17 January, 2011

The great January Thaw

All of our fun snow has melted in town, and what's left up high is consolidating during the sunny 40 degree days. Good news is that it refreezes over night, and the more traveled trails are a nice mix of ice and consolidated snow. Perfect to get the pointy things out and walk around.
Greybeard mountain is short 15 minutes drive from my house and has been the easiest way to put some elevation change into my legs while carrying a pack. I've hiked Pisgah a bunch too, but the loops are longer, as are the drives. The past two weekend out at Greybeard I've ran into the same guy training for Denali. I'm not alone in my use of this little convenient stomping ground.
We dropped the car at Sawahee Rd, and made our way up the pavement to Greybeard trail, and opted for the steeper direct route rather than the old rail tressel line. Tressel takes forever, and you don't get to see Greybeard Falls. Plus, its a training hike, bring on the steep.
Reached the ridge line that leads to the Greybeard summit proper, and found lots of deep snow. A few different parties had made various levels of progress along it, but eventually we were postholing in a lone set of footprints.
Ed calling for a pizza up on the ridge. Greybeard offers a clear shot to Mt. Mitchell and apparently an At&t tower.
Mt. Mitchell, highest peak east of the Missippi, and probably the least dramatic, especially because its covered in cell towers. Mmmm...pizza.
Self portrait up at the Greybeard Summit. That big vein on my forehead looks uncannily like the shadowed ridgelines in the background. Must be working too hard in the deep wet snow.
Maybe the namesake of Greybeard? Lots of this long foliose lichen (yeah I have a masters in Ecology) hanging everywhere on the weather stunted trees of the ridge.
Change of footwear for the descent. We took the West Ridge trail down, and apparently no one else had. So rather than posthole through the deep snow, I took the until then useless 8 lbs off my back and strapped on the worlds largest snowshoes.
In lieu of any discernible trail, we stuck to the mantra of "stay on the ridge" and occasionally caught a blaze or two. Ed hadn't really snowshoed before, and after a fun hour or so of sliding down in giant feet he concluded that snowshoeing was a blast. Remembering my 5 hour slog over 2 miles on the eventually aborted approach to Crestone last winter, I assured him it isn't usually this fun.

That's it for training hikes. I've run out of time. Right now the second bedroom is a OCD stack of various layering options all getting pared down to fit into a duffel bag and keep me comfortable climbing alpine rock at 14-15k, as well as full on midnight start mountaineering at 20k. Trying not to bring down the entire closet and haul it around Ecuador, so some tough decisions are being made. Adding to the mix is a week at the beach after my climbing.

What does one pack for 0 ft above sea level and 20,565 feet above sea level?

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