The snow returned last night and is still falling to the tune of three inches of new accumulation. We now have 15 inches of snow on the ground. The forecast calls for more snow this morning before giving way to mostly cloudy skies. There's a chance of light snow tonight before nice weather moves in for Thursday. Tuesday's high reached 34 degrees with little sun, so we didn't get much melting up top. The low bottomed out at 25. The temperature is 26 with steady snow falling at breakfast.
The trail updates follow. Please keep in mind that the below conditions don't reflect any of the overnight and morning snow.
Rainbow Falls Trail - This is our most preferred route for reaching the lodge. The snow line doesn't extend down too far.
Trillium Gap Trail - There are some trees down on this trail, but those shouldn't bother hikers too much. The snow line doesn't extend down too far.
Alum Cave Bluff Trail - Alum is passable, but I'd still recommend Rainbow Falls and Trillium ahead of Alum. The melting and refreezing into slick ice can be a bigger issue on Alum because of the narrow ledges and dropoffs. I'd still bring some sort of ice traction device for all three recommended trails, but especially Alum. I've never met a hiker who upon sliding on a sheet of ice toward the edge of oblivion remarked, "I'd really like less traction here."
Bullhead Trail - I finally got a report on Bullhead conditions Tuesday. A dayhiker came up Bullhead and said it appeared that a lone hiker had previously broken trail coming down Bullhead. The hiker did OK ascending but found Bullhead tough going and chose to descend via Rainbow Falls. We don't advise taking Bullhead until more melting occurs.
Boulevard Trail - Crew member John ventured 1.5 miles down the Boulevard from the lodge to give us some updated information on a trail people haven't been trying (for good reason). John said "nobody has any business on the Boulevard right now." Since the trail is not packed, John was sinking down in 1-2 feet of snow with each step. He also found himself in 3-5 feet drifts. He reports plenty of ice and deep snow on challenging parts of the Boulevard. At the slide below Myrtle Point, John reports that the cable has pulled out of the rock. If you slipped on this slide, there's nothing to keep you from falling down the mountain in these conditions. John, no stranger to tough hiking, found the conditions on the Boulevard so tough that he broke his ice traction devices. Please don't attempt the Boulevard for a while. P.S. I know John's family reads High on LeConte often, and he's just fine.
While Austin joined the 2012 crew as a newcomer, he didn't stay that way long. He fit right in and we've been glad to have him, keeping us up to date on all matters of music and comedy (which surely makes dish washing more pleasant). Austin's also a fine cook, most recently doctoring up the best pumpkin seeds I've ever eaten in the enjoyable postlude to the LeConte Halloween Pumpkin Carving Contest. With that, I'll turn it over to Austin.
Austin Bush grew up in a small town west of Nashville, Tenn., called Kingston Springs. His earliest years were spent living out in the country on a horse farm where he was introduced to the outdoors very early on. Playing in creeks and walking through the woods was how he spent most of his youth.
Austin left Kingston Springs for high school. He attended Saint Andrews-Sewanee Episcopal Boarding School. Saint Andrews, located near the Savage Gulf Wilderness Area in Tennessee, offered an environment where he could continue to enjoy the outdoors--biking, hiking and kayaking.
After high school Austin attended Maryville College, near the Great Smoky Mountains, where he majored in music performance before transferring to Middle Tennessee State University and earning his degree in music business.
Since then Austin has worked in artist management and organic gardening. He is looking forward to returning to LeConte for another year.
We'll be following up with Lindi in the next couple of days to close out our crew biographies. Unless trail conditions seriously deteriorate, Thursday's High on LeConte update will be in the afternoon. Be careful and happy trails.