Mt. Katahdin, ME

We get Maine's highpoint, but no views.... boo hoo

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

Tommy, aka, Big Tom, and I go way back. We've been doing intercontinental trips together for a few years, sometimes on the East Coast, sometimes on the West. This time it was Tom's turn to host. We had already done the highpoints for New Hampshire and Vermont, so this day we turned our attention farther north to Maine.

My plane left Boise at 5:30am on the way to Boston. Tom picked me up, we picked up Nick in Portsmouth, and we got to the Big Moose Lodge at about 11PM. Great prep for a climb.

So we got something less than an alpine start despite the predicted rain showers at 11. Here we are on the road at about 7:30, doubling the speed limit. You can see the faint outlines of our peak right above the pavement in the distance. Mustang

Thank goodness it was wet, because the parking lot was almost empty.

This climb is typically a long day, so people get going really early. When we checked in at 7:45 (the next-to-last group to check in for the day), some snot-nosed young Park Ranger told us we were going to need flashlights.

Bridge over Wildhorse

We warmed up for about 15 strides, then were off. Yes, there is a trail in this picture; this is along the Roaring Brook, a very pretty creek. Although the leaves weren't yet at full Maine fall color, it still looked quite pretty to me.

The day wasn't as bright as this picture makes it look- that why it is blurry (I manually turned off the flash).

Lower talus

As with other east coast trails I've climbed, it wasn't really a trail- more a series of (wet and slippery) rocks to hop. This picture wasn't unusual- actually pretty typical. These trail conditions explain why the guide book says it takes 2:45 to get to Chimney Pond, a 3.3 mile hike with 1600' gain.


The panorama below shows the view from Chimney Pond... although our peak is not showing its face, which should be just right of center. Our planned descent route, the Dudley Trail, is somewhere on that face you see on the left.

Catching up
Down the route

From Chimney Pond, there are several trails that lead to the summit. We had chosen the Cathedral Trail, and stuck to that part of the plan. Note the little blue hash mark on the rock at the very bottom of the picture.

Upper bowl

If you look closely, you can see another blue hash mark. If you look even closer, you can see Tom.

The Cathedral Trail has some actual rock climbing in places (there might be go-arounds, but we couldn't see them in the fog). Yep, SummitPost rates it Class 3/4. Tom and Nick were pulling away from me, but I still stopped to take pictures. But I didn't stop long and as it turns out, in my rush to keep up I wasn't getting the pictures I thought I was taking.

Brian leading
But as we gained the final ridge crest, I was tired enough to take (require) longer stops, so with the extra time I made sure these pictures stayed in the camera. Note the cairns. Note the bluish hash mark. Note the nicely-constructed steps. Topped out

And then we were on top. Great views!

There were actually quite a few folks up here, including some smoking what seemed like a non-stop string of cigarettes. We went upwind and sat down to eat a well-deserved lunch. The guide book said 2:45 to Chimney Pond, but that was almost exactly our time from the car to the summit.

You might notice that I look a little wet. That wasn't all sweat. A slight breeze had us layering up, then running from the top to avoid shivers.

Mustang summit

With the wet lichen and zero visibility (and now it was starting to rain a bit) we decided that our original plan of the Knife Edge and Dudley Trail seemed like more sliding around than we had bargained for. So we instead descended the Saddle Trail. Even though this trail is less steep, there were still plenty of opportunities for sliding around. Note that it took us longer to get down than to get up.

During our descent and hike back, it started to rain in earnest. We were very happy not to be on the Knife Edge, and wondered how the folks we had passed, still on their way up, were doing in their jeans.

Despite our slow descent, we made it back to the car at about 1:30, flashilights happily stowed. As we checked out at the park gate (Baxter State Park is very official so requires lots of Checking In and Checking Out), I commented to the ranger that I heard it was supposed to be sunny today. In a typical up-north retort he said, "It is sunny today- just not in Maine!"

And for the curious, here's what the peak looks like from the web cam. Brocky

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