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  1. #21
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Patrickjd9 View Post
    I think this is a very good plan. Elevations are slow, bailouts aren't difficult, and you can get a hotel/hostel night or two to dry things out.
    I second this - that's probably the easiest section on the entire AT. Elevations are generally below 2000', and the terrain is pretty easy. Front Royal, VA to Duncannon, PA is 178 miles which seems like plenty for a 2-week section, especially in winter.
    It's all good in the woods.

  2. #22

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    Years ago, I faced the same question as you: was I ready/able to backpack in dead-of-winter conditions. As others have recommended, you may want to plan a shorter trip to test your mettle. I started with shorter nights 2-3 days followed by 5-6 day and I felt it paid off.

    I agree with other posts that hiking in the mid-Atlantic with its lower elevations and frequent exits points makes the most sense. Anywhere between Harpers Ferry and Duncannon.

  3. #23
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    Im probably doing the section from Standing Indian Campground to the Nantahala Outdoor Center over Christmas or New Years (50 miles). I will watch the weather and make sure its not going to be completely miserable and wet before I start.....
    I am also a VERY cold natured person and have a hard time sleeping when its cold. I bring hand warmers for each night and put them in the bottom of my sleeping bag and it works out great. During the day, I generally dont get cold at all because of the movement - Dress light while you are hiking and have a warm coat handy for lunch so you dont get too cold.
    Its comical - I really DO NOT like cold weather, but I really do enjoy hiking in the winter.... You generally have the trail and shelters to yourself through January/Feb.

  4. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by DougWise View Post
    Im probably doing the section from Standing Indian Campground to the Nantahala Outdoor Center over Christmas or New Years (50 miles). I will watch the weather and make sure its not going to be completely miserable and wet before I start.....
    I just checked the 10 day forecast for Franklin, NC for you. Looks a little iffy for Christmas, but that's still 10 days out. If you can work around the exact timing of that storm, you should be alright. The AT weather app for your phone gives pretty good extrapolated short term forecasts for every shelter location.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  5. #25
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    Hah, you beat me to that one! But for the record, I've headed out with 95 pounds before for a 3-week no-resupply trip (well, but 40 lb in a towed sled, I think some folks call these pulks?). Yeah, it sucked at first. But so worth it.
    That looks like alot of fun! I'm gonna get me one of those things.
    A great way to take a big load and stay out longer and or take lots of luxury items and a shorter trip.

  6. #26
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    Those pulks...
    Remember I once watched a slideshow by a local Alpinist about their group doing Mt. McKinley "the coldest mountain on earth", they used those pulks.
    Infact it seemd to be the only way to perform this huge feat, getting all the supplies up the slopes.
    He said those pulks were the greatest nuisance of the whole trip! Heavy pull, freezing runners, toppling sidewards when crossing slopes, etc.
    But then, this is only his personal story...

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougWise View Post
    Im probably doing the section from Standing Indian Campground to the Nantahala Outdoor Center over Christmas or New Years (50 miles). I will watch the weather and make sure its not going to be completely miserable and wet before I start.....
    That is an excellent section of the trail, however it is also a relatively high section, hanging around 5000' or so much of the time. VA/PA sections are significantly lower, hence warmer. Temperatures are roughly 3-4 deg F colder per 1000' altitude change. Still, if I lived in NC/TN I'd be doing that same section in the winter.

    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    Those pulks...
    Remember I once watched a slideshow by a local Alpinist about their group doing Mt. McKinley "the coldest mountain on earth", they used those pulks.
    Infact it seemd to be the only way to perform this huge feat, getting all the supplies up the slopes.
    He said those pulks were the greatest nuisance of the whole trip! Heavy pull, freezing runners, toppling sidewards when crossing slopes, etc.
    But then, this is only his personal story...
    Yep, that pic I posted below was in fact on one of my Denali climbs (McKinley, but now officially "Denali"). Pain in the butt to pull, but thankfully only needed on the lower part of the mountain, up to 11K (3300M) altitude. We used double-carries to higher camps (14K and 17K).
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by colorado_rob; 12-16-2020 at 08:41.

  8. #28
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    Congratulations!
    Obviously you came down with intact limbs and all fingers&toes, which seems to be not the case too many times.

    Said Austrian Alpinist, now in his 80ties, still has to wear gloves most of the year due to extremely sensitive frostbites he encountered on Denali.
    He said his group was extremely lucky that they endured another bitter-cold night high up in a bad storm when everybody else retreated, so they could summit in an unexpected window of opportunity the next day.

    Great feat, Denali, anyway.

  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    I just checked the 10 day forecast for Franklin, NC for you. Looks a little iffy for Christmas, but that's still 10 days out. If you can work around the exact timing of that storm, you should be alright. The AT weather app for your phone gives pretty good extrapolated short term forecasts for every shelter location.
    Didnt realize there was an app that shows forecasts at the shelters - THANKS a bunch. I have always checked the local towns and figured it would be 10 degrees colder on the mountain.
    I have a little window around Christmas and another around New Years. If the weather doesnt cooperate, I can push it out to Jan/Feb. Hoping to finish up Ga/NC this year and get back up to VA and start working my way north as time permits.

  10. #30

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    I commend you for wanting to experience the colder season in the Appalachians. An awesome time to be out on the trail. Slacking would give you a decent idea of what to expect on the trail. Look at it as an intro to winter hiking that offers future options. Just my opinion. There are numerous posts in this thread that are good words of advice.
    "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change". Charles Darwin

  11. #31

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    This thread has been a great read. Lots of practical stuff--appreciate experienced folks sticking around and sharing their experiences.

    As a very small step towards winter backpacking, I hiked the AT in Mass. in mid-November a couple years back. I didn't even camp out--just did a series of day hikes to see what the days would be like. I know mid-November is more like late fall, but I wanted to hit the start of winter.
    I ran into several challenges just doing that.

    I hit a cold/windy stretch and a winter storm came through. As others have said, figuring out what gear works takes getting out in it. I enjoyed being out in that weather while day hiking, but realized I definitely didn't have the skills/experience to backpack in those conditions. Especially solo, which is typical for me.

    The short days were an issue. At 1 or 2pm, I had to really think about where I was on the trail. With a 4:30pm sunset, and earlier in the mountains, the hiking day is short. Long nights with sunrise not until 6:45am.

    Blazes were harder to see when it was snowing, or trees were covered in snow. On ridges, it's particularly hard. The trail was also less traveled, with leaves on the ground. There was one area where it was difficult to follow the trail.

    Not a lot of people out in case something does happen. And, that ability to check in/hear from other hikers about conditions, etc. is less available.

    Electronics drain in the cold. Water bottles and some food will freeze. Wet hiking boots freeze.

  12. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by RiverbirchHiker View Post
    This thread has been a great read. Lots of practical stuff--appreciate experienced folks sticking around and sharing their experiences.

    As a very small step towards winter backpacking, I hiked the AT in Mass. in mid-November a couple years back. I didn't even camp out--just did a series of day hikes to see what the days would be like. I know mid-November is more like late fall, but I wanted to hit the start of winter.
    I ran into several challenges just doing that.

    I hit a cold/windy stretch and a winter storm came through. As others have said, figuring out what gear works takes getting out in it. I enjoyed being out in that weather while day hiking, but realized I definitely didn't have the skills/experience to backpack in those conditions. Especially solo, which is typical for me.

    The short days were an issue. At 1 or 2pm, I had to really think about where I was on the trail. With a 4:30pm sunset, and earlier in the mountains, the hiking day is short. Long nights with sunrise not until 6:45am.

    Blazes were harder to see when it was snowing, or trees were covered in snow. On ridges, it's particularly hard. The trail was also less traveled, with leaves on the ground. There was one area where it was difficult to follow the trail.

    Not a lot of people out in case something does happen. And, that ability to check in/hear from other hikers about conditions, etc. is less available.

    Electronics drain in the cold. Water bottles and some food will freeze. Wet hiking boots freeze.
    All of this, and more.
    I do 2-3 days winter hikes in the local mountains on a regular basis, as well as 24hrs-endurance hikes (not for competition, just for the fun of it).
    Without sunlight, hard to belive how cold one can get over time, and how hard it is to get warm again, if ever.

    Also to consider, that many times one doesn't find comfort to sit down and have a break, relax and eat somthing throughout the whole day. Too cold just to stop walking for more than a few minutes.
    So it comes down to do continuous hiking from the morning takeoff until evening stop. Takes time to get used to it, seriously.

    Another issue I'm facing is the time it takes to do the usual chores, like camp setup, and esp. camp breakdown.
    While it would take me 30 minutes to break down camp on a normal morning, it will take double the time or more in the dark of a winter morning.
    All the time thinking carfully to do all the steps in the right order, to save as much warmth from the warm night in the sleeping bag for the chores and a start to the hike.
    Even the most simple things like going to the bushes you shouldn't do wrong, otherwise you can get very cold and it might take big effort to get warm again.
    Another small thing to consider is the sad fact that its very easy to lose small items in the snow and never find them again.

    I had all of those things happen and more over the many years of doing such hikes, and I'd still learn new tricks and do's / don'ts at every other winter trip.

    Stay safe and have fun!

  13. #33
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    sorry for the double post...

  14. #34
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    one issue for a preplanned 2 weeks - you could find little to no snow until you go so far north that you have a possibility of truly brutal conditions - IMO with your requirements you would have to play it by ear and pick the location last minute (relying on the long term forecast)

  15. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Night Train View Post
    I commend you for wanting to experience the colder season in the Appalachians. An awesome time to be out on the trail. Slacking would give you a decent idea of what to expect on the trail. Look at it as an intro to winter hiking that offers future options. Just my opinion. There are numerous posts in this thread that are good words of advice.
    slacking in the winter?..........bad idea, better to leave the trailhead with everything you need for few days - even a spot device device needs a reasonably clear view of the sky

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