Our diverse group of hikers and abilities left Massie Gap late morning to hopefully obtain reprieve from the 6 degree overnight temperature in Marion. Five of us, from age 24 to mid 50, a marathoner (female) and a couch potato (male), set off on a winter hike. Fortunately, most of the snow had cleared off, since the AT portion of the hike was marked in white blazes, with a significant portion on rocks.
We found a large contingent of hikers that day, most avoiding the highpoint but staying on the AT. They were AT knowledgable but gave us no insights into the mountain itself. As it turned out, we did deviate off of the trail in spots due to poor marking. The day was sunny and warmed up enough to hike without being totally bundled up. We achieved the summit and returned in a modest five hours, having to move off the trail several times to let the AT'rs in perfect step march on past us.
Of course it would be nice to have a sign and summit log at the top, and the marker is very hard to find, but the most confusing part of the hike was in trying to really find the vertical and distance. I've consulted three sources and my gut goes with the 1,500 vertical and 8.5 miles although the other sources place it much less.
PS. The "wild" horses can smell an apple in a backpack, will attack you like velociraptors, but eschew clementines.