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Ascent of Katahdin on 2008-03-15

Climber: Gabriel Couët

Others in Party:Pierre Lefebvre
Alain Chevrette
Réjean Carbonneau
Craig Cressey
Carl Cressey
Date:Saturday, March 15, 2008
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Katahdin
    Location:USA-Maine
    Elevation:5268 ft / 1605 m

Ascent Trip Report

This trip report should start with a brief mention that I am a beginner at peakbagging. My interest for mountaineering and hiking was lit again during the second half of 2007. Before that, my last real backcountry trip dated from winter 2000. I was, nonetheless, raised by a father who loves the outdoors and brought me on countless trips which sparked this passion for the wild. I also gained a lot of experience and knowledge from this past, and I put it to good use this winter. My interest for peakbagging and my father’s stories renewed interest I had for the Torngats in northern Québec. This led me to meeting, through internet, Pierre, aka Oncoman.

After several communications and the realization we had common interests for peaks in Québec, he invited me to join his group for a weekend in Baxter State Park. I didn’t know exactly what I had just agreed to. I knew all the climbers present would be strong guys. I consider myself to be in very good shape. I now wonder how many more inhuman hikers there are out there.

Pierre was going to come pick me up on Friday morning to ride down in Maine. Thursday, I abused of microbrewery beers a tad, and when he showed up, I was barely getting out of the shower with a mild headache which would follow me the whole day. As usual, all my gear was spread in a pile in front of the main staircase. I finished stuffing everything in my backpacks (I brought both my day and expedition packs). I knew I was going to sleep in the open for three nights, so I brought a lot of extra clothing.

After the drive to Millinocket, we went in the Appalachian Trail Café, where we were to meet the rest of the group before heading up to the trailhead where half the party would sleep. It was a nice meal, and I got to meet very passionate and funny hikers. I felt a little bit intimidated by the credentials of this crowd. Pierre and Réjean were going to potentially complete their winter NE 115 and everyone around the table but I was a 46er. There was no news of Alain though, and everyone was wondering if he’d show up tomorrow morning.

Carl, Craig, and Fred headed back to their motel rooms, while Réjean, Pierre, and I drove to the trailhead. There, I packed out my shovel and started making a quinzhee. It was my first night out in the open since a couple years ago, but I’m used to that stuff. I made a one-person pile, but got lazy and botched it. The snow quality was hard to work with, several strata of rain crust getting mixed with the good snow. I finally carved a cavity large enough to slide down to my breast and made some wind shields around my head. It was a restless night as some traffic woke me in a couple occasions.

Then at 3:15am on Saturday, my alarm rang. I quickly started gathering my things to warm up as I emerged from my sleeping bag and got ready for the hike. Alain appeared out of his car. He showed up at the parking later while we were sleeping. Carl and Craig arrived, saying they had hit a deer on the way. Fred also showed up, but saying he wouldn’t come with us as he felt he would be slowing the group down. I was still hoping I wouldn’t be doing exactly that. I found out I had forgotten my right gaiter. I packed in a hurry, so it was my fault. After a group shot, we headed out.

The first part of the hike was along easy terrain and I used that to gauge everyone’s strength. Pierre was setting the pace, and I thought it was pretty fast. I could follow that easily although I felt it wouldn’t be so for the whole day. The way up to Abol Campground went by like a blaze. The pace was incredibly fast and I did need a break there. After unloading our extra camp equipment in a lean-to, we proceeded along the Abol trail. The slope started getting steeper pretty quickly and I finally showed my weakness by dropping behind everyone for a short break. Craig and Carl, seeing that, stayed back to push me a bit more. When we got the bottom of the Abol Slide, I was back in business. I finally let myself set my own pace instead of trying to keep the stronger guys’ completely ridiculous speed.

At the bottom of the slide, we regrouped. When we started going up again, I ended up following Alain, who was leading in 150 steps sprints. It actually worked very well for me. The snow was good on the snowshoes’ crampons, and I didn’t have much trouble getting uphill. The atmosphere was eerie, with low visibility and milky clouds. Somehow, we kept our snowshoes all the way up except for Carl and Craig who put their crampons on at the Slide’s bottom. I let Réjean pass me when we reached the scramble section and it was then a short time before we emerged from the slide.

When we reached Thoreau Springs, I was relieved. Most of the difficult ascent was behind, and I was still with the group. My heavy pack was an extra burden, but it was bearable. The ascent up to Baxter Peak was easy from there, especially since we had no visual cues to tell us how much distance was left. Some of the way was done by compass navigation since the cairns were out of sight at numerous points. By 10:20, we had reached the summit. I was happy to be there after merely 6 hours! I was completely drained though at that point and it was the time in my whole day where I felt the worse (as it shows in the pictures, I had an irresistible urge to close my eyes…). At least I had the descent towards the Saddle ahead to regain some energy.

We ate some snacks and started again towards Hamlin peak.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:4668 ft / 1423 m
    Elevation Loss:1008 ft / 307 m
    Distance:8.1 mi / 13 km
    Grade/Class:Class 2 & 3
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Ski Poles, Snowshoes
    Weather:Cold, Breezy, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:4668 ft / 1423 m
    Distance:7.5 mi / 12 km
    Route:Abol Slide
    Trailhead:Abol bridge  600 ft / 182 m
    Time Up:6 Hours 0 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:1008 ft / 307 m
    Distance:0.6 mi / 1 km
    Route:Table Land Trail
    Trailhead:The Saddle  4260 ft / 1298 m
    Time Down:15 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Katahdin (Baxter-Hamlin)

Complete Trip Sequence:
OrderPeak/PointDate
1Katahdin2008-03-15
2Hamlin Peak2008-03-15



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