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Advice for a Feb. trip to Shining Rock
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TJ Cannon
(tjcannon) - F
Advice for a Feb. trip to Shining Rock on 11/22/2010 02:44:13 MST Print View

I plan to take my girlfriend hiking in the Shining Rock Wilderness area of western NC in early February. I have been reading a lot on hiking and cold weather and everything else I could find, but I have a few questions about this specific location that I feel some of you may be able to help me with.

Here is the route...
Shining Rock Wilderness Route 5mi

And our packing list so far:

Survival blanket
First Aid Kit (snake bite?)
2 MREs (just in case)
2 Camelbacks
StabilIcers x2
VS-17 Panel

I will be bringing thin polypropylene underwear, fleece, and a puffy coat for myself, and she will have polypro and a columbia alpine alliance parka. I need ideas for what type of boots we should be looking into. I have some Lowa Zephyrs that I love for warm weather, but obviously not practical for the cold.

I have LOTS of experience walking with 50lb+ in eastern NC temperatures, but no experience with snow or high altitudes, so feel free to criticize.

And the questions:
1. What are the wildlife threats around here?
2. Are strap-on cleats ideal? Should I be looking for something different?
3. I am planning approximately 7 hours for that route (1 per mile plus 2 extra). Is this realistic?
4. Will I even be able to get down BRP and then Black Balsam Road in the usual Feb. weather up there?

I plan to navigate using my GPS, with offline maps on my android phone as a backup, and area topo maps w/compass as a tertiary non-electronic backup. Thoughts on this?

Thank you so much in advance for your ideas.

Edited by tjcannon on 11/22/2010 02:54:14 MST.

Brian Camprini
(bcamprini) - MLife

Locale: Southern Appalachians
Re: Advice for a Feb. trip to Shining Rock on 11/22/2010 07:06:05 MST Print View

I'm guessing this is just a day hike. There are lots of good articles on BPL about footwear and clothing for winter activities, so read up. Your Lowa boots are fine, maybe with some neoprene or goretex socks paired with wool socks. Bring hats, gloves, plenty of snacks. A small stove and some hot tea or cocoa might be nice. And some small foam pieces to sit on if you plan to take a break.

1. Unless there are escaped convicts in the area ;-), there are no wildlife threats. None. Especially snakes. You will not find active snakes in freezing cold Feb temps. Leave the sidearm and snakebite kit at home. Seriously, they are both a waste of your energy to carry and worry about. Unless you are hunting there is no need for a gun.
2. Some traction devices like microspikes would probably be a good idea. It'll probably be icy, but check the weather before you leave. If there's a big storm and deep snow, you could possibly need snowshoes, but I'm doubtful of that. I've spent lots of time there, but not in Feb, so someone else might be able to comment. I'd be just as prepared for cold rain as for ice and snow.
3. Since it's an out and back trip pretty much, you should make mid-day your turn around time (check sunset times online). If you haven't made it to your destination before mid day, just turn around and head home or else bring gear to spend the night.
4. The BRP might be closed depending on weather. Call the Park Svc 828-298-0398 and find out the road closure details (It's a recording, but it's the best info. To speak with someone call 828-350-3821). They can give you some weather info too, but no one will know for sure until Feb. You may need to approach from other roads and/or hike in from Big East Fork. The Ranger Station number is (828- 877-3265) but they have nothing to do with road closings. Might be good to check in with them, though, so someone up there knows if you don't make it back.

Have a great trip. Should be beautiful. I'm headed up there after turkey day.

TJ Cannon
(tjcannon) - F
Thank you on 11/22/2010 07:42:12 MST Print View

Wow! Thank you for all the information. You are correct in assuming this is a day trip. I like the idea of setting a time by which to reach the midway point. I wouldn't have thought of that. I also didn't know about waterproof socks. It sounds like a great idea, but the nice ones look like they're about $60, and I can get Merrell IsoTherm 6 Waterproof Winter Boots from REI for $90. I'll do some more research before buying anything.

Once again, thank you.

JJ Mathes
(JMathes) - F

Locale: Southeast US
Advice for a Feb. trip to Shining Rock on 11/22/2010 08:03:55 MST Print View

It's a good idea to leave a detailed trip plan with someone at home. Date/time of hike, where you're parking your car, trial(s) you plan to hike and which way clock wise or counter cw, estimated time to return to your car...carry emergency contact info with you just in case.

enjoy your hike, it should be a beautiful time of year in that area

Adam Kramer
(rbeard) - F

Locale: ATL, Southern Appalachia
Re: Advice for a Feb. trip to Shining Rock on 11/22/2010 08:08:56 MST Print View

i was just there and did a trip report. it can be VERY WINDY so take a wind shirt or wind jacket and a wind proof cap. pm me if you have any specific questions.

Brian Camprini
(bcamprini) - MLife

Locale: Southern Appalachians
Re: Thank you on 11/22/2010 08:22:18 MST Print View

You're welcome. I thought of one other thing--dude, don't make your girlfriend eat MRE's. Think picnic, not bivouac. Bring some good food and maybe a thermos if you don't carry a stove. It'll be cold and warm and tasty food/drinks will keep you both happy. For a day hike, almost anything you like will work. I carry beef stew sometimes. Chocolate, cold cuts, good cheese, good bread, nuts, salty snacks, etc.

And don't necessarily fear your feet getting wet. Just keep them warm. There are lots of good articles and forum posts on this website about footwear in cold and wet conditions. Chemical hand and toe warmers might be a good idea for a day hike as would something to cover your nose if things get really cold/windy. Don't forget chapstick.

Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Re: Advice for a Feb. trip to Shining Rock on 11/28/2010 04:09:22 MST Print View

Unless we have an extremely mild winter, i.e. the complete opposite of last year, the BRP in that area is very likely to be closed, if not, the road to Black Balsam very well could be.

They may even close that section regardless of weather, I'm not sure, I'm new to the area, but from what I've been told many if not all of the sections of the BRP outside of the city will be closed once the snow starts.

Be prepared, that area is windy as hell, and in those gaps the temps can drop extremely quickly.

I'd seriously consider taking a tarp and sleeping gear JIC if the conditions are going to be snowy, especially considering the lack of experience in those conditions.

Good luck!

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Advice for a Feb. trip to Shining Rock on 11/28/2010 17:59:42 MST Print View

She'll likely need a fleece to hike in also, and you'll probably both need something to block wind--nylon shell or windshirt. Like others said, ditch the MREs and bring some edible food. :) It's best if the whistle is plastic and pealess so that it will still work if frozen, and it won't freeze to your lips.

At temps around 25 F and below, I prefer using this footwear system:
polyester liner sock
vapor barrier (silnylon sock or oven bag)
(maybe a merino wool sock added here if cold enough)
heavy wool sock
Rocky Gore-Tex sock (or oven bag)
breathable trail runner shoe
ankle gaiters

Around 25-50 F:
polyester liner sock
light or heavy wool sock
Rocky Gore-Tex sock
ankle gaiters
breathable trail runner shoe

Depending on snow depth, this might be canceled or become a snowshoe trip?

Other things you'll need:

- sunglasses (very important if snow on ground and sunny)
- way to obtain more water (melt snow, filter, Aquamira, tablets?)
- fire kit: mini Bic, tealight candle, matches, maybe some fatwood slivers, practice starting a fire in snow with wet wood and strong winds
- extra pair/person heavy wool socks
- wool or fleece gloves/mittens
- wool or fleece hats
- balaclava
- trekking poles (if any snow or ice)

Tyler Hughes
(catsnack) - F

Locale: Smoky Mountains
Have Fun on 12/15/2010 22:47:49 MST Print View

Short version- waterproof boots, wool socks and a fleece, and have fun. It's a pretty tame area and as long as you guys keep moving, staying warm won't be a problem. maybe a day pack with lightweight stove for hot drinks or a soup at your halfway point would be a good morale booster and mental comfort.

I have lived within 1 hour of this location for the past 10 years of my life, and have hiked in that area at least 10 days out of every year, so I feel fairly comfortable with commenting on it. Winters in that part of the woods aren't terribly bad, but definitely bring waterproof boots/shoes, wool socks, and a fleece + windproof layer. Any sort of synthetic pants should be fine. I've spent the past few winters in the higher mountains North of there, in snow up to 4+ feet deep on Mt. Mitchell. Postholed my way up and back down an 7.6-mile out & back (3000+ ft gain one way) trail wearing gore-tex boots, wool socks + silk liner, blue jeans, synthetic t-shirt and fleece in 25 deg. I think I was out for maybe 7 hours and was soaking wet from the knees down for most of it (yeah, I know i should have turned around when the snow went from 1 inch to 1 foot, and again when it went from 1 foot to 2 feet, and so on). Wool socks + the gore tex liner kept my feet warm, if not dry, from all the snow coming in from the top of the boot. I dunno, I figure if I can wander around the woods for 7 hours in blue jeans and snow up to my waist on a steep and not well-marked trail and come out the other end happy and warm, you guys can do it much better by wearing the right clothing and using some common sense once you get out there.