Just back from a great trip into Baxter State Park with a 6 member team, including Mad Townie (and Adrian K., Art D., Brian V. and Jerry O.). The trip highlight was summiting Baxter and Hamlin Peaks under blue bird skies on Sunday, 1/13, but it was all good! And we were particularly pleased to be one of the first groups to enjoy the new Chimney Pond Bunkhouse, which is very spacious and comfortable.

We followed a typical itinerary for winter trips into Chimney Pond: Day 1 skied with sleds into Roaring Brook; Day 2 up to Chimney Pond, and then scouted and packed out (to treeline) our summit day route; Day 3, summits; Day 4, ski out from Chimney Pond to Abol Bridge. For our summit day, we ascended via a "Saddle Variation" - a gully just south of the Saddle Slide; from there we went up to Baxter Peak, then over to Hamlin Peak and down Hamlin Ridge.

The conditions were generally very good. We had enough snow, but not too much; the warm spell last week brought the pack down by approx. 2' according to Rob the Alpine Ranger. In the gully we were glad for the diminished snowpack and firm surface, which reduced avy danger. Hamlin Ridge was quite bony, and you need to be very careful at treeline where it is easy to lose the trail (there is now a flourescent orange ski ticket at treeline as a blaze). On the road in there was plenty of snow to ski, though the surface was a bit crusty and slick in places. From Roaring Brook to Chimney Pond there was full coverage and the ranger has snowmobiled up to the Basin Ponds, creating a fairly wide packed trail. Above the Basin Ponds the trail is well packed, but a bit rougher and narrower. We took the summer trail around the ponds (rather than crossing over ice) due to open water from last week's warm spell.

Equipment requirements are too numerous to detail. As noted we skied with sleds from Abol Bridge to Roaring Brook; some snowshoed while others barebooted (easily passable, no postholing) from Roaring Brook to Chimney Pond, and also from Chimney Pond to treeline. Axes and crampons (plus avy gear and knowledge) for any of the gullies. Hamlin Ridge was unpleasant with full crampons, but it's the only way I could do it (although Jerry was able to bareboot); I was wishing for my instep crampons.

Kudos to a great team for this awesome trip.