Climbing Mt. Mitchell North Carolina Xmas...

4:23 p.m. on December 15, 2007 (EST)
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Hello. I am an active man who is planning to climb his first mountain. I am in great shape so I am not concerned with the ability to climb yet(maybe I am dumb). Here is some of the stuff I have or plan to get.

Clothing:
Thermal Underwear
2 thermal shirts
1 sweater
cap
Jacket (not sure what to get yet that is cheap)
Rain suit
gloves (not sure what to get yet either)
Thinsulate boots

Gear:
External Frame pack that holds about 3500 cubic inches
2 person backpacking tent
20 degree sleeping bag
thermarest sleeping pad (not the blow up type)
first aid kit
knife (big and little)
compass
2 bottles for water
4 days food (plan on 2 day hike)
water purification tablets
flashlight
head light
cellphone (for emergencies)
camera (canon powershot g7)

Ok, I am coming from Florida but the southern entrance of the park is closed. So I will be using the northern enterance I guess. I am not sure which path to the top I will be doing, but I do want the 3000 ft climb not the climb from the parking lot a couple hundred feet from the summit.

Some questions...
Snowshoes?
Temperatures? I assume around 20 degrees at night.
Animals? I assume nothing that will kill me.
Mosquitos? Too cold for them right?
Ice Axe?
Dangerous sections?

ANY and I mean ANY info or suggestions will be greatly appreciated...

Siggy from florida...

10:02 p.m. on December 15, 2007 (EST)
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How about a map? Trip plan filed with someone that'lll know when you're late?
What have you got for socks?
Is that a ski hat for warmth? They're good to wear while you sleep.
Stove isn't on your list eiher. Best to have one.
Spare batteries for lights? Good to have lights that use the same type batts.
How good do the boots fit you?
Mosquitoes not really an issue away from standing water and the cool temps you noted.

Ice Axe for long slides on glaciers. Last check there weren't any glaciers or snow fields in NC.
Snow shoes look cool hanging over the fireplace. There won't be snow deep enough to warrant carrying them with you.
Animals will run before you see them. Maybe a bear or two but leave 'em alone and they'll do the same. Got some way to protect your food from them? A rope & hang bag still works with these unrefined, eating-all-year southeastern bears.

Try to think of what we have here in the SE as hills. Fun and beautiful but hills (the summit is still the summit nontheless though). Save the mountain term for things above 8k ft or so. Focus on your gear and don't worry about the terrain. It's a walk in the park and not really a climb like you might be worrying yoself with. Vertical ascents will be casual. Descents will kill your feet if your boots don't fit right.

Cheers

7:35 p.m. on December 16, 2007 (EST)
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I have printed a few versions of the maps. I just found a really good one of the hike I will be doing. I am hiking from Black Mountain Camp which is a 11 mile hike there and back. 3600 ft. ascent. I do have a few very warm hats. I have told everyone I know I am going (and even a few people I don't know but will listen). I will pick up some spare batteries and the headlight I got lasts 50 hours it says. L.E.D. lights. Glad I don't need snow shoes or ice axes. Socks are just socks I got from Walmart that are suppose to keep your feet dry and are extra long. My feet sweat in my thinsulate boots here, but its 75 in my house and 75 outside. Boots fit good. I wore them all day yesterday basically to ensure they fit good. Will be picking up some walking poles this week.

Thanks for all your input.

3:41 p.m. on December 17, 2007 (EST)
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How about a stove?

If you haven't got it find the USGS topo map for the area. Surf on over to MyTopo links from the front page here. The localized maps are great as long as you stay on and kind find the trail. They're pretty much worthless to you if you lose the trail or it's covered in snow. Snow has a way of making deer paths look like the main path especially if no one has trod through it before you; and if someone has already been through it who's to say they were on the right path? The topos will help you find water if it's scarce.

From what you're describing (or at least as it's described) your foot gear is pretty weak. To keep your feet warm you need to insualte your shins. The insul boots are OK, but what happens when they get wet from sweat. If you have time swing by an REI and get some socks (Thorlos, Smartwool etc) that wicks the water and will dry quickly. For this area & weather inuslate your feet & not your boot.

While you're hiking it's easy to keep warm since your body is burning the energy, especially your legs. It won't take much to stay warm on the move. Standing still is when you need to be able to slip on an extra layer for the length of the break. Places to pay attention to to stay warm are your shins, wrists & forearms, neck, & head (Mom was right, put a hat on if your cold). The other places are your armpits & lower back but there's not much you can do with those while hiking with a pack. Adjust the pro these areas have as needed to make yourself warmer or cooler. I think it's better to be a little on the cool side when on the move and whatever is comfortable during the breaks. Try to minimize how much you sweat.

I suppose you already know not to use cotton for insul layers?

ag

9:08 p.m. on December 17, 2007 (EST)
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You can download USGS topo maps in pdf format free at http://store.usgs.gov/locator/. I just downloaded the Mt. Mitchell, N.C. quadrant because I'm a map geek. Unfortunately, it's a pretty old map, Mt. Mitchell is in the bottom right corner, and, as is common with the USGS topo maps, you'll need a second map to get the whole hike. Just be careful not to download Mt. Mitchell, WA (unless you want to look at Mt. Mitchell, WA)

11:43 p.m. on December 17, 2007 (EST)
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I like trails.com

Trail reviews, where to find the trailhead, route options, road closures, area maps, etc. check it out. I think you get 3 free downloads. Topo maps are also available as part of your 3 free downloads.

A short blurb from the guide available on Trails.com

"But the Black Moutains reign supreme and high winds and deep snow (104 inches anually) yield a surprisingly severe climate"

There are all sorts of usefull tips here. Also, don't forget to get your backcountry permit before you go. The park is pretty well shut down in the winter so you will need to go to the website and download your application, fill it out mail it in and so forth.

I paid the $50 because we are out and about so often.

7:51 a.m. on December 18, 2007 (EST)
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Thanks. I will download the forms today and mail them in. I plan to call the park today and speak with someone regarding my plans. What stove do you recommend for a single trip? I read reviews and I get the feeling that everyone likes the one they got. I am looking for something cheap and easy to use. Weight is not so critical- I am 210lbs anyways :) Thanks again.

Siggy.

3:38 p.m. on December 18, 2007 (EST)
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Which stove to use? This late in the game (you're figuring this trip will be this Xmas, right?), find one you understand and can operate easily. Maybe an REI has rentals? I prefer stoves that use coleman fuel.

Search around here there's been plenty of conversation re: stoves as to performance.

You should be weght conscious (pack-wise), every little bit counts and can make the diff between a fun trip and a slog.

7:27 p.m. on December 18, 2007 (EST)
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I found a stove at Dick's Sporting Goods made by coleman (Coleman Single Burner Power Pack Low Profile Stove. 7,500-BTU's) http://www.dickssportinggoods.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2287846&cp=2367824.2277089.2277090.2277755&pg=1&searchSort=TRUE&s=A-StorePrice-DSP&parentPage=family&searchId=21227067453 that was 32.99 or something plus fuel. Self adjusting fuel line or something like that. I will get ultra-light gear in the future and keep my heavy stuff for anyone who wants to go in the future. That is the reason most people said they could not go because of the gear investment.

10:21 p.m. on December 18, 2007 (EST)
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Make sure you get some good practice time with the stove in the friendly confines of your backyard. Fire it up, boil some water.

7:10 p.m. on December 19, 2007 (EST)
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OK I will give my stove a try. I am not sure if I will get a stove. I have fire making stuff for an emergency. I plan to get the meals from Dick's that heat themselves so I can get rid of them when done and not worry about bears coming for my leftovers.

8:48 p.m. on December 19, 2007 (EST)
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If you are going in the next couple of months, the bears will be hibernating and not a worry. Do the rest of us a favor and pack out your trash rather than "get rid of it"

7:44 a.m. on December 20, 2007 (EST)
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Bears are hibernating now? I thought it was about this time that I went bear hunting in New Hampshire a few years ago. Thanks for the information! I did not plan to just throw my trash on the side of the trail silly. :-) I plan to pack it out or put it in a trash can. I pick up trash when I hike, not leave it. Thanks again for all the information. 5 more days until the hike... Looks like my nephew will be buying me a military back pack for xmas.

8:35 a.m. on December 20, 2007 (EST)
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You probably won't find a way in on the parkway anywhere this time of year. You might want to try access by Hwy 80 out of Marion, NC.

11:08 a.m. on December 20, 2007 (EST)
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You might want to know that the climate at Mt. Mitchell is th same as the southern part of Canada, because of the elevation(6800 ft).

1:26 p.m. on December 20, 2007 (EST)
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You need to be prepared for the worst. It has been a mild season so far but the weather in the Mtns change rapidly. I hike in January in the Smokies (Mt. Mitchell is not too far from there) and have experienced 60 degrees one day and woke up to wind gust to 60mph and temps no higer than low 20's with 14" snow drifts. Some trips have been as warm as 36 during the day and dropping to -10 deg at night. While it may not happen, it is very possible for temps to drop as low as -20 deg below on top. Better to be safe than sorry.

2:37 p.m. on December 20, 2007 (EST)
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I am picking up a thermal suit of my friends just in case it is nasty there. I plan to park off of 80 at Black Mountain Campgrounds. I am prepared for up to about -20 now including the windchill. I have been checking the weather regularly to get a feel for the place. I would like to climb and be back down before sunset, but I really doubt that. If I see I can not make it back down, then I plan to sleep at the camp sites that are about 2/3 or 3/4 up the mountain. If I can not make it all the way up in one day, I will use the second to climb to the top and then camp where I did on the first night and climb all the way down on the third day. Just for the record, I will be sleeping outside or inside my car the first night so I will be rested for the hike. The reference to Mt. Mitchell being the same weather as southern Canada gives me an idea of what to expect. Thanks. I have been to Canada at xmas time. I will be picking up a stove tonight or tomorrow.

9:14 a.m. on December 21, 2007 (EST)
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just a note on the Bear thing : again it has been a mild season so far with temps 1 to 20 degrees above normal, there could be some bears still foraging, 3 years ago i came close to a bear in January in the Smokies and it was 18 degs. However, you most likely will not encounter one just dont completely rule out the possibility.

7:46 p.m. on December 22, 2007 (EST)
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Just a note, I picked up my stove today and did try it out. I definitely need a lighter, my fire starting ability with a flint is not so good. I also picked up a Kelty Red Cloud 6500 backpack.

7:43 p.m. on December 23, 2007 (EST)
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In the cold and snow and less daylight, everything takes longer to do than in the summer. Plan the daily mileage with that in mind. I do not think you need both a head lamp and a flashlight. Take the head lamp. My hiking career began at Mt. Mitchell 40 years ago! Carry your water bottles upside down in freezing weather. Water freezes near the top first!. So, let the top be the bottom! Ask about a "paste" to help your Coleman stove start in the cold. A thin liner glover and a shell is all you need as you hike. Warmer mittens will be useful in camp. Keep you liner gloves on all the time. Do not let your body overheat,or sweat as you hike. Take layers off if you start to sweat. Start out cold and you should be fine. Sweat will freeze when you stop, so try to avoid sweating. You might even be hiking in short sleeves when it is below freezing, especially if you are hiking up hill. One way to keep from overheating is to slow down your pace. Do this about 10 or 20 minutes before you plan to stop for the day. That way you will stay warmer when you stop. If it is just cold and not windy, keep the door of your tent open to avoid condensation. In fact, try sleeping outside of your tent to gain some confidence in your sleeping bag. Use lithium batteries in your digital camera. They stand up to the cold. Enjoy your hike and you will not have "failed" if you do not reach the summit. It will always be there for another day.

8:25 a.m. on December 25, 2007 (EST)
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Thanks Rambler. Great info on the water bottles! I leave for NC in about 30 minutes. Tomorrow starts the climb and I am excited. Thank you everyone for helping to make this climb possible.

Siggy.

12:51 a.m. on December 26, 2007 (EST)
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We will look for your write up in the Trip Reports section when you get back. Hope you are having fun... had fun...

3:21 p.m. on December 27, 2007 (EST)
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I am sorry to report I had to return after driving for 10 hours to get there. I was feeling a little ill when I left, but knew that would not stop me. I got to Black Mountain Campground around 7:00pm. I did not bring the right clothing for such cold temperatures. I slept in my car with the windows up. It rained first. Then it snowed a few inches. I woke up for the last time around 6:00 am and got out of my car feeling like I could throw up at any time. I was freezing cold immediately. I had forgotten just how cold that is since I have lived in Florida for over 25 years now. I think sleeping in my car for around 10 hours without opening the windows had an effect on my feeling so sick. I would have still climbed if it was not snowing probably. I knew it was only going to get colder as I climbed the mountain or stay the same.
I did learn some valuable things for my next attempt. First, sleep in my tent or cabin regardless of what the weather is like.
Second, prepare for the weather appropriately and don't hope for decent weather. I knew I was ill prepared when the locals were dressed warmer at night then I had for the morning.
Third, don't let pride overide intellect. Like the saying goes... the mountain will be there next year...
I will be back and will be climbing Mt. Mitchell in the last week of July 2008.
Thanks to all who made this trip possible.
Siggy.

6:15 p.m. on December 27, 2007 (EST)
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Hey Siggy,

Sorry things did not work out for you this time. You chill to the bone probably had a little to do with not feeling well. Once you get cold like that, if your body is fighting off a virus or infection it does not have the capacity to also keep the rest of you warm. I watch to much Discovery Channel. Sleeping in the car locked up tight like that usually is not a problem. I think you were probably coming down with a bug or something.
As far as your pride overiding intelect... if that was the case you would have attempted the climb anyway. I think We have to give you some credit there for NOT letting your pride overide your intellect.

Don't be a stanger.. hope to see you around.

Greg

September 20, 2014
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