Ascent of Katahdin on 2011-09-02

Climber: Mark Dickey

Others in Party:Theresa Delgado
Date:Friday, September 2, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
    Elevation:5268 ft / 1605 m

Ascent Trip Report

Started at Roaring Brook Campground on a gorgeous day with zip-off pants and a light shirt and a fleece. The weather report was for a mostly sunny day with a 10% chance of rain. Starting time was 07:30 and the route selected to reach Baxter Peak on Mount Katahdin was to ascend the 3.2 mile Helon Taylor Trail and cross the 1.1 mile Knife's Edge to the goal of Baxter Peak.

The temperature was in the low sixties when leaving the trailhead after signing out at the ranger cabin. The fleece came off quickly once reaching the beginning of the steeper ascent .2 miles along the route. This gorgeous trail rose from the starting elevation of 1515 ft and offered a short respite of a plateau at 1940 ft before launching into the remaining 3000 ft of elevation gain to reach Pamola Peak at 4919 ft.

This ascent followed the steep shoulder of the mountain, presenting a challenging climb through small rocks and boulders with a multitude of tantalizing false-peaks to dash the hopes of tired hikers. Fantastic vistas were seen to the North, South, and East while climbing the west-bound trail.

The Keep Ridge that the Helon Taylor trail followed offered the first view of the south side of Knife's Edge around 3700 ft with sheer rock falling away from a thin ridge which looked barely able to fit a hiker. This view only became more daunting with the continued ascent of Helon Taylor, until the remainder of Knife's Edge was visible when reaching the summit of Pamola Peak at 11:30, and the end of the Helon Taylor Trail.

A short respite offered an opportunity to switch back to pants and each a small snack for energy before attempting Knife's Edge. The first moments of this traverse required a climb of what might be considered class 4 to reach Chimney Peak which is Adjacent to Pamola Peak. While a frightening introduction to Knife's Edge, it was a relief to find that it was the most treacherous section, and the remainder of this thin ridgeline could be followed without the reported need to crawl.

However, between the human traffic and the care involved in traversing this trail, the 1.1 miles took 2 hours to navigate. These two hours, the slowest period of the hike, also offered the most invigorating section of trail, the most amazing views, and is without a doubt one of the best trails on Mount Katahdin, which is itself one of the best of the Northeast mountains.

Reaching Baxter Peak's 5268 ft at 13:30 offered the perfect time to relax for lunch and take in the views of South Basin and recently traveled Knife's Edge ridge. Layering up at the summit only involved adding one thermal layer on top while sitting on a fully exposed rock. With the completion of lunch, the map was reviewed to confirm the plan to descend Cathedral to reach Chimney Pond and then return to Roaring Brook by the Chimney Pond Trail.

Starting this descent at 14:00, Cathedral offered an extremely challenging descent due to the steepness of the trail down a broken base of rocks and boulders. While not technically climbing, it took constant care for each movement. About 2/3rds of the way through Cathedral a 30 minute nap offered some rejuvenation to finish the descent to the bottom of the bowl at 2914 ft. This descent was completed 16:30 and offered a remaining 3 hours to complete the hike in 12 hours.

The final leg from Chimney Pond Campground to Roaring Brook Campground took 2 and 1/2 hours and was the final chapter of an amazing hike. In total, almost 10 miles were traveled, with 4000 ft elevation gain achieved on a beautiful day and hike.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:3726 ft / 1135 m
    Elevation Loss:3726 ft / 1135 m
    Distance:9.3 mi / 14.9 km
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:3726 ft / 1135 m
    Distance:4.3 mi / 6.9 km
    Route:Helon Taylor to Knife's Edge
    Trailhead:Roaring Brook Campground  1542 ft / 470 m
    Time Up:6 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:3726 ft / 1135 m
    Distance:5 mi / 8.1 km
    Route:Cathedral to Chimney Pond Trail
    Trailhead:Roaring Brook Campground  1542 ft / 470 m
    Time Down:5 Hours 30 Minutes

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