, we had a trail work day on Roan Mt (3rd highest on AT) - it was very cold and snowy - if I recall someone's insulin pump froze.)

    See you on the trail,
    mt squid

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    Hate to sit and wait for the snow to melt? Your liking "to keep on the move" may go haywire when Miss Nature has other plans. A slight attitude adjustment may be needed. It is winter backpacking after all where things will go against your plans. The mileage monster may not be able to be fed.
    How I phrased that may have come off a little entitled. But my sentiment remains the same, couldn't it be days of just waiting for better weather? Instead of telling me I need an attitude adjustment, say something proactive, maybe "yeah you will probably waste a week in total of zeros because of bad weather, might as well start later!". That would be helpful, and that's why I'm here: help.

  11. #11
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    Hope it isn't Icy going up the almost cliff side to Mt. Albert for you and your dog.... that will certainly suck.

    Also... the Smokies could have a ton of snow at higher alts.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by mountain squid View Post
    hmmmm . . . . but there is still only a negligible difference between those dates . . . .

    I'll still suggest to go back to your original start date of April . . . otherwise be prepared for the worse. Be prepared to spend extra nights in town to wait out storms. We can't tell you how well you will handle the cold . . . and having an earlier start date is not a good way to avoid cold weather . . .

    Stay Warm! It is going to be cold. (A couple of years ago in May, we had a trail work day on Roan Mt (3rd highest on AT) - it was very cold and snowy - if I recall someone's insulin pump froze.)

    See you on the trail,
    mt squid
    Thanks, I will start to re-evaluate and see if I can get my gear up to speed for a February start. Otherwise I will be doing an early April start.

  13. #13
    Registered User The Cleaner's Avatar
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    I'd like to know what your dog thinks about this....

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Cleaner View Post
    I'd like to know what your dog thinks about this....
    That cuddles are good.
    Merry 2012 AT blog
    "Not all those who wander are lost."

  15. #15
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    I think some of this is pre-trail jitters, but it sounds like you're adequately prepared. If you're gonna be hiking late winter/early spring, you need to be prepared for winter! I concur with what's been said. Cold weather bag, high r-value sleeping pad, you and the dog in the tent vs a hammock, insulating clothes, rain gear, and strong traction on footwear (would def consider gortex boots with strong grip and even microspikes just in case). It's gonna be cold, and you're probably gonna see snow/ice...especially in the Smokies! You'll have some relatively high elevation stuff in NC/TN, but the Smokies really are the highest elevation section of the trail. It's a long hike in/up and then you're hanging around 4000-6000ft while you're in the mountains. I would wager this will be the coldest area for you, and probably carries the greatest risk of adverse weather. Be prepared, and check the weather! If you have a smart-phone, pay attention to weather alerts. Also, enjoy it! The Smokies are great for views! And, north of Mt Rogers in southern VA, you won't get those types of views again until NH!

  16. #16
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    as always, the really tough conditions to take ( especially using tent/ hammock ) are multiple days of 35 F and rain - and with a dog using a shelter should only be an emergency contingency - as others have said these conditions are possible through May, but of course with decreasing likelihood - so start whenever, but be prepared to overcome your inclinations and wait out the worst conditions

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by kayak karl View Post
    . if you hiked the delaware watergap in the winter expect same teps..
    My sister lives a few miles south of the DWG, along the river. She just posted a picture of the Delaware river completely frozen over.

    As for starting at the end of Febuary, if you really mean to try and complete a thru hike, don't do it!

    Consider this: you would have just a little over 2 weeks from now to prepare. The weather so far this winter has been brutal. Do you really think it will improve significantly in the next 2-3 weeks? Not likely. If any thing, it could get worse before it gets better. Some of the worst storms in the southern Appalachians happen in March and the weather pattern we've been having is making that look very likely this year.
    Last edited by Slo-go'en; 02-05-2014 at 20:55.
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  18. #18
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    I was out on the trail about a week ago during a snow storm when it got down to about 0F, but I had 0F quilts for my hammock, and I was quite warm. You could buy a liner for your sleeping bag or something similar for added warmth if you don't want to buy another bag that's rated to a lower temp. If you're worried about the snow being too high to hike in, consider buying snow shoes. They're heavy to lug around when you're not using them, but if you want to keep moving in deep snow, that's the way to go. My biggest concern while I was out there in the cold was my water freezing. I had to constantly shake my water bottles to keep them from freezing, and at night if I didn't put them in my hammock with me I woke up to solid ice.

  19. #19
    Registered User Tri-Pod Bob's Avatar
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    Higher elevations with deep snow are not good for your dog. Also, are arrangements for the pup in order for your trek through the areas where dogs are not permitted on the AT?
    Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.
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  20. #20
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    I would over pack a little on things to keep you warm. A couple extra ounces can be worth its weight in gold if your freezing.

    By the time you get to Neels Gap you should have an idea of what you need and dont need and they can give you some solid advice of what to send home or pick up. I'd also recommend getting a pair of crampons at minimum.

    I live in VA and backpacked from Damascus through SNP in Early Oct and can tell you there were nights were it dropped to the high teens to low 20's some nights. I was not prepared for it and had a couple of cold nights. This winter has been pretty brutal in VA and I know we've been hitting some record lows lately.

    Prepare for the worst and hope for the best and you will be fine. Another thing you can do os there is an android app called Appalachian trial advisor. Type in the mile markers for some of the higher elevations in GA and NC. It factors in wind chill and temp based on elevation gains for the day providing you with highs and lows. If you monitor it over the need few weeks this will help give you an idea of what to expect.

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