This post may not be entirely ON topic, preparedness-wise anyway … unless I stretched it, pitched the post as…
Exercise All Year Long to Stay Apocalypse-Ready, or …
Breathe Fresh Air Today Because the World Might End Tomorrow, or …
you get the idea.
Instead I’m just going to talk a bit about this year’s winter hike up Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Maine’s highest peak.
Baxter State Park used to regulate winter hiking, but they loosened the rules up a few years ago making it easier for climbers to get into the park for a winter ascent up Katahdin. A detailed “how” to climb Mount Katahdin in the winter post would be more like a series of posts, and if this was a hiking blog, I’d write it that way. Instead I’ll give you over-simplified version – with pictures.
The first thing is having the right gear. The pic above doesn’t include all of the gear I took on the trip, but it does give you southern flatlanders an idea of what type of clothes is required. The biggest problem with winter hiking gear is the price. The gear pictured, from jacket, to helmet, to sub-zero sleeping bag, ice axe, etc., it wasn’t purchased for this hike. It was purchased over a course of years. Bit by bit, each piece adding to my collection and getting used for lesser hikes along the way. Remember seeing those pink boots before? Hello! I wrote about them 4 years ago – Survival Footwear – Prepare Like a Woman.
The second thing is being in shape. You have to be in moderately decent shape to hike Mount Katahdin in the summer, let alone in the winter when the park is closed to vehicle use and you have to SKI in to the base of the summit. You get a workout before you even get there!
The third thing is finding hiking partners. You could climb it yourself if you know what you’re doing, but … why? Shit can go wrong on a mountain in the winter.
There are a few ways to get to the peak, the longer route that takes you up through the scenic Chimney Pond area or the faster route that takes you through Abol Campground. Because the three of us going all have full-time jobs and limited vacation time, we opted for the fast route, drove up on a Friday night after work, in the dark, and slept in a remote parking area off a dirt road, a.k.a. “Base Camp.”
The weather was nasty the next day, half snow/half freezing rain. We had to cross country ski (with makeshift sled hauling gear attachment things). There I am in the orange/grey jacket fixing my sled.
We traveled through areas where the uninhabited “towns” go by numbers, like Township 3 Range 10.
We kept skiing all the way to Abol Campground and our reserved, open-air lean-to.
There we took a nap Saturday afternoon, woke up, stretched, fetched water and made a healthy dinner of macaroni and cheese with tuna. Mmmmm! The next morning we climbed up through the forest and approached the mountain.
You’ll see that a few of the pics posted here have the blueish tint to like the one above. I took those pictures from a disposable camera that … didn’t work so well in the cold. But we climbed, and climbed up to Abol Slide where we had to stop to strap on crampons.
We climbed higher up the slide.
From there the view dropped off entirely, visibility was cut down to “not much” and we pressed on from cairn to cairn all the way to the summit.
We didn’t stay on the peak long, because …. well, because it was cold!
I hiked with my homeboy Rabid Outdoorsman.
You can watch his VIDEO FROM THE PEAK.
Then typical of mountain weather, after we began our descent, some of the clouds broke long enough for sporadic views.
We hiked all the way up, down and out that Sunday, driving all the way home. We were up at about 5am and home by around 8pm. Hiking Katahdin that way makes for a long day, but one you won’t forget.
BTW: Read Rabid’s account of the hike for another take.