Ski mountaineering in NC?

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Mike N

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Ski mountaineering in NC?

by Mike N » Tue Feb 16, 2010 2:48 am

Is it possible? Well, all the snow has kept some places looking very alpine. I skinned up to Black Balsam via the Flat Laurel Creek trail. I had to ski down Hwy 215 from BRP to trailhead due to snow. The trail had boot deep pow all the way to Sam's Knob parking. The meadows below parking area looked skiable, though the effort for a couple hundred vertical feet may not have been worth it. The south side of Sam's Knob had snow and ice covering much of the rocks and shrubs. There were definitely interesting lines that avoided some of the bushwhack. That would be an interesting day out. Once I reached the road, I skied up the Black Balsam trail through the trees. Once out of the trees, I followed variable ice and snow conditions on the ridge to the top. The last section up to Black Balsam would have made a difficult ski up, so I just climbed up the snow and ice that generally follows the normal trail. Snow was deep enough that I post-holed to my thigh a few times. The entire ridge is covered in a good layer of ice, wind blown snow, and powder that was deep in places. Winds were howling and temps may have been single digits or lower. I know you wont believe this, but I could see across to Tennet Mountain and there were large wind blown drifts to the left of the rocky cliffs that appeared to be the early precursors of a cornice!
Then I skied back down the ridge line, through trees, to road and down to BRP. I completed the loop via BRP. It took 5 hours, a vertical rise of almost 1700 feet, and over 10 miles of skiing. My water was completely frozen, my face was frozen, and my fingers nearly froze off during the brief instance I took my gloves off on the ridge line. I felt worn and dehydrated, rubbed some skin off my shins. It was almost 40 degrees in Brevard. Definitely feeling like Western climbing. The big difference...out West when you reach the top you ski back to the car in 10 minutes! I still had to work to get back to the car. Obviously, there are no big couloirs or exposure or many other factors, but I will still call it ski mountaineering in NC.

I would compare this to skiing Mt Sniktau or Quandary in Colorado as far as ski difficulty, basically easy skiing just a moderate day. The wind was just as bad and the cold was just as cold. It was much longer and about as much vertical rise. Still made it back home for lunch. No pics because I left my camera on the car while packing my gear. Thought I would share. Have fun out there!

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by johnmnichols » Tue Feb 16, 2010 1:19 pm

No pictures????? I've never really paid attention from a skiing perspective, but I think you could maybe get some decent runs in from places on the eastern side of Black Balsam Knob. It would require some pretty deep snow, but sounds like it's not too far off. Definitely been an exceptionally snowy winter in the Southern Apps!

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by wkriesel » Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:02 pm

I got off the phone with Curtis, the guy who runs the Statnding Bear hiker hostel. He says that above the 5,000' level there's 4 feet of snow in GSMNP. I am heading to Max Patch mtn tomorrow, on the AT b/t Hot Springs and the Park. Gotta look out for too much of a good thing, too. It is steep enough to avalanche.

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by e-doc » Wed Feb 24, 2010 3:33 am

These are conditions beyond compare. Backpacked in snowshoes 3 times since New Years. In the Blacks a few days ago. God awful ascent to Deep Gap, deep snow,blowdowns, having to break trail; blazes at my ankles. Took me 4 hours. At Grayson Highlands New Years day, Pine Mt above Scales temp 5 with max WC -34. Like NH in winter

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