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snowy SE

February 23 2010 at 2:49 PM
patrick craft  (Login patrickcraft)

I've been lucky enough to go on 3 backpacks this winter, since New Years. A friend and I went to Grayson Highlands 12/31-1/1. We went in through Fox Creek and considered 2 nights. The AT was faily trampled southbound to Pine Mt crest. There we had to do snowshoes or XC skis because of plunging about every 4th step. We camped at Scales. New Years day we hiked back up and over to Lewis Fork trail. We had thought about staying a 2nd night at Rhododendron Gap but the temp was 5 and the lowest WC I recorded was -34 before my devise froze. We ended deciding not to risk shredding my tent (NF Mt 24) and coming down the Cliffside trail (or along its basic route but with 3' snow up high I guess it didn't matter).

Valentines weekend Ed and I took the boys into Lewis Fork, with a goal of camping up on Pine Mt. Not much wind, just more snow. We made it to about 4500' elevation and camped in 2+' snow, rather doing a forced march with the 13 yo boys. We snowshoed to the summit Sunday. Not too windy, temp about 15; really very pretty. A great trip for the boys.

got back yesterday from the Blacks. Climbed to Deep Gap on the Colbert Ridge trail. Above 4000' the snow got deep; 2, 3, 4 feet; there were copious blowdowns. My upward progress was slowed as I broke trail for close to 2000 vertical. You know the snow is deep when you occasionally plunge to your crotch and the snowshoe on your foot disappears. Then I noticed some of the trail blazes were at the level of my ankle. I considered overnighting at Big Tom Gap but after covering the 4 miles from my car in 3.5 hours I thought the better than to slog 2 more miles on the ridge. The ascent ranks as one of the toughest hikes I've ever done.

I have never seen so much snow in the SE from a prolonged period of time. Mt Mitchell is on course to break a snowfall record. As of last week they had 147", a season record being 177". I've not ever camped in these conditions, except the Cascades. Good luck on accessing the summits of Mitchell, Clingmans, or Rogers. At least at Rogers the road is plowed to Elk Garden.

Now if I can talk Kelly into just one more hike!

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