Playing in the Snow at Roan – A Photo Essay

There was a major snowstorm over the Great Smoky Mountains on December 8-9, 2017, particularly on the Western North Carolina side. Seeing Roan Highlands covered in a blanket of snow has always been a goal of mine ever since the first time I walked the Appalachian Trail across Round, Jane, and Grassy Ridge balds. With that in mind, I set out for the Highlands on the morning of December 10th.

I was not disappointed. To be honest, it couldn’t have worked out better. The road crews had done a fabulous job of clearing all the back country mountain roads between Burnsville and Carver’s Gap, so the driving part was a snap. It was a bright sunny day, with a cloudless azure sky.

There were about a half dozen cars at Carver’s Gap when I arrived, so there were a few intrepid others who had the same idea. It was definitely cold. The air temp was 23° when I stepped out of my Subaru, and there was a pretty steady breeze. I learned more about the wind on the summit of Round Bald.

Preparation is one of my hallmarks though, so I had heavy wool socks and snow boots, fleece-lined softshell pants, plenty of layers for my core and a down filled jacket with a hood, plus a balaclava and gloves. Sunglasses finished off the ensemble. I probably looked a bit like the Michelin man, but I was ready.

Once out in the snow and on the Appalachian Trail, I could tell that there had been perhaps 20 others before me, both the day before and earlier this morning. The lower trail was somewhat packed down by boot steps and cross country ski lines, while other portions required a bit of post-holing. The higher and more exposed I got, the windier it became. Many of the footprints disappeared beneath blowing snow. To say it was slow going would be an understatement.

The summit of Round Bald was a downright gale. Boy was I glad I had all that cold weather gear on. The snow-covered mountains that surround in every direction were astounding. Perhaps the most beautiful view was of the Hump Mountains off to the northeast.

I didn’t stay long, and only went part way down the back side of Round Bald toward Engine Gap, but the 90 minutes I was there was worth every stinging ice crystal slamming into my face.

Enjoy the photo gallery below of my adventure to Roan Highlands in the snow. Also, down below the gallery thumbnails is a brief video I shot from the summit of Round Bald. Perhaps it will give you an idea of the elements. If you are interested in going to Roan Highlands yourself, check out my trail report that includes directions, maps, and many more seasonal photos. Thanks for visiting!




This post was created by Jeff Clark. Please feel free to use the sharing icons below, or add your thoughts to the comments. Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.


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