Yuri and I got out for a quick overnight out and back on the Black Mtn. Crest trail last weekend. It was an excellent fall trip highlighted by winter conditions. Soon after leaving the car in Bowlens Creek the temperatures dropped below freezing and by the time we hit the top of the ridge at Celo Knob the sun was setting and the thermometer showed 14 degrees. If it could have factored in the 30mph wind I'm sure it would have been well below zero. Such temperatures make ultralight backpacking impossible and with heavy packs and uncertain terrain ahead we pushed into the night. And what a night it was. Crossing Winter Star for the first time, on a cold and windy night, was quite a surreal and challenging experience. When we got to Deep Gap it was still early but it was clearly the place to bivy. We picked a sheltered spot behind some rocks and dug in for the night. Morning came much too late and I was eager to have a chain of 6000' peaks in front of us to warm me up.
Most of Saturday was still cold but with sunny skies and many mountains to climb it was pure gravy. Hot drinks and potato chips at the top of Mt. Mitchell were the best five dollars I have ever spent. Yuri pushed for us to go down Colbert Ridge and then back up Woody Ridge - adding significant mileage and elevation - but I vetoed in favor of doing the trail as a true out and back and getting to see the surreal stretch of trail we had crossed the previous night in the light of day. And what a stretch of trail it is! A second sunset from Celo Knob before heading back down.
Winter Star, how I love thee!