Katahdin via the Knife Edge Route

One of the goals for my month in Maine was to climb Mt. Katahdin – the highest point in Maine and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

The mountain is situated within Baxter State Park, which restricts the number of hikers per day using a reservation system for parking spots. This makes for a great climbing experience (I only encountered a handful of other people all day), but requires some advanced planning.

I opted to leave from the Roaring Brook trailhead, ascending via the famous Knife Edge trail and returning via the Chimney Pond trail.

Route in yellow; photo source: http://4000footers.com/MAP%20katahdin.jpg

Route in yellow; photo source: http://4000footers.com/MAP%20katahdin.jpg

I left Portland, Maine at 2:00 am, reached the park gate around 5:40 am, waited 10 minutes or so for the park to open, and began hiking at 6:30 am. I ran into some rain showers during the first few miles, but these cleared up around the time I reached treeline.

View from treeline, looking up toward Pamola Peak and the Knife Edge

View from treeline, looking up toward Pamola Peak and the Knife Edge

The trail was very rocky (as per usual) but reasonably gradual until I reached the summit of Pamola Peak (4,902′).

Summit of Pamola; The Knife Edge route can be seen off to the left. Katahdin on the right.

Summit of Pamola; The Knife Edge route can be seen off to the left. Katahdin on the right.

The final 1.1 miles to the summit of Katahdin was hands-down the most exciting (i.e. challenging) section of the day. The route followed a narrow ridgeline, with varying degrees of exposure and a few very short sections requiring class 3-4 scrambling. The initial downclimb/upclimb from Pamola to Chimney Peak was probably the toughest section.

Another climber navigating the downclimb from Pamola.

Another climber navigating the downclimb from Pamola.

It was also very windy, though not nearly as bad as I encountered on Mt. Madison last week. Probably a steady 25-30 mph on the ridge, with occasional 50mph gusts. And of course the gusts always seemed to hit when I stood upright on narrow sections.

One of the steeper drop-offs

One of the steeper drop-offs

Two other guys walking along the Knife Edge

Two other guys walking along the Knife Edge

Another section with some scrambling

Another section with some scrambling

Another look at the Knife Edge

Another look at the Knife Edge

I made it to the summit of Katahdin (5,270′) in just under 4 hours, where I took the obligatory photo next to the sign marking the end of the Appalachian Trail.

Northern terminus of the AT

Northern terminus of the AT

View from the top of Katahdin. Pamola can be seen in the distance.

View from the top of Katahdin. Pamola can be seen in the distance.

Most of the rest of the day was spent in a heavy fog, so I didn’t get great pictures. Took another 50 minutes or so to reach Hamlin Peak (4,751′), then started the long descent.

Descending from Hamlin

Descending from Hamlin

Looking down into the valley

Looking down into the valley

Made it back to my car in a total time of 7 hours 40 minutes. Ballpark distance was 12 miles with 4,000′ elevation gain. I wasn’t going at a crazy fast pace by any means, but the early afternoon finish allowed me make it back to Portland in time for a full night’s sleep.

Katahdin, from a distance

Katahdin, from a distance

My legs were pretty sore when I made it back to the apartment (even more so the next morning)…but I knew that I only had one more day off before heading back to Wisconsin…so I decided to take one last stab at the Presidential Traverse the following day. I’ll try to get that post written up within the next few days.

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Published in: on September 23, 2015 at 7:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bigelow Range Loop Hike

I’m currently spending the month of September doing an emergency medicine rotation in Portland, Maine. So I’m trying to do as much hiking as possible on my days off.

On 9/6/15, I got up around 4:00 am to make the 2.5 hour drive north to the Bigelow Range. This is probably the least ambitious hike that I’m planning for the month in terms of distance (13.1 total miles) and elevation gain (rougly 3,500-4,000′). I went at a very leisurely pace and finished in about 6.5 hours.

My route

My route.

Most of the elevation gain for the day happened in the first couple hours, from the trailhead to the summit of Avery Peak (4,088′). The last mile or so to the top was essentially just a rock staircase. Nothing exposed or challenging, but a nice leg workout for sure.

Summit of Avery Peak.

Summit of Avery Peak.

I stopped for breakfast at the summit, texted the wife, then backtracked about a half mile on the Appalachian Trail to reach West Peak (4,145′). This was the highest point of the day, both in terms of elevation and scenery.

West Peak, looking back toward Avery.

West Peak, looking back toward Avery.

Bigelow's North and South Horns in the distance...my next stop.

Bigelow’s North and South Horns in the distance…my next stop.

The A.T. dropped back below treeline for the next couple miles until reaching the Horns. I stopped for a couple pictures on Bigelow’s South Horn (3,805′) and North Horn (3,792′).

South Horn, looking west toward Horns Pond.

South Horn, looking west toward Horns Pond.

North Horn, looking back toward West Peak.

North Horn, looking back toward West Peak.

It was starting to get pretty warm by the time I finished, so I was glad I’d opted for the earlier start. Next weekend I’m planning to attempt the Presidential Traverse in NH…then the following weekend I have my eye set on Katahdin, and possibly the Great Range in northern NY.

Published in: on September 8, 2015 at 4:01 pm  Comments (3)