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  1. #1
    Registered User Mountain_Goat's Avatar
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    Question Late Feb. start date

    I'm planning on a late Feb. start date and was wondering if this is a realistic option.
    See,the main reason is due to the fact that i am getting married in early sept. and want to be home without cutting too close.Also,i am returning to school which will be starting in Sept. too.

  2. #2

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    just be prepared for single digits and snow!

  3. #3

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    An early start does not always mean an early finish. It all depends on the weather, which can be pretty nasty in the mountains of NC during March.

    Delaying your start a few weeks until the 2nd or 3d week of March can make a significant improvement in the weather, allowing you to take fewer days off, do better miles and improve your chances of actually staying on the trail during those first few critical weeks.
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  4. #4

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    Go back and read some of the posts from the Class of 2010. I know alot of them actually had to get off the trail for about a week in Feb. due to blowdowns. Snow is one thing (if you're not postholing your hiking in mud), but blowdowns are a different story. You also need to take care that you're in a safe place should a heavy wind storm blows in - all those blowdowns got there someway - you know?

    Come join our mid-March group! ....

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  5. #5
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    I'm sure your fiance will be very understanding if you miss the wedding to finish the Trail.

    February is a great time to hike if you like cold weather (and are prepared for it.)
    Ken B
    'Big Cranky'
    Our Long Trail journal

  6. #6
    Registered User Mountain_Goat's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice.I will certinly take all these great comments into consideration.

    see you on the trail

  7. #7
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    Its a realistic option. Just invest in a nice sleeping bag and learn what kind of clothing you should wear. Here is a good list.
    Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.
    -Edward Abbey

  8. #8
    Registered User ChinMusic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain_Goat View Post
    I'm planning on a late Feb. start date and was wondering if this is a realistic option.
    See,the main reason is due to the fact that i am getting married in early sept. and want to be home without cutting too close.Also,i am returning to school which will be starting in Sept. too.
    I'm planning a thru in 2013 and am considering a late Feb start. You can have great weather in late Feb and crappy weather in March. You just never know til it comes. My plan would be to start in late Feb and pull off the trail for bad weather. I don't plan on busting through deep snow and blowdowns. I will have built in flexibility into my plan to account for bad weather. I have section hiked the southern AT in Dec and Jan enough to know what I'm getting into. I might even knock out a bit in Jan if the weather allows.
    Fear ridges that are depicted as flat lines on a profile map.

  9. #9
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    I started Feb 25th this year, for similar reasons --- needed to be done in August. Even with about 3 weeks off along the way (trail days, a leg strain, but mostly a bout of giardia or something similar) I finished in late July.

    Slo-go'n said:
    "An early start does not always mean an early finish. "
    We heard quite the same thing last year (as Turtle Feet says, "Go back and read some of the posts from the Class of 2010"), and in a way I do understand this --- folks starting earlier can't necessarily expect to make as good time in tougher conditions and less hours of daylight than folks starting later. But it really depends on what sort of "early" conditions you get, and even moving slower --- but still moving --- a person is bound to finish earlier if they start earlier and can keep going.
    Worked for me, anyway.

    Starting out, not a lot of snow, but a lot of cold wind. We ran into some fresh snow not too many days in, and just dealt with it. The Smokies were a challenge, not too many people had been through before us, but from all indications last year was a particularly hard year for snow in the south. Hopefully we dealt with a lot more blowdowns than you would have to this year (though there's bound to be some to slow you down a bit).

    Indeed, as HiKen2011 said, if you can deal with single digits and snow you'll certainly be fine. We didn't encounter single digits, FWIW, nor would I expect that in normal conditions --- IMO single digits at night is a situation to prepare to "survive" but not necessarily be toasty comfortably warm in. But you definitely should be prepped for temps to drop on occasion down into the teens at night (certainly not every night).

    How "realistic" is a late Feb start? It depends a lot on you, and your base of experience and wisdom in selecting good equipment (and/or bankroll to adjust equipment when you get to Neel's Gap). I started with two others, but all of us had met in thru-hiking other trails, my partners had just done the CDT in 2009, so dealing with snow and gearing up properly and just overall "expectations" weren't big issues. I do suggest that you get some experience this winter (if you don't already have it) at doing some snow walking, camping, basically living in snow, and one or more trips to dial in your gear for cold windy days and nights that can get down into the teens. Do those things and a late Feb start is very realistic.
    Gadget
    PCT: 2008 NOBO, AT: 2010 NOBO, CDT: 2011 SOBO, PNT: 2014+2016

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain_Goat View Post
    I'm planning on a late Feb. start date and was wondering if this is a realistic option.
    See,the main reason is due to the fact that i am getting married in early sept. and want to be home without cutting too close.Also,i am returning to school which will be starting in Sept. too.
    It's a realistic option by starting early at Springer Mountain and heading Northbound as long as you are prepared to deal with the cold and adverse weather if/when it may occur, by having plenty of money, proper gear, patience, willingness to leave trail temporarily, etc...

    Quote Originally Posted by ChinMusic View Post
    I'm planning a thru in 2013 and am considering a late Feb start. You can have great weather in late Feb and crappy weather in March. You just never know til it comes. My plan would be to start in late Feb and pull off the trail for bad weather. I don't plan on busting through deep snow and blowdowns. I will have built in flexibility into my plan to account for bad weather.
    This pretty much sums it up. Be prepared for the bad weather, and know what you will do if it occurs.

  11. #11

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    For us this year, the issue wasn't so much snow as the ice that followed after several hikers had walked through the snow. In sheltered spots the ice persisted a long time. It slowed us down and even so, we slipped and slid often. We both damaged our knees and ended up leaving the trail.

    If you are a reasonably fit hiker, you can start April 1 and still finish by early September without pushing. Just limit town time and remember that you don't have to hike shelter to shelter. If you camp instead of going to the shelters, you'll do much better mileage.

  12. #12
    AT 4000+, LT, FHT, ALT Blissful's Avatar
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    The weather is totally unpredictable. Last year you could start in mid march and they got buried by snow anyway. You could start in Feb and have 70s in March and snow in April (we did in '07). I'd say prepare for any and all conditions and go for it in late Feb. You should be done by August easily, imo







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  13. #13

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    I started on Feb 15th in both 2009 and in 2010

    Both were very cold but last year the snow was impassable..
    If you are starting early just to get on the trail to meet a deadline I would suggest that the few miles you do in Feb and early March would take half as long in good weather anyway ..in Feb.the days are short, you hike from 8 to 5 max) , the hiking is cold and you tend to run into town more often than you would in April...

    But I also think everyone should experience being in a sleeping bag for 12 hours with your boots, fuel, water, cell phone and clothes in the bag with you so they don't freeze solid and don't forget a pee bottle because there is no way you are getting out of that bag in the middle of the night. That bottle will help keep your feet warm anyway.

    O.M. River
    "the legs feed the wolf gentlemen, the legs feed the wolf" from the movie "Miracle"

  14. #14
    Registered User Lillianp's Avatar
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    What Gadget (BrianLe) said. There were a bunch of us who plugged through-the blow downs were a pain the you-know-where and miles were definitely slowed by them (just timing-I really did the same number of expected miles, it just took a bit longer). You may have to consider pulling off here and there, but I'd say it probably wouldn't happen for more than a night or two. Warming up is a really really good thing.

    Also, Gatlinburg is kind of hilariously awesome coming straight down from the Smokies. Definitely a neat experience.

    I loved my 0 degree bag. As for Neel's Gap, if you don't know about packs.. get yours there. I learned my lesson the hard way-my Flash didn't fit correctly and Winton told me it'd fall apart before the end of the trail. Sure enough, had to call to get a replacement in Erwin shipped to Damascus and ditched it in Manchester Center Vermont for an Osprey (Didn't have a better lighter option there, unfortunately).
    -Crash Course
    AT 2010 Feb26-Aug14
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  15. #15
    Registered User garbanz's Avatar
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    Default pre start snow depth report possible

    Im in the early class of 2011. Im leaning heavily on starting Springer March 1. However, one thing that comes to mind is all the snow the early class of 2010 encountered. Many had to leave the trail because of snow depth.

    Of course 2011 weather doesnt have to mirror 2010 but data about current snow depth and the 7 day forecast for the first 120 miles of trail would be valuable on planning just when in early March to start. Any ideas out there on where to get this info?

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by garbanz View Post
    Im in the early class of 2011. Im leaning heavily on starting Springer March 1. However, one thing that comes to mind is all the snow the early class of 2010 encountered. Many had to leave the trail because of snow depth.

    Of course 2011 weather doesnt have to mirror 2010 but data about current snow depth and the 7 day forecast for the first 120 miles of trail would be valuable on planning just when in early March to start. Any ideas out there on where to get this info?
    Best long range information is found at accuweather.com. Usually fairly accurate! It will give you longe range forcast for the eastern US, Mid Atlantic etc. That's about as close as one can get at this point. Hope this helps!

    HiKen2011 PM me I may start early as well

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