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  1. #1
    Registered User HighOctane's Avatar
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    Default Questions about a 9/21/19 SOBO start date

    Due to unforeseen life circumstances I find myself able to attempt a thru-hike starting Sept. 21st. While I completed a NOBO thru-hike in 2001 and another 4-section NOBO hike afterwards, all my AT hiking was mostly during early spring to late fall (I do have other winter hiking and camping experiences not part of thru-hiking). Given my start date, I believe it would be better to go SOBO. Even though I feel my prior hiking experiences and skill level are more than adequate for winter hiking in the mid-Atlantic and southern states I am concerned about the conditions I may find in Sept. and Oct. while hiking the New England states (esp. ME and NH). I would like to hear from others about a 9/21/19 SOBO start date, especially regarding equipment I should start out with. Thanks in advance!

  2. #2

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    The Whites in October would scare me, and I have hikes/camped there in mid-winter. If you watch the weather, are prepared to bail, and are lucky, you might be okay. If you are a fast hiker, that would of course help.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  3. #3

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    Just do it... but many traditional resupply points will be clised... not an ideal time fo "cold soaking"

    i would still do it if I had the luxury of time.


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  4. #4

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    The chances are good that's a very, very bad idea. There are some fine hiking days in late September and early October, but it gets bad after Columbus day. And in between those fine hiking days, there are some really bad ones. Winter comes quick in the mountains of Maine, NH and Vermont.

    With the days getting shorter and nights getting colder your progress is going to be slow. It will be the end of October by the time you make it to NH, if you get that far at all.

    Every year is different so it's impossible to say when the snow will start but last year the first serious snow was the middle of October and it never melted. It just kept getting deeper. Which is why there are still large snow fields on Mt Washington in the middle of June this year.

    I would suggest you start at the VT/MA line and skip ME/NH/VT. You'll still need winter gear, but you won't have to lug it over big mountains and treacherous trails.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  5. #5

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    I will not say it cannot be done but it will require a lot of luck and true winter hiking. Slo-go'en has it correct, I would plan my start so I was out of the whites before October 1 and I would plan on short days , cold weather and be ready to bail at any time. winter weather can start at the worst time up here and sometimes it goes for a long time.

  6. #6

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    The rule of thumb for SoBos starting at Katahdin is to get south of the Whites by October 1st.
    If 9/21 is the date you'd like to start hiking south, I'd suggest Gorham.
    What you might consider is starting at Katahdin, bypassing the Whites, and hopping back on at Glencliff.
    Teej

    "[ATers] represent three percent of our use and about twenty percent of our effort," retired Baxter Park Director Jensen Bissell.

  7. #7
    Registered User HighOctane's Avatar
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    Default

    I greatly appreciate the valuable replies! I certainly understand and agree with the comments made and will continue to contemplate my options and goals. Weather permitting I'd like to start at Katahdin and make it through the 100 mile wilderness, then jump to Gorham if it looks like the wise move to do. :-)

  8. #8

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    I want to believe this can be done.

    Just thinking out loud.
    From your starting date, 100 days gets you to the end of December.
    Only elite hikers (the top 5%) finish the AT in 100 days (someone out there has data on this), but it is done regularly in warm weather.
    At this pace (22 m/day average including zeros, slower in ME-NH, faster in the mid-Atlantic) you would *likely*
    be through the Whites before new snow. You would just as likely get caught by snow on Mt Stratton (VT) as Mt Washington.
    You would almost certainly run into snow and cold from the Roan Highlands through GSMNP and even the peaks of GA.
    By cold, I mean 20 degrees F and possibly down to zero F.
    I hiked in VA last November and it was chilly (sub-freezing nights), but passable, until the wind storm hit.
    The shelters were nearly empty and the trail was fast.
    Someone else could weigh in on water issues.

    The AT has been hiked in winter - I am aware of a winter-only SOBO hike which took multiple winters to complete.
    Some NOBOs start in January every year, but they tend to go slowly and usually take much more than 100 days.
    "Flyin' Brian" (the first calendar year triple crowner) started NOBO on Jan 1, but only got to Bennington (Southern VT) by the end of Mar.
    This was a slower pace than you would need to make (70-75% of the trail in 90 days).

    Hiking/travelling big miles in snow and harsh conditions can be done.
    The best example would be Forry & Lichter's transit of the PCT in winter (also SOBO).
    https://www.outsideonline.com/193086...-thru-hike-pct
    But that was a team effort of two - a big advantage in winter.

    A support team would also help (warm gear at each road crossing?).

    In the end, the weather will have a say in the success of such an effort, in almost every state.

    So, how strong a hiker/winter outdoorsman are you?
    If the answer is average, or even 75th percentile, I think a full end-to-end hike won't work for your starting date.
    If the answer is elite and motivated and supported, then I say, go for it - I will be cheering for success.

    If you don't mind short days, winter hiking, and December is not a hard deadline, then this can be done, finishing in 2020.

  9. #9
    Registered User HighOctane's Avatar
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    Thanks One Arm for your reply. After reading and rereading your reply I believe you misunderstood my remark, "Weather permitting I'd like to start at Katahdin and make it through the 100 mile wilderness, then jump to Gorham if it looks like the wise move to do."
    I completed my first thru-hike in 135 day, but not during winter months. I certainly DO NOT plan on completing a thru-hike in 100 days! IF I start another AT thru-hike (this time during winter months) I plan on taking at least 6 months, although I have more time available as needed.




  10. #10

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    Have at it and enjoy. Mother Nature will let you know what you can do.
    My only suggestion to someone with your experience would be to carry paper maps, along with your electronic maps, at least through VT for escape routes.
    You will be past the last nobo's by half way through Maine.
    I always thought a late start sobo (early August) would be my favorite, but never thought about quite that late a start.
    Your chances will improve a lot when you get to Glencliff, NH.
    You are in Barrow, AK? Then you already know cold and dark.
    Hope you are able to put this walk together and hope you enjoy it.
    Stumpknocker
    Trail is 27.0% complete.

  11. #11
    Registered User HighOctane's Avatar
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    YUP, cold and dark have been my winter companions for the last 9 years in Barrow (now know as Utqiagvik)! Just moved to Seward, Alaska to thaw out and enjoy a stunningly beautiful piece of AK!
    Thanks for your comments, which I find very beneficial and meaningful. At this point I'm thinking of a NOBO from Springer and simply going N until I feel it's time to get off the trail due to extreme winter conditions. It seems NOBO or SOBO I'll likely NOT be able to complete an honest (purist) thru-hike with such a late start date, not the end of the world!
    I just want to run away from society by spending months on the AT again.

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