Addendum Writen Friday February 26, 2010
I will be taking a refresher CPR and Wilderness First Aid course this weekend so I will not be on the mountain. I suspect that with the relatively warm weather during the week the trail conditions have gotten easier during the week. Besides the great report in the comment to this post I have had some email traffic telling me that the Ridge Trail is packed all the way to the summit and the Saddle Trail is getting better. If you want to see a picture of a real snow sheter check out Shenandoah Breeze's latest post(see link to right side of page). Keep in mind how fast trail conditions can change even one day to the next when you are dealing with snow and ice. Be safe but have a great time out there this weekend. I wish I did not need to sit in a classroom all weekend but training must be done.
ORIGINAL POST STARTS HERE
Great mostly sunny day. Did not arrive at the mountain until around 12:00.
Much easier to negotiate than last week. Enough folks had packed it down that I easily negotiated without snowshoes. Every once in awhile you would break through the snow packed trail but this was fairly rare. I only went up to the first false summit and back but I am told that while less packed down the trail was fairly good all the way up to the summit. Snow conditions can change very rapidly. The packed snow on the Ridge Trail still offers some traction for boots without some type of micro-traction devices but it is only going to be a matter of time before packed corn snow transitions to slippery ice . Even though you can now move pretty fast compared to the last couple of weeks when you were postholing into deep snow the trail still required slower and more deliberate foot placement. Plan on your hiking speed being faster than deep snow but still slower than snow less trails.
Fire Roads Up To Old Rag Shelter
The snow on the fire roads has melted and compressed down to around 8-12 inches and up to the Old Rag Shelter It has well beaten footpaths on it but they require very deliberate foot placement since the beaten footpaths are uneven and slippery. Assume that your hiking times on the fire roads will be much slower than when they are clear and flat. Unlike warm weather road walking there is a real chance of rolling an ankle on the uneven slippery packed snow you will be walking on.
I have not been on the Saddle Trail but everyone I have spoken to that has been on it told me that it had very deep snow and was not well broken in yet. The one group of three college aged males who had hike the whole circuit on this Saturday and had also hiked Old Rag on many prior occasions stumbled out at around 22:00 talking about how exhausted they were and how hard the circuit had been to do in the snowy conditions. They reported that negotiating the Saddle Trail was particularly difficult because they were often post-holing up to their knees or waist in snow. With more and more parties packing down the Saddle Trail and the weather doing its part to melt the snow I expect the Saddle Trail will soon be as packed down as the Ridge Trail. As of Saturday February 20, 2010 it was not.
PARKING SITUATION LOWER LOT
I noticed that some folks had both shoveled a path into the lower lot as well as shoveled a few parking spaces for their vehicles. There were about four vehicles parked there when I drove by on my way to the upper lot. Unless we get a lot more snow I am assuming that between melting and individuals digging out one parking space at a time the availability of spaces in the lower lot will be expanding with each passing week. As of this weekend, once you can get in past the snow banks the snow on the ground is not terribly deep 8 inches to a foot and digging a space for your car should not be difficult. Since the snow is melting and refreezing daily assume you will need a shovel that is good for dense heavy icy snow.
There were a couple of fisherman leaving the upper lot just as I arrived. The space occupied by their vehicle was the perfect spot for others to turn around in so I decided I would still dig out a new space for my car. Just as I was about done digging out my parking space one of two folks who had skied up to Skyline Drive and back on the fire roads arrived in the lot.
BIG PARKING HINT
When you park your car, park it with the front of your vehicle pointing out and hopefully downhill. That way if someone who parks in the coveted extremely tight lot after you does not think about how much space you need to turn out of your parking space you will not be faced with needing to back down a half mile of winding country road before you get to a space wide enough to turn your car forward.
FIRE ROAD SKING CONDITIONS
THE SKIER TOLD ME THAT CONDITIONS ON THE FIRE ROADS ARE STILL EXCELLENT FOR SKIING. BEING ABLE TO SKI THE SNP FIRE ROADS IS A RARE OPPORTUNITY. WHILE THE LONG RANGE FORECAST INDICATES THEY SHOULD BE GOOD FOR THE NEXT FEW DAYS IT WILL NOT TAKE MUCH FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO MELT AWAY.
Shortly after the skier came out, around 20 hikers who had done an out and back to Old Rag shelter arrived. So shortly after I was done creating my new space or 14:15 five cars left the upper lot. If you look at the picture of the upper lot you can see that rather than its summertime 15 cars it can only hold about seven at the present time.
I took the time to dig out in front of the porta-johns doors while I was hanging out in the upper lot.
The following photo is from the spot on Nethers Road near the winery that I try to take at least once a month in order to monitor the seasonal changes. Clicking on most the pictures will show higher resolutions.
Upper lot. Parts of the picture have been purposely blurred. Notice the cars parked such that if the other cars park incorrectly they are at risk of not being able to turnaround in order to leave the lot faced in a forward direction.
The next picture shows the first part of a large party of twenty hikers who had done an up and back to Old Rag Shelter. All of this picture has been purposely blurred.
The sun falling behind the ridge line of Old Rag late in the day.
Note: the sun already reaches about 40 degrees in our sky and is climbing higher every day. In addition sundown is around 18:00 and getting later by about a minute every day.
The next pictures are for the trail maintainers benefit:
Blow down one.
Blow down two.
Blow down 5. See last weeks post for blow down 4 the largest of the five current blow downs.
At R19 just below the first false summit is the spot with the slippery ramp or tight crack squeeze. Today this spot was easier to negotiate than in the warm weather because the crack was filled up with snow which provided a staircase of nice foot steps.
Outward Bound launches designer Rodger Martin’s new take on the program’s wooden pulling boats. "Shipyard News" from our October 5, 2007, CW ReckoningsOct 2, 2007 By Steve Callahan