Ascent of Katahdin on 2010-09-07

Climber: Michael Wanberg

Others in Party:Matthew Snyder
Danielle Sandy
Date:Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Elevation:5268 ft / 1605 m

Ascent Trip Report

We departed Bangor, ME about 5am and drove to Baxter State Park via Millinocket, arriving at the Togue Pond Gate about 6:45am. Though there were only 3 or 4 cars in front of us, it took 15-20 minutes to get through the gate. We arrived at the Katahdin Stream campground and trailhead about 7:20 and were on the trail about 15 minutes later. There is a vault toilet in the parking area.

The clouds were very low, obscuring most of Katahdin and dropping a raindrop on us every few minutes. We signed into the trail register and proceeded up the gently climbing trail. The trail grew steeper as we climbed, moving through some class 2 terrain up to the feature marked as "The Gateway" (elev. 3671) on the USGS quad of Katahdin. From that point until the "Table Lands" the trail involved repeated class 3 terrain, and a move that could be argued as class 4, particularly in the wet and windy conditions we encountered. On a calm, sunny day there wasn't much there that would give me pause, but the bad conditions made me wary in a few places. I was very surprised that the Appalachian Trail would be so poorly routed/cut to include anything even close to class 3. Katahdin shouldn't be underestimated due to its low height, but neither does it slope so steeply to preclude a class 2 trail on this ridge. From what I've since read, the Abol trail is slightly easier and may accomplish the climb at class 2.

This being Danielle's first hike, she elected to remain just below the (arguably) class 4 move while Matthew and I proceeded to the summit. We didn't remain there long, just enough to snap a couple of pictures and gobble some jerky before heading back. We did run into a small group of guys who were planning on going out across the Knife Edge in the miserable conditions. I cautioned that, given the trail's reputation, it might not be the best option considering the weather. One of the party mentioned he'd been out across it before (a few times?), so I withdrew my recommendation in light of his experience. Interestingly enough, as I got a quick rundown of the summit trails from him, he said he'd never down-climb the Hunt Trail (our route) just before setting off down the Knife Edge. If that's the case, than perhaps I picked the most difficult trail to ascend. It seems hard to believe, considering that it is the designated Appalachian Trail, but he seemed quite experienced on the peak.

We returned back the way we had coming, meeting up with Danielle and carefully picking our way back down the class 3 terrain. We started getting sprinkled on, and then the clouds lifted (but didn't disperse) and we got some pretty fantastic views of the surrounding area. While the granite steps that are placed on the trail were quite nice going up, they were fully the opposite on the way down. They may assist with trail maintenance, but the same can't be said for our joints! : )
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4390 ft / 1337 m
    Extra Gain:100 ft / 30 m
    Round-Trip Distance:11 mi / 17.7 km
    Route:Hunt Trail (AT)
    Trailhead:Katahdin Stream Campground  1078 ft / 328 m
    Grade/Class:Class 3+
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Stream Ford, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Drizzle, Cool, Very Windy, Low Clouds
Tempestuous, without the lightning
Ascent Statistics
    Time:4 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:4 Hours 

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