High forties and the skies were mostly clear. Low on the mountain the Ridge Trail was clear of any ice or snow just muddy. About half way up the Ridge Trail switchbacks a small amount of snow started to appear. Near the top of the switchbacks the ground was covered by snow with a tenth of an inch of ice glaze over the top. Above around 2,400 feet the rain earlier in the week had frozen on contact with ground and trees. All of Skyline drive was closed because of the ice. For a better idea of the ice conditions above 2,400 check out the pictures on both the Shenandoah Mountain Guides' post and the Silver Spring Wanderer's post for this same time period. Between the closure of Skyline drive and the nice weather there were the most number of cars (about 60 in the lower lot and another 15 along the road or in the upper lot) that I had seen in the parking lot since Fall.
I got a late start and had to leave early in order to make the annual PATC Trail Patrol dinner in Harpers Ferry so I only did an up and back to the No-Camping sign on the Ridge Trail.
I was able to do lots of interpretation and answers lots of questions on this day. I had some pretty long conversation with downward bound parties who had planned on doing the circuit but had turned around at the first false summit due to black ice coating the rock scramble.
I did get a chance to talk to a couple of groups who had managed to complete the whole circuit and they reported that they had to be extremely cautious.
PLAN AHEAD BE PREPARED
During this time of year, some type of ice traction devices will be a big help. Also keep in mind that responses to non-ambulatory injuries are going to take many hours(3 to 10 minimum) until help arrives. Once a victim and their party have stop exerting themselves they are going to chill down quickly. Not having additional layers to put on will almost guarantee a case of hypothermia for the victim and any members of the party who are tending them.
Because Old Rag Granite is dark in color and most of the rock scramble is exposed to good daylight sun it will often become substantially clear of ice and snow after just a few days of bright sunshine and warm temperatures. The switchbacks on the Ridge Trail and especially the Saddle Trail below Byrd's Nest Shelter are more protected from the sun and will often stay icy long after the rock scramble has become clear of ice and snow.
The following picture shows the parking lot at about 16:30. This picture only shows about half of the cars that had been in the lot around noon.
A picture from the Old Rag lower lot showing some of the ice and snow higher on the mountain if you expand the picture and look closely you can see some vultures or ravens on the nearest high point.