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Good Fortune - Katahdin 8/2

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  • Good Fortune - Katahdin 8/2

    Yup, it’s long

    We (my son in particular) have been looking forward to hiking this peak for a few years and we knew that given the 700 mile drive to the trailhead and our busy lives, that we’d have to have more than a few chips fall in our favor in order to summit. Due to other obligations, we had about a 36 hour window to spend in Baxter with either Monday (8/1) or Tuesday (8/2) being hike day. A few days out, both days looked crappy, but Monday looked worse. Plans were set.

    We arrived in Millinocket, ME on Monday evening in the midst of horrendous t-storms and our planned campout turned to a stay at the Econo Lodge. The next day called for some clearing early AM, late AM showers turning to afternoon severe T-storms (65%). Not so great, but a brief AM window looked possible for a run at Baxter summit.

    We arrived at the South gate at 4:45 AM and were #2 in line. We paid and quickly made our way to Roaring Brook. We hit the trail at 5:50 and made our way to Chimney Pond. It took a slow 1.5 hours to cover the 3.3 miles (damn those rocks). The weather looked grand. A few wispy (fast moving) clouds around Baxter summit, but mostly sunny (even better than they said). We arrived to find out that today was a Class 2 day and severe storms were expected after noon with clouding and some rain expected before that. High winds were expected in any T-storms and extreme caution was advised on exposed trails after noon. Decision time: Goal #1 had always been Baxter summit and goal #2 was doing the Knife Edge. We stuck to that plan.

    We chose to go up the fairly benign Saddle trail as we knew it would get us up top quickest. From there, if the weather still looked to be a ways off, we’d discuss descending the Knife edge to Pamola then down. Off we went and we were able to get some great views along the way up to, and just above the saddle. The clouds moved in at about 4500-4600’ feet. We made the summit at just about 9:40 AM. My -Kestrel 3000- showed winds were at about 13-14 MPH with gusts over 20. Decision time again. We were in the clouds, it was windy, but we still had a few hours before the “extreme caution” time. It was right there before us and we’d come so far (who knows when we’d get back), but in the end, we turned our backs and decided that we’d head back down to the saddle. Conditions were not real bad at the time, but “it didn’t feel right”. We left the summit around 10:30. Nick was bummed, but even at 14, he knew it was the right decision. While we were there, we saw at least 3 groups venture out on “the edge”, without so much as a second thought. One group came back minutes later though and said “no way”.

    As we headed back down, we passed hordes of other going up in a long parade. We made our way uneventfully back down to the saddle and the clouds got even lower and noticeable denser. Hamlin beaconed us briefly as her summit darted in and out of the clouds, however, we knew deep down going up was not in our best interest, so we headed down the “Saddle Slide”. Still more hikers were headed up, smiles and all.

    The first booms of thunder came at about 12:15 PM and we were about 5 minutes from Chimney Pond. We arrived at the ranger station and the skies above looked angry. Through the in/out clouds we could see people far out on the knife edge. The ranger was very worried (and actually voiced his concerns to us). There were A LOT of people still up there, some with NO PLACE TO GO. As we headed out (back to Roaring Brook) the T-storms came in over Hamlin Peak and the thunder booming off walls of the Great Basin was downright incredible. Torrential rains followed and continued for about an hour. We were soaked (even in raingear), but by the time we arrived at our car at 2 PM, the clouds were clearing. I do not envy anyone stuck up there during that storm. Had we would have gone for the Knife Edge, or Hamlin, it would have been us FOR SURE.

    So it’s true that we did not meet all our goals, but we were able to use our best jugdement in order to take advantage of the small window that the Katahdin spirits gave us. We (wisely as it turns out) chose not to get greedy and go for more that what she offered us. Sure it’s hundreds of miles away from our home and it’s likely to be awhile before we get back, but the Knife Edge, Hamlin and the rest of the park will still be there, ready to let us climb later.

    As we chatted as we got near the car, we talked about the hike and the events of the day, and we pretty much agreed that the more we’ve hiked, the more we understand and are better able to think clearly when we need to (before things get bad) and how important that is. Wisdom is by far the most important piece of “gear” needed when attempting to summit these big ones.

    Thanks for listening and sharing your wisdom over the years with us

    "The forest is the poor man's overcoat. " Old Northeastern Proverb

  • #2
    Awesome! Glad you had a safe trip!
    This post is for entertainment purposes only.

    Comment


    • #3
      I'm smiling for all of you!

      Katahdin will be there, it will always be there, and THAT is the true beauty of Baxter State Park.
      Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass.
      It's about learning to dance in the rain.

      Comment


      • #4
        Mavs

        Good trip report it is good you made the right decision. Had you descended the knife edge, ( and made it ) It likely would have been a trial of survival and you would have missed the great scenery. The reason you went there in the first place.

        When I read your question about alternatives I recalled sitting two days in a lean-to waiting out the rain for a chance to climb Katahdin. It was during these days that I discovered a few of those ponds I reccommended.

        Upon reading your report I thought, that is nasty, to go all that distance and expense to only reach part of your goal. Then it hit me the day before it appeared all you were going to be able to visit were a few ponds. In that light summiting Katahdin only was an upgrade. See things can get better and those mountains can be a tease can't they?

        I am glad you guys are safe that is the important thing and you did get one. Next time book early and for a week at least. I am sure you noticed from all the good suggestions thrown at you there is enough there to keep you from getting bored even if you have to put up with seven full days of good weather.

        Comment


        • #5
          Sylvie and I talked about going to K. but changed our minds because we couldn't work it so we had at least 3 days to wait around for the right weather . It always feels good when you make the right decision. Imagine being hunkered down on the Knife Edge with lightning bolts all around, howling wind and lashing rain... with your children that you led out there. Excellent read Tim and what a lesson for your kids!

          Comment


          • #6
            Great report, Tim. You guys made the right decision. The mountains will always be there! I can't wait to hike K someday when my boys are older.

            Saus

            Comment


            • #7
              Great report (and reminder not to get greedy and risky).

              Since I'm thinking about this trip SOMEDAY how long did the drive up take? Any tips for doing this expedition from here in good old NY state?

              Thanks,
              Pat Connors

              Comment


              • #8
                I can't believe it's been 15 years since I've been to Katahdin. You definitely don't want to be on the Knife Edge in even remotely questionable weather. It's kind of scary even on a perfect day. It is a gorgeous mountain though. I think it was about a 500-mile drive one way from Albany, definitely way up there.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Hikerdad
                  Great report (and reminder not to get greedy and risky).

                  Since I'm thinking about this trip SOMEDAY how long did the drive up take? Any tips for doing this expedition from here in good old NY state?

                  Thanks,
                  Tips? It seems to take forever as that drive is a loooong one.

                  The Drive---It depends where you are starting from, we took rte 4 through Rutland to White River Jct. Then the interstate to Concord then back on 4. Spent a night in a camp ground just inside Maine west of Portland. Then the interstate up to Millanocket. If in the Albany area it makes more sense to take the Mass Pike to I-95 in Maine.

                  Camping----Make sure you have a reservation for Baxter and that means real early, like January for July or Aug. Plan several days so you can sit out bad weather.

                  When we hiked the AT I reserved a lean-to for five nights in Baxter. That was a good thing because the first two days it rained. Can you imagine walking 150 miles to Katahdin and not being able to do the last three? We had broken Maine into two parts doing the Kennebec to New Hampshire on a two week vacation one year and the next on another two week vacation we did the Kennebec north to Baxter.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    congrats! glad you guys had enough time and good weather to make it up.
                    you'll have to go back for hamlin and the knife edge next year.
                    bushwacker
                    www.adkbushwacks.com

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      -PICTURES- are up.
                      "The forest is the poor man's overcoat. " Old Northeastern Proverb

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Great pics Tim!

                        It's been six years since my last trip up Katahdin and those pictures are givng me the mountain itchies.
                        Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass.
                        It's about learning to dance in the rain.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Hikerdad
                          Since I'm thinking about this trip SOMEDAY how long did the drive up take? Any tips for doing this expedition from here in good old NY state?
                          From our driveway to the Baxter State Park gate is just about 723 miles. All but about 30 of those miles are on very good (65 MPH) highway. It took us 11.5 hours to get home. We averaged 65 MPH over that distance but we had several stops for food/gas so we actually might have exceeded the speed limits once or twice .

                          It's actually a really easy trip, just long. Making the 5-5.5 hour trip to the High Peaks 12-16 times a year is a good warm-up. Our kids do remarkably well riding in a car for that long.

                          As for tips. Plan for at least three (or even 4) days in the Millinocket area. That way, you have a few days to choose from to maximize your chance at getting a "class I" weather day. Staying in the park is helpful and would be cool, but we had a fine time "hot tubbing" and "Econo lodging" at day's end
                          "The forest is the poor man's overcoat. " Old Northeastern Proverb

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Hikerdad
                            Any tips for doing this expedition from here in good old NY state?
                            <

                            Depending on Where in NY you are, it might be faster to go through Canada. That seems to be the case if you are in the Adirondacks. Confuse the border guys when going into Canada,

                            "Where are you going?"
                            "Maine"

                            I did the reverse once, driving to New Brunswick by going through Maine. That was before 9/11, so I was able to be a smart aleck about it.
                            Guinness: Goes in brown, comes out yellow.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by pete_hickey
                              Originally posted by Hikerdad
                              Any tips for doing this expedition from here in good old NY state?
                              <

                              "Where are you going?""Maine"

                              I did the reverse once, driving to New Brunswick by going through Maine. That was before 9/11, so I was able to be a smart aleck about it.
                              That would get them as I understand it these border guys lack a sense of humor.

                              Comment

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