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View Full Version : Katahdin Questions Part 2



DayTrip
07-31-2014, 10:21 AM
I had some follow up questions about Baxter State Park and Katahdin from my prior thread on hiking there. Any input would be appreciated.

1)What is best website or source for weather on Katahdin? I know they don't have an observatory like Washington but I'd imagine there are many sites that follow it. I already use mountain-forecast.com but I'm looking for something more detailed and/or local. I'd be doing a "last minute" trip up there so I'll be watching weather closely and if a window opens where the weather is good, a campsite is available and I can get the time at work I'll be loading the car and driving up. Weather will be the biggest factor. This will likely be a one-time only trip for me so I don't want to hike in poor weather.

2)What are everyone's thoughts on these trails to descend as bail out options (either due to fatigue or likely bad weather): Dudley Trail, Cathedral Trail and Saddle Trail (to leave ridge not the upper section). I think in my original thread someone said Dudley was very strenuous and the Guide makes Saddle sound like the easiest. Weather and endurance permitting plan is to go up Helon Taylor, do Knife Edge, take Saddle across to do Hamlin Peak and head down to Chimney Pond Trail to exit. The AMC Maine Guide is very brief and doesn't give me a real good feel for degree of difficulty the way that the White Mountain Guide does. Want to know exactly what I'd be getting into if I did bail out into an even worse situation.

3)How are the campgrounds for hanging out? My wife just had knee surgery (she can walk and get around but she doesn't hike) and may come with me to hang out while I am hiking. Curious if there are spots with views, easy access to river, common areas, etc, etc. She doesn't mind camping but isn't a huge outdoors type so just sitting at a picnic table drinking water is probably not going to "trip her trigger". Curious what, if anything, there is to do around the park within a reasonable drive, how elaborate Roaring Brook Campground is, etc.

Thanks for any input.

Daniel Eagan
07-31-2014, 11:35 AM
I'm no expert, but I always check the government weather site first. For Millinocket you can use this link: http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?x=178&y=128&site=car&zmx=1&zmy=1&map_x=177.5&map_y=128.29998779296875

In my opinion, Saddle is the easiest descent route. I think that will turn out to be the consensus. I thought Saddle was equivalent to descending the Tripyramids. Not as difficult as descending the slide on Coe, for example.

We usually stay at Roaring Brook, which has limited hang out options. It is a beautiful spot, but there's not much more than the parking lot, ranger's cabin, dorm, and tent sites and lean-tos. We always plan a day off for weather, and usually go to Togue Pond near the south entrance to the park. Picnic tables, small sandy beaches, great swimming. It's not that far to drive into Millinocket for lunch. I like going to the supermarket and the hardware store there, or even walking up and down the main street, but that's because I live in Manhattan.

nartreb
07-31-2014, 12:06 PM
The campsites are fairly bare-bones. In terms of non-hiking amusements, the main thing to do is walk to a quiet pond and watch for moose. There's also fishing (check for restricted areas). There may be options for guided raft or canoe trips nearby.

Which trail to go down depends on where you are and where you left your car. Dudley trail is a fairly normal effort for New England, probably steeper than Helon Taylor but not a huge difference that I can recall. Hoever, if you are on the summit looking for a retreat from bad weather, you have to go back over the Knife Edge to reach either of those, which is not a good idea in bad weather. Assuming you're going east, the Saddle trail is by far your easiest and safest descent from the summit. The <s>Chimney</s> Cathedral trail is pretty challenging, not really recommended for descent even in good weather.

peakbagger
07-31-2014, 12:26 PM
Saddle is the only trail without significant exposure to weather. It is also the closest quickest approach to a ranger station at Chimney Pond. The upper section is a loose gravel/rock slide, I always time my descent to avoid large groups behind me as any rock dislodged will end up careening directly down the slide. Cathedral trail is not recommended for descents, it is quite steep and requires using your hands. The upper section is exposed but once you hit the Cathedrals there is some cover. I really dislike Dudley trail going down, it is quite exposed, the upper section near Pamola lulls you into a sense of security but it rapidly become a continuous boulder scramble. In many places butt sliding down granite is the only good option so make sure your shorts can take the abuse. If I had to chose between two alternatives I would probably descend Cathedral despite the warnings to the contrary.

Getting both Katahdin and Hamlin in one day is a long day with a lot of sun exposure, plan accordingly. Descending Hamlin Ridge Trail is quite a hike, if it wasn't next to Katahdin, folks would drive 100s of miles to hike it. Seriously consider starting out before sunrise on Helon Taylor so you can catch sunrise above the trees and miss some of the dayhiker rush

The campgrounds are pretty basic, no real recreational facilities. If you can score a last minute cancellation to a cabin at Kidney or Diacey do it, they have rec halls to hang out in and a ice view of the pond. The cabins also have beds and screens on the windows and woodstoves with a deck. Definitely rustic but a step up from a tent. About the closest excitement is to go watch the whitewater boaters below Abol bridge but that's a long drive. Millinocket is a pretty run down mill town, it does have an art gallery but not a lot else although its worth stopping at the Pelletier's Logging bar and restaurant on Maine street and eating breakfast at the AT café. Driving around the park is mostly driving on dusty road covered by trees. The best views are between Katahdin Stream and Nesowadnehunk campground and it drives along the stream for much of the stretch.

DougPaul
07-31-2014, 01:42 PM
The Chimney trail is pretty challenging, not really recommended for descent even in good weather.
Perhaps you mean the Cathedral Trail? The Chimney is a technical route.

I've been up and down Dudley in the rain--it it doable, but it is a field of large boulders.

If I had to retreat, I'd consider Helon Taylor, Dudley, or the Saddle trails to be my choice of routes.


One amusement near Roaring Brook Campground is an easy walk (~.4mi) to Sandy Stream Pond and watch the moose.

Doug

DayTrip
07-31-2014, 08:57 PM
Thanks guys.

Mileage and time didn't seem too crazy to include Hamlin. If I did math right it was 11.7 miles and about 11 hours. So it sounds like if I'm questioning stamina/weather early I should go back down Helon Taylor from Pamola and forget Knife Edge and the summit. Otherwise I'll have to push on until the portion of Saddle that retreats down.

Daniel Eagan: You said Saddle is equivalent of Tripyramids. I assume we're talking South slide, not North slide right? I wouldn't descend North Slide (the bottom anyhow).

Thanks for the info guys! I think there will be enough for my wife to do while I am out torturing myself. She is quite the camp cook too so hopefully a giant post hike meal will be on the agenda!

alexmtn
08-01-2014, 08:19 AM
Daniel Eagan: You said Saddle is equivalent of Tripyramids. I assume we're talking South slide, not North slide right? I wouldn't descend North Slide (the bottom anyhow).

The Saddle Trail is not as steep/difficult as Tripyramid's South Slide, and is definitely the easiest route to/from the ridge from Chimney Pond. While the Saddle Trail lacks the steep, bouldery sections found on the South Slide, the two trails do have copious stretches of skittery scree in common.

Mike P.
08-01-2014, 10:07 AM
I did the two, up HT, over KE, over to Hamlin and down Hamlin Ridge, it's long but doable. Saddle would be my first choice on descent. If weather is great & expected to be, I'd do Hamlin first, as you'll see fewer people at Baxter Peak.

Several small places to see, other ponds including Sandy Stream.

Enjoy

peakbagger
08-01-2014, 10:26 AM
I find the biggest issue with the long hike is water and sun management. Much of the hike is full sun from about 1 mile in on the Helon Taylor trail to the end of Hamlin Ridge Trail. Add in a steady breeze on hot day and its perfect conditions to underestimate the need for water. Its easy to get sunburned and dehydrated as the first water source is Caribou Spring near the Saddle with another spring heading over to Hamlin and one sometimes exists on the other side of Hamlin heading down. Most folks carry far too little water and many have issues with loss of electrolytes. Its real easy to get blown way by the scenery and forget to drink enough. The summit also tends to attract clouds and thunderstorms, if there a cloud within 50 miles it normally heads over to the summit so I try to get off the Knifes edge early which means a clockwise loop. If you go CCW, and the weather gets gnarly on Katahdin you need to backtrack back to Saddle as the knifes edge when its raining is not something most would want to do.

Daniel Eagan
08-01-2014, 10:36 AM
Thanks guys.

Mileage and time didn't seem too crazy to include Hamlin. If I did math right it was 11.7 miles and about 11 hours. So it sounds like if I'm questioning stamina/weather early I should go back down Helon Taylor from Pamola and forget Knife Edge and the summit. Otherwise I'll have to push on until the portion of Saddle that retreats down.

Daniel Eagan: You said Saddle is equivalent of Tripyramids. I assume we're talking South slide, not North slide right? I wouldn't descend North Slide (the bottom anyhow).

Right, alexmtn's description is good.

I would not pass up the opportunity to climb the Knife Edge, it is a real highlight of the whole day. And I think you would save some time doing Hamlin as an out-and-back from the Saddle Trail. Plus going down Saddle will bring you to Chimney Pond, another spot you don't want to miss. (Going down Hamlin Ridge brings you back below Chimney Pond.)

Maineman
08-01-2014, 11:23 AM
I'd recommend NOT taking Helon Taylor. The hike up to Chimney Pond from Roaring Brook TH is on a great trail and goes pretty quickly, you can then filter more water at the pond and truly appreciate the massive headwall. Dudley is easier going up than down & imho really sets up the views and excitement.

peakbagger
08-01-2014, 11:40 AM
My vote is Helon Tayor if possible, I find that the headwall views are pretty good from Hamlin Ridge in late afternoon as in the morning later in summer the backside of the headwall tends to be in the shadows. If as I suggested the OP starts early with a headlamp that sunrise above treeline on Helon Taylor is pretty special. Of course I have an inherent dislike for Dudley despite going up and down it several times over the years, so my view is biased.

Please note if its your first time any route up the mountain on a nice day will blow you away, much of the debate in about nuances that are discovered after hiking the mountain several times. While you are there take good notes for your next visit.

DayTrip
08-01-2014, 12:45 PM
I find the biggest issue with the long hike is water and sun management. Much of the hike is full sun from about 1 mile in on the Helon Taylor trail to the end of Hamlin Ridge Trail. Add in a steady breeze on hot day and its perfect conditions to underestimate the need for water. Its easy to get sunburned and dehydrated as the first water source is Caribou Spring near the Saddle with another spring heading over to Hamlin and one sometimes exists on the other side of Hamlin heading down. Most folks carry far too little water and many have issues with loss of electrolytes. Its real easy to get blown way by the scenery and forget to drink enough. The summit also tends to attract clouds and thunderstorms, if there a cloud within 50 miles it normally heads over to the summit so I try to get off the Knifes edge early which means a clockwise loop. If you go CCW, and the weather gets gnarly on Katahdin you need to backtrack back to Saddle as the knifes edge when its raining is not something most would want to do.

Is Caribou Spring reliable, especially in a dry summer? That certainly would help with water management. I was operating under the assumption I'd have no water until I was back down in area of Chimney Pond.

That was my logic for the loop. I think that tough "notch" in between Pamola and Chimney peaks and the Knife Edge itself is going to be the significant part of the hike for me so I wanted to hit it early both from a stamina and a weather persepctive.

As far as water goes I usually carry 3 32oz Nalgene's on hikes like this and plenty of electrolyte rich snacks. I usually easily drink all the water on a comparable hike. Do you think that is sufficient or should I add a 4th? (I often carry a 40 oz Hyrdroflask in addition to water with soup or hot food so I can add a 4th Nalgene without a real net gain in weight. I plan on bringing drier lighter foods to cut down on my overall pack weight).

DayTrip
08-01-2014, 12:50 PM
I would not pass up the opportunity to climb the Knife Edge, it is a real highlight of the whole day. And I think you would save some time doing Hamlin as an out-and-back from the Saddle Trail. Plus going down Saddle will bring you to Chimney Pond, another spot you don't want to miss. (Going down Hamlin Ridge brings you back below Chimney Pond.)

The Knife Edge is a MANDATORY element for the hike. I've wanted to do for 20+ years. Any route I do is going to include it unless I get to the edge and decide it's over my head and freak out. From what most said in my original thread it is not as deadly dangerous as stories make it, but it is a pretty rigorous workout crossing over.

Mike P.
08-01-2014, 01:41 PM
Doing clockwise is best if weather at all is questionable. You can descend Hamlin and get back close enough to Chimney Pond to go back and see the views. (We did and at the time I was 37 and probably 25 pounds overweight). Bring water, bring extra. The views of the bowl from Chimney Pond are nearly as good as those from KE. (Different of course) Far more dramatic, IMO, than looking at Tucks from anywhere in the bowl.

Mike P.
08-01-2014, 01:49 PM
The Knife Edge is a MANDATORY element for the hike. I've wanted to do for 20+ years. Any route I do is going to include it unless I get to the edge and decide it's over my head and freak out. From what most said in my original thread it is not as deadly dangerous as stories make it, but it is a pretty rigorous workout crossing over.

Most find the hardest part descending and Acsending the Chimney. Some have lowered packs by rope. It's a short pitch, not sure if I'd say which short section is harder, the back of Saddleback in the ADK's or that part of Trail between Pamola & Chimney Peak

peakbagger
08-01-2014, 02:38 PM
I find that Caribou Spring ( the one near the saddle is less reliable that the one heading up Hamlin near the junction with the Northern Peaks trail. I would definitely treat or filter. as later in the summer the flow tends to drop. One thing great about Baxter is that the rangers can be real helpful. Check with the ranger at the campground on the current water sources condition. I cant comment on your water usage but I usually end up with the equivalent of three nalgenes and may end up stopping below Chimney Pond to refill for the hike down to Roaring Brook. By the way, a major bummer with adding Hamlin is that you miss out stopping at Chimney Pond unless you add a bit of mileage as the actual Hamlin Ridge Trail joins the Chimney Pond trail just north of Basin Pond. If you have the time its worth the visit to take the spur that loops back to Chimney but I expect few do it.

Realistically if the Knife edge is mandatory, then have a back up plan and don't hike unless its a class 1 day. Hiking the Knife Edge, in the clouds wind or rain just wont have the same feel as doing it when its clear (another reason for doing it early in the day as the summit forms clouds after noon on many summer days. Hiking in the wind and rain is possible but not for the faint of heart. In the clear if you stick to the blazed route, the drop down both sides is quite impressive as the trail is 8 to 10 " wide, there are side paths around most of these sections for windy wet days but if you don't mind the exposure the actual ridge crest is quite fun.

For some reason I prefer cllmbing up the steep spot in the chimney (CW) rather than descending it. Descending it requires a "butt slide of faith" for many where you cant see the footing where you are sliding. Going up you can see your hand and footholds. Frequently I end up helping others down by guiding their feet to the unseen footing or at least counting out the distance for them. 10 through 60 year olds do it every weekend so its not that intense.

DayTrip
08-01-2014, 07:46 PM
I assume the "Chimney" is that section between Pamola Peak and Chimney Peak? Is it easier going from Helon Taylor to the Knife Edge or vice-versa? I was under the impression it was easier going toward the Knife Edge (i.e. the way I'll be going). I seem to remember in my original thread that many said they really didn't like coming off Knife Edge into Chimney and that people sometimes turn around when they see it.

Also, is it just as crowded mid-week? I'd likely be doing on a WED or THU. Was hoping it wouldn't be quite so busy.

bikehikeskifish
08-01-2014, 09:30 PM
Descending Pamola into the Chimney Peak Col

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-3Ucevjqpgrg/UisaN3xOOJI/AAAAAAAAG8Q/4N5yyRd_Ql8/s800/IMG_2110.JPG
https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-q6cXh0643vU/UisaOjDI3ZI/AAAAAAAAG8Y/MBfKTvub03Y/s800/IMG_2112.JPG
https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-7Ib-b-4AMTY/UisaQKSMx8I/AAAAAAAAG8o/zvz5RTMloFU/s800/IMG_2115.JPG

Tim

MichaelJ
08-02-2014, 09:43 AM
I'm scared of heights and still have done the Knife Edge twice, with a third planned for next week. I like Helon Taylor up as it's a gorgeous approach and I prefer to spend as little time on Chimney Pond Trail as possible, and Hamlin Ridge down if weather and time permit as it's a spectacular descent. I concur on the springs, I've personally seen water both times in Caribou and Hamlin but the spring on Hamlin Ridge is only one for two. I think going down from Pamola into the chimney and up the other side is the better direction. While, and as Tim's photos show, the descent can be hairy, once you know where your feet need to go, and where you need to shimmy from one side to the other, it's not a big deal. Going up the other side requires one "push of faith" upward and then it's cake. Plus then you get the Knife Edge done in the morning ahead of any potential weather coming in.

Midweek my guess is you'll see maybe a dozen on the Knife Edge, and a couple dozen more around the Baxter summit (with northbound AT through hikers finishing, but they're coming up the Hunt Trail), and anywhere from a few to nobody over on Hamlin.