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  1. #21
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by map man View Post
    This is a link to the post Venchka mentions:

    https://whiteblaze.net/forum/showthr...ons?highlight=

    Venchka's memory of the start dates with highest completion percentages is a little off. It's March 21 to April 7 that have the highest completion percentages. Furthermore, in another article I find that male/female completing couples keeping a journal at trailjournals.com take an average of around 180 days to complete. If engine and Caboose turned out to be "average" completers then starting in late April or around May 1 would be a bad idea -- it wouldn't leave them enough time.
    Thanks for correcting my faulty memory.


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  2. #22
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    The other thing to keep in mind...With today's technology, you can easily keep an eye on the weather and plan a bail out. You should a have a couple days notice of bad weather moving in. It's unlikely you'd go two days without cell coverage. So it's not as huge a gamble as it used to be.

    You could easily avoid any bad weather.

    This would not work in the summer, as these mountains in the south suffer from pop up thunderstorms all the time.

  3. #23
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    You don't have to wait out bad weather in town just because you started early. Take more proper winter gear and have at it. It's really not that big of a deal. You will have plenty of opportunities to modify your gear if you find you need more or less in the winter department. We are talking about what a 1 or 2 week difference here? Bring spikes, a good down jacket, maybe a warmer sleeping bag or a fleece liner, and a good shell top and bottom some extra food and fuel and have at it. With the basic winter items accounted for you can make it through darn near anything and enjoy yourself while doing so. I did 3 months dec-feb. But perhaps I am a sadist and just love the winter.
    "We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." George Orwell

  4. #24
    Registered User Engine's Avatar
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    Thanks to everyone for all the good input! After discussing it at length, it appears Caboose and I will hit the approach trail on February 26th. We have microspikes and cold weather gear already, since March 8th was going to be a weather gamble anyway. If it gets too bad, we'll get her in a warm motel room for a day or so...

    Man, not much time now.
    “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” –Socrates

  5. #25
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    Just thinking out loud...does Caboose have a 10 or 0 degree bag and an R4 or better mat? It might be worth springing for a $15 CCF rollup or a ZSolLite to put on top of the mat for her as well...down booties? My former trail partner often weighed in at or under 100 pounds and there is literally no body fat. She wore her fleece multi balaclava constantly and had to have a liner and full sleep clothes. But, she would heat up fast too...once she was on a roll and it got steamy and she just calmly cut off the sleeves of her long-sleeve zip t as she kept hiking....leg warmers, she said....

  6. #26
    Registered User Engine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScareBear View Post
    Just thinking out loud...does Caboose have a 10 or 0 degree bag and an R4 or better mat? It might be worth springing for a $15 CCF rollup or a ZSolLite to put on top of the mat for her as well...down booties? My former trail partner often weighed in at or under 100 pounds and there is literally no body fat. She wore her fleece multi balaclava constantly and had to have a liner and full sleep clothes. But, she would heat up fast too...once she was on a roll and it got steamy and she just calmly cut off the sleeves of her long-sleeve zip t as she kept hiking....leg warmers, she said....
    Yes, she has a 10* EE Revelation Quilt with a STS Thermolite Reactor extreme liner, a Women's NeoAir Xlite, and a GG Evazote pad for underneath. She's comfortably taken this down into the mid 20's with just a lightweight baselayer. She also has the EE booties and hood, which along with her down puffy should get her another 10 degrees. It's amazing the extreme difference in our sleeping comfort zone, I would overheat in 10 minutes with her system. LOL
    “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” –Socrates

  7. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by Engine View Post
    I have a question for the experienced thru-hikers among us.

    Caboose and I are currently scheduled to step off from Springer on March 8th. Looking at current registration numbers, realizing they'll only get higher and represent maybe 50% of the actual numbers, we're starting to rethink our decision. From the bell curve that's becoming obvious on the registration charts, March 8th is much closer to the middle of the bubble than I would have thought when we chose that date.

    I'm guessing more hikers are choosing to start earlier in March in order to avoid the crowd. With all of that in mind we're seriously looking at moving our start date to February 26th. I know it's only 10 days earlier, but it seems to move us out of the peak of the bubble. Looking at historical weather averages for both dates, we're only talking about 2-3 degrees difference on average. But, it would expose Caboose to almost 2 more weeks of cold weather and while she'll tolerate it, she's NOT a fan.

    We have winter gear, microspikes, and I grew up in Northern Michigan, so winter weather activities are not a new experience.

    Looking for pros, cons, and brutal honesty. Any reasons not I've already mentioned why this would be a particularly bad idea?
    this has been a warm year. we already have trees and shrubs blooming in ATL.

    if you start early, it can give you a bit of time to take it easy and get acclimated before the bubble catches up with you. or, you can stay ahead of them. more time only gives you more possibilities...

  8. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by Engine View Post
    Thanks to everyone for all the good input! After discussing it at length, it appears Caboose and I will hit the approach trail on February 26th. We have microspikes and cold weather gear already, since March 8th was going to be a weather gamble anyway. If it gets too bad, we'll get her in a warm motel room for a day or so...

    Man, not much time now.
    there you go. with an earlier start date you have the option to bail out for a day or two if it gets to be too much. at this time of year that is about the longest you can expect cold weather to stick around...

  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Engine View Post
    Yes, she has a 10* EE Revelation Quilt with a STS Thermolite Reactor extreme liner, a Women's NeoAir Xlite, and a GG Evazote pad for underneath. She's comfortably taken this down into the mid 20's with just a lightweight baselayer. She also has the EE booties and hood, which along with her down puffy should get her another 10 degrees. It's amazing the extreme difference in our sleeping comfort zone, I would overheat in 10 minutes with her system. LOL
    Yeah, I'm the same way. The only two things that really bother me are cold feet and head when I am trying to sleep...

  10. #30
    Registered User canoe's Avatar
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    here is another benefit. you don't have to walk by or step in or set your tent up in 2000 piles of human waste everyday.

  11. #31
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    I did springer to harpers ferry 2014 starting mid feb - some icy trail but other wise the weather was not that big of a deal - "swallowed by the bubble" that is a bunch of B.S. - maybe swallowed by solitude - after the middle of the smokies, I was alone till I caught up with dakota joe and some others in perisburg

  12. #32
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    Can someone share this start date data for this year? We chose (coincidently) March 8th as our start date as well, thinking we'll be somewhat ahead of the average, but admittedly still in a fairly large group, but we hike fairly big miles, meaning we can hike "out" of some of the early (early March-early) bulk. Plus, having done the complete AT, I think I have enough experience to easily deal with any crowds (timing using camp sites vs. shelters, week days vs. weekends, etc).

    We can start basically anytime we want, and have zero problem with snow/cold, but that being said, 2 extra weeks of colder weather (2-3 degrees is significant) would wear down on us more, so March 8th, give or take, seems perfect for us.

    And with due respect to Mapman, and I love reading his numbers and stats, there has to be a causal relationship, at least a hypothetical one, to make much out of start time vs. completion rate. One such probably causal relationship is giving up early due to snow/cold from an early start. I would think differences in completion rate for hikers in the mid-March through mid April time frame are more about demographics then anything else. All of this has been discussed thoroughly in the past, and I don't mean to start all that discussion up again...

    IIRC, engine and caboose are trail runners of sorts? I don't think there will any problem "finishing in time" with later start dates.

  13. #33
    Leonidas
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  14. #34
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    thanks! A quick eyeball shows that a March 8th start is at roughly the 1/3rd spot (33rd percentile) for traditional a NOBO from Springer. Relatively quick hikers should be able to get well into the 20th or 25th percentile of "leading edge" fairly easily. As we all know, this will still entail plenty of folks along the way for a while, at least.

    One reason for our decision to start on March 8th is that my wife WANTS to be part of a bit of "the bubble", she is very social, and looks forward to meeting lots of fellow hikers.

  15. #35
    Peakbagger Extraordinaire The Solemates's Avatar
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    If I ever did the AT NOBO again I would never consider starting after 1 Feb or before 1 May. Miss the bubble altogether.
    The only thing better than mountains, is mountains where you haven't been.

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  16. #36
    Registered User Engine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Solemates View Post
    If I ever did the AT NOBO again I would never consider starting after 1 Feb or before 1 May. Miss the bubble altogether.
    We aren't able to start later in the year due to logistical concerns related to our dog sitter, so it needed to be before March 31st. With that in mind, even if we could start later, the news today related to BSP seems to have made the earlier start a double win.
    “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” –Socrates

  17. #37
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    In 2010 I started on Feb 25, so just about the same as your proposed start date. But I'm sure every year is different. For me it meant some nights where temps got down into the teens; I've never slept as cold on any other trail, FWIW, had to crack the ice in my frozen trail runners to get into them more than once. Snow and ice at times, lots of snow in the smokies, and in 2010 there were a lot of blowdowns as well, not like blowdowns other places --- this was as much brush-like as trees, but made the going slower.

    All that said, I was glad to be well ahead of the herd. Shelters weren't full, with just one exception that I can think of. And in that case it was just a pleasure to be jammed in with some really excellent people. I was the 42nd NOBO to sign-in at Neels Gap.
    Overall I found that one benefit of starting earlier was that I had the sense that the overall caliber of folks on the trail was higher, or at least those that stayed on trail more than a few days, and even those that didn't really.
    I appreciated too the fact that when I got to a hostel or motel there was pretty much always space for me to stay. Really, I thought that the number of people hiking at that point was just about the right number --- good socialization, but not an overwhelming crowd.

    A hiking friend was going to thru-hike in 2014, so another friend and I hiked the first month with him to give him a good send-off. He/we started on March 12th. This too involved quite a lot of snow going through the Smokies. Someday I'd like to hike through the Smokies without snow to see what that's like ...
    But even starting March 12th the crowd wasn't that bad really; certainly more crowded than for me in 2010, but it seemed to thin out somewhat as we just kept our pace up.

    Being just cold a lot can be wearing though. It was a great feeling as the weather warmed up later in the trip. AND I did some gear swaps at Pearisburg to lighten my pack load.
    Gadget
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  18. #38
    Registered User Grampie's Avatar
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    Before you pick a start date let's look at why 80% of the hikers fail and try to change the odds. Quite a few of the 80% quit early in their hike, why. My answer would be that they could not cope with the conditions. For the best start conditions start after April 10 th. You have plenty of time to finish and don't have to put up, as much, with cold, snow and wet. The bubble will be ahead of you and hiker starts will be slowing. It's a rough hike when you are cold and wet for days on end. I started my thru on April 12. At 66 years old I had a successful thru.
    Grampie-N->2001

  19. #39
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    I started last year on February 21st, and it worked out well for me. Certainly there were a few cold nights, one in the single digits, but with the right bag and right gear you'll be okay. Definitely more nights of sleeping with your water filter to keep it from freezing if you do start early. Some of the early mornings when its cold and the trees are covered in rime are the most beautiful on the trail.

    One major concern with starting early is the weather in the smokies. Last year we were lucky, it was 60 and sunny for most of the smokeys in early march, but its entirely a crapshoot. Sometimes they'll get storms that drop a good bit of snow at elevation. Just keep an eye on the weather and be smart about taking zeroes or nearos when the weather gets bad.

    A lot of people I hiked with, myself included, agreed that we would start just as early or earlier if we did it again. You'll never avoid the crowds in their entirety but a mid february start date can prevent some of the log jam in the early phases. Good luck, have a great hike. I'm on here again because of nostalgia, wishing I was starting again!

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