Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Knoxville, TN
Tarp: Gargoyle Custom
I'll fess up to my part.
The lowest forecasts were calling for temps in the mid twenties for RHK Friday night. Based upon that, I packed for about ten degrees lower than the lowest forecasted low.
When Roche, Hangout and I stopped by Medicineman's JC headquarters en route, the local forecast for JC (about 5000' lower than RHK) was calling for lows of about 24. A quick calculation in my head told me that 24 in Johnson City does NOT spell mid twenties for RHK, yet the forecasts for RHK remained the same.
Roche, Hangnout and I dined at Bob's Dairyland prior to making the drive up to Carver's Gap. The temperature leaving Bob's was in the low forties. Thirteen miles and a few thousand feet of elevation gain later, the temperature in the parking lot at Carver's Gap was at 29* F with winds that would slide your hiking poles across the parking lot. From the driver's seat of my vehicle, I could see the spruce tree just ahead of my bumper being whipped about violently.
After a seeming eternity of changing layers and rigging packs, we finally get underway on foot. At around 6:30 Friday evening, we were standing in a cloud with winds strong enough not to hear one another from a few feet away. With headlamps, visibility was perhaps 30 feet.
The three of us completed our 700' ascent over 1.7 miles of snow covered AT. The snow depths probably got as high as 14", but most of the trail was in the 8-10 inch range. Few tracks were visible on the trail ahead of us. We next hung a left to go up the blue blaze trail to the RHK shelter. I reached the shelter a few minutes ahead of the other two, as they were placing a marker for Spamburglar to find the blue blaze. Upon reaching the shelter, we discovered that six other hikers were already set up in the shelter. We introduced ourselves and then proceeded to find a good location with less wind exposure. The snow between my trees was about a foot deep. I spent about ten minutes walking back and forth with my overboots between the trees to compress the snow there. I then put my space blanket down as a groundcloth and pitched by WB sock, Traveller and Speer Peapod under my Gargoyle diamond tarp. Hangout was well underway with getting his rig set up when I continued to notice that Roche was not around. A few minutes later, Roche comes up the snow path to let us know that while we were setting up our gear, TWELVE more people showed up to stay in the shelter comprised of a Boy Scout troop. EIGHTEEN people were going to sleep in an 800 square foot shelter.
Eighteen people sharing 800 square feet sounds horrible...and it is. The part that got our group was that with eighteen folks piled in the shelter, we would not have enough room to take the occasional break and get out of the wind and cold. Essentially, we would be exposed to the cold and gale force winds for the entire time that we were not in our hammocks.
Just before 9:30 Friday night, I had withstood about as much as I could waiting on the rest of our party. The low was only supposed to be in the twenties or possibly the high teens. However, my perceived onset of frostbit on the tip of my nose told me that it was quite a bit cooler than that already , and it was getting colder.
So I hopped in my hammock for the night. The 20* Peapod, summer TQ and JRB pad should have been enough to get me to about 10* fine. I did not take into account the fact that we had been standing around in the high winds and freezing temps for a couple of hours after arriving which had already compromised my ability to stay warm.
Crawling into the did offer quite abit of boost to my warmth feeling, but I never acquired that "toasty" feeling that I am so used to feeling when getting in the down. The winds would whip into my tarp and sock for the entire night. The trees that suspended me were getting whipped along with the winds resulting in a feeling of sleeping on a boat with constant swells. I was never uncomfortably cold over the course of the night, but I was never comfortable either. I did get up once around 3 in the morning to tighten down my tarp and loosen up my pod...and answer a nature call. I was feeling quite chilly, but a swig of water (kept in the hammock) and a Little Debbie's Nutty Bar calmed the growling in my stomach and added some warmth to my furnace.
Around 7:30, I heard some stirrings around my hammock....which I chose to ignore in favor of staying out of the cold a bit longer. I finally get up about fifteen minutes later. I put my socked feet inside of my insulated Neos overboots and bundled up a bit to commence visiting. I see that Medicineman, Poof and Spamburglar had indeed arrived and was told that the temp was about 15* when they arrived at the trailhead and the current temperature was ELEVEN. This was an eleven degrees after a good bit od direct sunlight had made its way to us. The low had obviously been lower than that. In the mean time, my toes were getting chilly.
After a bit of visiting and a few group photos, I decide that I need to go put on either my hiking shoes or Wiggy's boot lines inside my overboots. I also notice that my fingers that were merely chilly a few minutes prior were rapidly becoming useless. I then make my way by Roches abode and mumble something about feeling feint and nauseous before heading to my hammock again. Mere minutes later, I was getting quite cold and discovered that my fingers lacked enough dexterity to light my Zippo hand warmer. I then kick off my boot and climb into my hammock and wrap up as best I can to stay warm. My hands were too far gone to even attack the velcro on my pod. I was now shivering uncontrollably. Minutes later, several of the crew come to check on me and readily identified that I was not in a good state at all. My speech was becoming slurred at this point as well. (All of this was happening within twenty minutes!) Roche and Hangout grapped their TQ's and put one on top of me and one under my Peapod. I could feel that my downward slide had halted, but I still was not producing enough heat to get better. Spamburglar then comes to the rescue by bring lighting my Zippo (He had to go in the shelter to make that happen.). He then heated some water in a Nalgene for me. Medicineman dropped a couple of much needed chemical warmers in with me as well. More visits were made over the next few minutes, but I really do not recall them. After drinking more water and eating another nutty bar, I finally started moving back up the scale. Within 30 minutes, I was able to get up and go to the shelter (which was now void of the 12 member Boy Scout Troop) and sit down out of the wind. Spamburglar then comes to the rescue further by bringing me a steaming hot bottle of hot chocolate! After drinking that and eating a bit more, I started to feel better.
Last edited by wisenber; 02-10-2013 at 16:27..