October 31, 2017
Good Afternoon and Happy Halloween,
Despite winter rearing its head a tad early for some, we're making the most of the holiday anyways. Some of the crew have dressed up for the occasion, quite hilariously I might add. Several have also been tapping into the creative sides of their brains, hoping their designs for the annual pumpkin carving contest will produce a winning favorite among tonight's guests. There's been no shortage of tricks and treats, or boos and giggles going on around camp. Glad to see so many folks getting into the fun holiday action. We'll be sure and post all of the pumpkin carvings tomorrow once the crew has had time to complete them and the lighting becomes appropriate. Even Henry has added to the event by hooking up a rotating ghost light projector to a car battery.
It seems like folks have been kindly donating candy to the crew all month, and we are very thankful. Sometimes it can be difficult to satisfy the sweet tooth on the mountain. That has surely not been the case this season, and we have all of those nice folks to thank for hiking up so many goodies!
The thaw continues. Remaining snow is rather patchy, but even with warmer temps, the places where snow and ice have gotten packed down can be dangerously slick. It's still smart to have those traction devices handy until it melts away for good. Yesterday's high temperature scraped 38 degrees, and despite the low for the period being 11, we never dropped below 33 last night. It was quite windy, though, which contributed to conditions feeling cooler and re-hardening everything that was in the process of thawing.
Those of you who may remember former lodge employee, Nathan Kirkham, would be interested to know that he is once again working waaay down south...Antarctica in fact. Nathan caught wind of the cold spell that hit our region this week and informed me that the 11 degree temperature on Mt. LeConte was the same as it was at the McMurdo station during the early morning hours. Who knew that Mt. LeConte and Antarctica had so much in common?
Today has been a little warmer, with daytime temps reaching the lower 40's. The warming trend is expected to continue in the coming days, a great way to kickoff the month of November and enjoy the remaining fall foliage in the lower elevations.
Have a safe and enjoyable Halloween in your neck of the woods, and have a great conclusion to the month of October! Take care.
October 30, 2017
5:00 PM Update:
US 441 and Roaring Fork have been reopened. Guests can now access Alum Cave, The Boulevard, and Trillium Gap Trails beginning tomorrow. Temperatures will drop below freezing again tonight, so places that have thawed will refreeze. Please use caution in these places if you are getting an early start. Winds gradually picked up this afternoon and should persist throughout the night.
1:00 PM Update:
The heat wave is happening! We've already returned to the freezing mark, and should easily surpass it in these next few daylight hours. The trees are significantly less caked than they were, and by tomorrow the mountain should return to a more normal state of green. Sure to be a fair amount of water running off the mountain in the meantime.
At this time, US 441 and Roaring Fork remain closed while NPS crews work diligently to get them cleared and deemed safe for travel. Certainly this current weather we're having helps their cause. The 6.7 mile trek along Rainbow Falls Trail continues to be everyone's best bet for making it to the lodge. Even as the snow melts, footing can be difficult as the slop can easily cause one to slide, slip, and stumble, so continue to use caution especially if you lack traction devices.
It's always a mixed bag of emotions when the mountain receives dramatic snowfalls so close to the end of October, especially when most people's mindset is still in autumn. Thoughts of pumpkins, leaves, and mild afternoons come to mind...snow, temps in the teens, and parkas? Not so much. But that's part of the unique experience on Mt. LeConte. The crew will embark on the next chapter of Halloween pumpkin carving with snow on the ground, a tradition that has witnessed such conditions many times before.
As mentioned previously, the most notable snowfall to occur on Mt. LeConte this time of year took place on October 29th and 30th of 2012. It was Super-Frankenstorm-Halloweenicane-Sandy that, over the duration of two days, pounded the mountain with 36" of snow, with drifts upwards of 4-5' in various places. When skies cleared on Halloween, the dense white that blanketed the mountain against the purest of blue backdrops was an unforgettable sight. A similar drubbing took place two years later in 2014, when on Halloween night and into November 1st, Mt. LeConte recorded 22" of snowfall.
In both instances, roads and trails were closed for extended periods, and for good reason. Trees, many still clinging to their leaves, were quite hazardous because of the added weight of snow and their low proximity. Everyone hikes slower in the snow, temps are much colder than normal, and of course there is less daylight to work with this time of year. There were many instances of guests struggling to make the ascent, with several rolling in late into the night utterly exhausted and/or soaking wet. That is a major reason why we can't advise visitors to use caution enough, as the well-being of our guests is our top priority, and not just while they're here on the mountain, but when in transit as well. It is just as important to us that visitors enjoy the journey as much as reaching the destination.
So in the spirit of winter and Halloween clashing on Mt. LeConte once again, today we'll treat you with some immaculately constructed snowflakes, courtesy of Heather and Allison. Tomorrow, as crew members put their creativity to the test, we'll be sure to feature the entries for the annual crew Halloween pumpkin carving contest. Should be some good ones!
Have a great rest of the afternoon.
8:00 AM Update:
Our overnight low dipped down to 11 degrees. It is currently 13 under impeccably clear skies. US 441 and Roaring Fork are still closed, so guests are encouraged to use Rainbow Falls Trail out of Cherokee Orchard at this time.
October 29, 2017
5:30 PM Update:
Guests with reservations for Monday, October 30 are being asked to use Rainbow Falls Trail. Despite the regularly scheduled maintenance work that has been happening on weekdays, due to these extreme circumstances the NPS is allowing visitors to use Rainbow Falls Trail as means of ascending and descending Mt. LeConte until the other roads and approach trails reopen.
It is currently 15 degrees and windy at the lodge, and temperatures could drop more through the evening. There is still a lingering chance of flurries as well before skies are expected to clear after midnight. Even with warmer temps and sunny skies forecast for Monday, it could still be a while before US 441 and Roaring Fork reopen to visitors. Our office hours are 8-5 M-F if you have further questions, and you can also visit the NPS Sugarlands Visitor Center for the latest information regarding roads and trails.
2:45 PM Update:
We recently just hit a new low temperature of 17 degrees for the day, so obviously there's no letup in current conditions. Still cloudy and breezy, but the snowfall has lessened.
Some images from around camp today...
1:30 PM Update:
We have exceeded 2" of snowfall so far. Temperatures continue to hover around 19 degrees. US 441 and, as of this morning, Roaring Fork are both closed. This leaves Cherokee Orchard as the most viable option for those traveling to and from the mountain via Rainbow Falls. The occasional winds are not strong, but enough to annoyingly blow flurries in your face and chill anyone improperly dressed for the conditions.
Hiking in the snow always takes longer because of the effort required to trudge through the varying depths, as well as navigating any hazardous places on the trail like ice. It is critically important to take account for this added time, plus the fact that the sun continues to set earlier with each passing day. Staying hydrated, even though your body may not feel thirsty, is essential.
Conditions will remain quite cold this evening, with skies slated to clear much later. Monday should be warmer with sunnier skies. Expect trails to change from icy to slushy rapidly once this snow begins to melt off of this rock.
Safe travels to all.
9:00 AM Update:
As promised, our first snowfall of autumn has finally arrived. The first flakes starting to fly and quickly stick to the ground at 5:15 AM this morning. It wasn't until after midnight until temperatures eventually dropped below freezing, and plummet they did. Currently it is 18 degrees at the lodge, and current snow accumulation is less than an inch with light flakes still coming down. Log water bars and places where yesterday's rainfall would have pooled and frozen present the greatest trail hazards. Traction devices are smart to have with you until things melt away. Saturday's high temp came in at 41 degrees, and total rainfall concluded at 1.2" before transitioning over to snow.
US 441 (Newfound Gap Road) remains closed through the park. Cherokee Orchard and Roaring Fork are still accessible, so overnight guests and dayhikers have the option of utilizing Rainbow Falls and Trillium Gap Trails, both 6.7 miles, for the time being.
We'll keep you posted of conditions throughout the day. Be safe out there and enjoy the wintry magic of the mountain! And a big congrats to crew member Allison Mayes for predicting today's date as the first snowfall of the season!
October 28, 2017
4:30 PM Update:
The Smokies NPS will be closing US 441 (Newfound Gap Road) through the park at 4:30 PM Saturday on account of the current and upcoming weather. This temporary closure will last until the weather event culminates and road crews have been able to assess and clear the roadway for visitors' return. At the moment, Cherokee Orchard and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail remain open, allowing guests access to Rainbow Falls and Trillium Gap Trails.
After some brief downpours mid-afternoon, we've seen close to an inch of rain fall. Wind gusts are still prevalent, and even at 39 degrees, the wet and the wind can make things feel much colder than a thermometer could lead on, especially without the use of warm layers and protective waterproof shells. The NWS has issued a special weather statement speaking more specifically to the threat of ice/snow tonight and into tomorrow. Late tonight, at elevations above 3,000 feet in the mountains, is when the greatest chance of wintry mix will occur, with precipitation tugging back and forth between rain, freezing rain, and snow showers. Atop places like Mt. LeConte, we could still witness an accumulation of snow, but nothing more than a couple inches according to recent reports.
We'll keep you posted. Safe travels to all.
12:00 PM Update:
Conditions are still windy atop the mountain, but the sustained winds once roaring over the crest have subsided a bit. There are still gusts occurring in excess of 30 mph. The rain, though light, continues to whip and whirl from all directions. Temperatures remain stable in the upper 30's. Things are definitely soggy around camp and on the trails. Once temperatures reach the freezing mark later in the day, one can expect a layer of ice to form before any snow falls and covers things up. Come Sunday, traction devices will be a smart thing to possess for an ascent. Despite the strong winds, roads like US 441 and Cherokee Orchard remain open to visitors.
More updates to come as conditions change. Have a great Saturday.
7:00 AM Update:
We're currently under a High Wind Warning, which has been howling over the mountain all night and will persist through late this morning. Hazards associated with these winds would include dead or weakened trees liable to fall. The rain showers have been light and scattered thus far, only accounting for 0.05" of rain, but looking at the radar shows the heaviest precipitation on its way. Showers should last all day before transitioning over to snow sometime late tonight. Our current temperature is 36 degrees and is expected to fall as the weather event pushes on. US 441 is still open to traffic through the park. Yesterday's high temp came in at 53 degrees, followed by a low of 35.
Stay tuned for more updates throughout the day.
October 27, 2017
Who knew that temps in the 50's would feel like a heat wave? We may not receive such a warm and delightfully sunny such as this the remainder of the season, so it's been a good day to catch up on outside tasks. Yesterday's temperatures saw a huge change. Our low back in the morning was 23 degrees, but once the sun finally came out it didn't long for the mountain to warm up. Our high plateaued at 46, not dropping much below that all night.
Late tonight is when the rain should move in, with temps still on the warm side. Showers should last all day Saturday, with as much as 1-2" of rainfall expected in our neck of the woods, so dress accordingly for staying dry. Late tomorrow night is when temps will descend enough for the precipitation to transition over to snow. Accumulation there could be anything from a dusting to a couple of inches. Temps on the mountain could easily drop into the teens and single digits during this time.
If road conditions become hazardous due to ice and snow, that might spell a temporary closure of US 441 some time this weekend, meaning Alum Cave would be inaccessible for guests hiking up the mountain. At that point, Rainbow Falls and Trillium Gap Trails will be your next best options, as long as their access roads remain open. The NPS is great about updating their road status twitter feed (twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps) as well their phone directory (865-436-1200, then 2, then 2 again for roads). We'll also do our best to keep followers appraised of the situation from here and on our Facebook page.
Now, breaking away from the weather topic, let's bring in a friendly face, one that's fuzzier than most. Today, we're featuring one of our long time load luggers who is counting down the trips to his retirement from service this season. Ladies and gentlemen, we present...CHESTER! This llama has been reliable for us through the years, and has always been great around people, particularly for the wranglers. Similarly to previously featured Andy, Chester isn't shy about nosing his way to the front of the line when it comes to tasty handouts. Chester is unique in that he runs on a high metabolism, so despite all the grazing and chowing down of hay and llama feed, he's able to keep his lean figure while remaining strong for the lodge workload. His color pattern is a white base with occasional patches of brown or black. Chester has been great for the lodge, and his services will assuredly be missed after this season. With many thanks, let's salute ole Chester!
Have a great rest of the day.
October 26, 2017
Once the sun rose over High Top, it didn't take long for things to finally warm back up. There wasn't much temperature variance yesterday, as our high was only 26 degrees and our low 22. The frost on the trees hung on all day, and once the skies cleared around supper time, it's easy to understand why folks looking up at the mountain from town below were fooled into thinking we had received snow. Not yet! We're sitting comfortably at 42 degrees for the moment, and it's expected to be a little warmer tomorrow. There's a light breeze, so even in the sunshine it helps to have an extra layer or two for warmth. You'll especially want hats and gloves for sunset at Cliff Tops now.
The forecast for Saturday looks eventful. The weekend should kickoff with heavy rain, and once temperatures descend throughout the evening, it could transition over to ice and snow along the upper elevations. Mt. LeConte could see anything from a dusting to a couple inches by the time we wake up on Sunday. If that happens to be the case, anticipate the park to utilize some temporary road closures for safety concerns, namely US 441. If you have a reservation with us in that time frame, be sure and have an alternate route planned if Alum Cave is inaccessible at any point. Sunday will be significantly colder than what we've experienced the last few days as well. Come Monday, conditions should normalize for this time of year, just in time for the holiday.
Have a great rest of the day.
October 25, 2017
About all that has changed today is that the lighting has gotten brighter. Otherwise, things are persisting here on the mountain. We've been sitting in the same gray cloud, frost coating the trees and grass remains untouched, and the temperature has stayed at 24 degrees since breakfast. Rumor has it the sun is shining around us, but we're yet to partake. Conditions were relentlessly cool yesterday, as our high never broke 39 degrees. Our recorded low this morning was 24, though we did hit 23 before returning to where we've been for hours now. It should be another chilly evening before day time temperatures begin to see a warm up tomorrow.
The llamas appeared to be unphased by the wintry scene today, helped by the fact that their wool coats are fuller now, just in time for this kind of weather through the remainder of the season. Speaking of which, today marks the 4 weeks to go point for the 2017 season. It is cruising by, and crew members are already discussing their potential plans for the winter and beyond. Some will travel, find other means of employment, further their education, or maybe nothing at all! To each his or her own.
The forecast for this coming weekend continues to fluctuate, but temperatures colder than they are now look for certain. Rainfall changing to ice/snow remains a possibility, but less certain than it was just a day ago. We'll keep you up to speed on trail and road statuses as best we can once conditions begin to sour.
Until then, enjoy the middle of the work week!
October 24, 2017
Yesterday's gully washer dumped 3.1" of rain on the mountain before abruptly cutting off in the middle of the afternoon. Guests that made the slog up in the torrential downpour, having to wade through wet weather creek crossings at points on Alum Cave, were rewarded with some stunning views later in the day. Our high temperature never eclipsed the 51 degrees from the morning, dropping steadily once the front pushed through. Despite bottoming out at a low of 28, we missed our opportunity at receiving any snow. We're back to being spoiled with gorgeous sunshine today, but the temps are much cooler as we hang out in the upper 30's. Tomorrow is forecast to be even colder.
The chance for snow looks quite definitive for this weekend. Crew members with their names in slots predicting the first snowfall are anxious and hopeful they've picked the right day. It'll be close for whoever wins! The pumpkins for our annual crew Halloween carving contest are trickling up on the llamas. Guests staying with us that night will have the chance to vote for a winner. It's happened several times now in recent years, but the pumpkins might be placed on display outside in the snow once again. Although, it doesn't sound like we're looking at epic Hurricane Sandy (2012) proportions this go round, where Mt. LeConte tallied three feet of snowfall, accompanied by drifts of four to five feet in places. If you're slated for coming up the mountain this weekend, please look into having traction devices for your footwear, and plenty of warm layers. Even trekking poles are great for increased stability and traction.
Have a great day.
October 23, 2017
It had to happen sometime, but our streak of impeccable weather finally received the boot. The winds continued to ramp up during the night, heard howling over the crest of the mountain at times in excess of 40 mph, and the rain soon followed suit. At the time of measurement, the precipitation had just started, so only 0.03" was tallied for the period. At last check, the rain gauge had already shown over 1.5" since that point and it's still dumping. The temperatures were kind of odd yesterday as well, in which our high of 51 degrees actually came during the night, and our low ended up being 41 from the morning before. We continue to hover around 50, but once this front moves on through we fully expect temps to drop over the course of a couple days.
Conditions may actually dry out as early as supper time today, in which case we may see a delay in the first chance of snow. Although, this soaking rain will have the trails wet for a couple days in places, and as temps dip close to or below freezing, there is still the potential for walking hazards on the trails so please use caution. If nothing fluffy falls this week, the potential for it is looking mighty strong over the weekend. We'll be sure and keep you posted. In the meantime, things are quiet on the mountain, great after one of our busiest weekends of the season. Good time for crew who aren't working afternoon shifts to cozy up with a book in a toasty cabin or simply catch up on sleep.
Have a great start to the week, y'all!
October 22, 2017
As anticipated, the third weekend of October has been a busy one on the mountain. Saturday was stunningly sunny and reeled in the masses. Our high temperature was 61 degrees with a low of 41. Today has been different, in that the clouds have been rocketing over the peaks from the south most of the day. With the sun being veiled, temps aren't as warm as previous days, and there is a lot more wind action happening around camp.
Beginning late tonight and continuing through much of Monday, rain is expected to pound the region, calling for as much as 2" here on Mt. LeConte. After that, temperatures will slide downward through Wednesday. Expect conditions to be much chillier up here, and pay attention to area forecasts and our websites for information regarding potential snow/ice, and any potential road/trail closures. There should be a warm spike later in the week before another cold spell blasts us for the weekend. A lot can change between now and then, though.
Have a great rest of the day.
Welcome to the official blog of LeConte Lodge. We hope you find the information provided here both helpful and enjoyable. Thank you for visiting the site, and we hope to see you on the mountain!