Ascent of Katahdin on 2012-07-21

Climber: Matthew Nelson

Others in Party:Brian Haskins
Anna Vacha
Dana Everton
Rob Pizzano
Greg Scantlebury
Date:Saturday, July 21, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
    Elevation:5268 ft / 1605 m

Ascent Trip Report

We spent Friday night at a friend's cabin in St Albans ME, then got up early Saturday morning to drive the last 2 hours to Baxter before the 7AM cutoff for our parking reservation. On the way we passed a female moose on the side of the road that ran alongside our car. It was a pretty up-close encounter.

We arrived at Baxter about 6:45AM, got ourselves parked and packed, and started hiking around 7:45. The beginning of Abol is a pretty easy grade through the forest. Not much to it, we were told that a bear had just been seen right in the Abol campground, but we didn't see it. Abol eventually gets steeper and begins to follow a rock slide straight up the mountain. Once you get on the rock slide, you start to get some great views to the southwest. The trail follows this slide for a long ways, and it gets steeper and steeper as you go up. The upper section is steep and crumbly, and while isn't too bad going up, makes for a bit of a tough descent. There is a nice gulley to the east side of Abol, and there are plenty of spots that you can get a good view by climbing on the rocks between the gully and the slide.

From left to right Greg, Brian, Anna, Rob, and Dana ascending the slide on Abol

The view from the slide

King of the mountain...

Anna and I raced to climb on top of a prominent rock next to the trail

Major Kong

Me sitting at the top of the gully east of Abol

The slide tops out right near Thoreau Springs, which technically is a spring, but I don't think is a place to fill your water bottle. There was a trickle of water, but the source wasn't identifiable, and the water was practically standing, so not clean. We decided to head straight up to Baxter Peak via the Hunt trail.

Looking back down towards Thoreau Spring

As we got farther up, there became more and more people, and by the time we got to the top, there was probably a hundred or so people up there, alot of them being pretty obnoxious (a guy spraying a beer like champagne, planking on the summit sign, etc...)

View of Hamlin from the summit of Baxter Peak

View of the Knife Edge from Baxter

Group shot with the summit marker

Since the crowd at the summit kind of sucked, we pushed right along to the knifes edge. Rob and Dana decided to stay behind and relax while the rest of us headed for the knife edge. The knife edge was quite rugged, but was't quite as difficult as reviews had made it out to seem (though to be fair, we had incredible weather, and no wind at all, which I am sure made it alot easier). You definitely needed to use handholds for a lot of places, but with the perfect weather and total lack of wind we had, we were able to walk right along the spine with relative ease.

Beginning the Knife Edge

Small spur ridge off the knife edge

The exposure on the knifes edge is fantastic. You have 1000ft+ or nearly shear drop to either side, and in places, the spine is only a few feet wide. It was a great feeling to have the ground drop off around you so much.

Anna climbing a particularly thin part of the knife edge

Anna, Brian, and Greg

Just a few bumps short of the Chimney, Greg decided to take a rest and wait for Anna, Brian, and I to finish the rest of the ridge.

Brian and Anna on the last section of the knife edge

We made it to the chimney with no problem, but got stuck behind of group of teen girls that were not experienced hikers being really goofy trying to get through the chimney. We ended up having to wait 10-15 minutes for them to clear, which pushed us a little bit past our agreed upon turn around time, but we were so close that we went for it anyway. Some people say that a rope is needed for the chimney, but it certainly isn't. There is 1 tough move, so if you are short or are hiking with kids, a rope would certainly help to lower through that one obstacle, but none of us had much trouble with it. We quickly scaled Pamola, took a couple pictures at the top, then headed right back down.

View from Pamola, looking back at Baxter peak

Looking across at Hamlin from Pamola

Brian, Anna and I at the summit of Pamola

Climbing back up through the chimney was easier then going down it. We quickly made our way back to Greg, then we all continued back to Baxter.

Anna in front of an amazing view and sky right near Baxter summit

Brian and Greg arriving back at Baxter peak

We found Rob and Dana napping on a nearly empty summit. The crowds had descended, and there were just 3 groups there, all relaxing quietly. This was what the summit should be like. Because there was no wind, the bugs were pretty fierce. Lots of flies and gnats of all kinds. Fortunately none of them were biting insects, and we really didn't see many mosquito's. We had a quick lunch, and then made our way to refill our water bottles at a spring.

I had run out of water on the return across the knife edge, and everyone else was running low. We looked at the maps and decided to make for Saddle spring. We hauled it down pretty fast to the saddle, and hit the little used spur trail to saddle spring only to find the spring is gone. We went back the the saddle, and found that to get water we would have to continue towards Hamlin to get to Caribou spring. Greg and Dana decided to start the descent with the water they had left, and Rob, Brian, Anna and I headed for Caribou Spring. The mile from the saddle to the spring seemed alot longer than it really was, and Rob decided to stop and wait at some point, but we eventually got there and found delicious and cool spring water awaiting us.

Caribou Spring

BSP says that the water should be treated, but we didn't treat it, and as of 2 days later, we are feeling good. It was very delicious water, and we were very glad to have it for the descent.

Since we were only 0.2mi from the summit of Hamlin, we decided to tag it before heading back. Hamlin has a fantastic view of Katahdin, and we sat and enjoyed it for a few minutes before heading back.

View of Katahdin from the summit of Hamlin

Hamlin Summit picture

We met Rob along the way, and headed back towards the Baxter cutoff. The cutoff seemed longer than it really was (kind of a common feeling late in the day), but was a very nice walk through the alpine meadow. We got to Thoreau spring and headed right off for Abol. When we got the slide, we could see Dana and Greg way down near the treeline (thanks to Greg's obscenely fluorescent yellow shirt he could be seen for miles). The descent of the slide was slow and tedious. It gets very crumbly in parts, and is pretty taxing on the legs. We were very thankful to finally get down to treeline, then to get to the end of the slide and finally get normal trail back instead of talus. The lower section of Abol was uneventful. The sun went down and we were forced to break out the headlamps, and we arrived back the the car around 9PM. Dana and Greg were waiting at the car, and we all made our way out of the park, and over to Big Moose campground just outside the BSP gate.

Big Moose was a fantastic little camp. We got the right around 10PM, and they still had food available. A plate of nachos for a warm-up, then some delicious food, then made our way over to our campsite.


Other than some loud neighbors, the night passed just fine, and we woke late the next morning, packed up, and went to the River Driver's pub for a delicious breakfast buffet, then hung out around the lake for a little while.

Dana sitting out on the dock

Swimming in the lake with Katahdin behind

Rob kind of swam

A final view of Katahdin from Lake Millinocket
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:3969 ft / 1210 m
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:3969 ft / 1210 m
    Distance:4 mi / 6.5 km
    Trailhead:Abol Camp  1299 ft / 395 m
    Time Up:4 Hours 10 Minutes
Descent Statistics
Ascent Part of Trip: Katahdin 7-21-2012

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Katahdin2012-07-21 a
2Katahdin-South Peak2012-07-21 b
3Chimney Peak2012-07-21 c
4Pamola Peak2012-07-21 d
5Chimney Peak2012-07-21 e
6Katahdin-South Peak2012-07-21 f
7Katahdin2012-07-21 g
8Hamlin Peak2012-07-21 h
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Matthew Nelson
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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