Barren (yeah, that Barren)-Baxter, ME

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May 18, 2005
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Orrington, ME
...this one is all about the hike :)---since the "changes", i have no clue how to get pics into post..solved

For several years, i have dreaded the day i try Barren. The peak has a serious rep and deservedly so. Not sure i wanted to go at all and almost afraid to go alone (my usual mode). It might take a long time to find you/your body on this hike.

Thanks for input over the past 2 years, from MarcH, CarlC, HerbF, Damon, jt (akaBM), JP--most long gone from Views. I came up with several possible routes to try --there are always variations and few venture up there. The most used routes over the last 5-8 years seem to be 1) up the OJI Slide and 'whack around the edge of the Klondike, come at Barren from West and North (this seems the standard route of late. 2) Another possibility is to go up the Hunt trail, whack to the base of the large Barren Slide, ascend and then somehow fight to the summit thru crazy stuff. I chose option 2. Neither of these routes is obvious or at all easy.

Headed up Hunt Trail (AT to Katahdin) to the Owl Trail and followed to about 2000'. Headed into the woods in search of bottom of large Barren Slide a bit over a mile away-bad choice. The woods were immediately jailbar small evergreens spaced about 18" apart and "woven" together. This stuff is terrible to go through. You have to lean, squeeze between, get poked by limbs and raked/sandpapered by the small branches-scratched to hell tonight. Slow going (i only made about 0.3 miles in 40 minutes when i was fresh) and no letup--just a very bad stretch. I was trying to contour at about 2000' and hit the run out streams of the slide. The woods eased just a bit to "bad" and i passed thru a beautiful bog/glade for about 0.1 miles. I was going to take pics of the really bad stuff so everyone could see what the crazy people do, but i was so shot on the way back that it didn't seem an option (not when i am thinking about lying down and going to sleep :).

Now the bad stuff starts. When you're going through really thick crap, you are getting hit so hard in so many places that you lose track of everything else-result a lost section of BD hiking pole--i'll miss it a lot on the slide. Worse yet, about 10 minutes later i get a real shot to the face which breaks my glasses and sends one lens flying (spare is of course in car). After a 15 minute hands and knees search i give up, stand to go and see the lens (small victory). Of course now i have no protection from branch beating (my eyes get raked numerous times-scary) and no real distance vision for the woods or to find the right lines on the slide--adds time to an already tuff day. I probably should had stopped at this point and tried another day. The more i think about it, the more risky my choice to continue seems.

I hit the fairly open little valley i was shooting for at about 2300' (thanks jt) and began to search for the long slide run out (now overgrown) which would lead me to the slide. Follow a false run out lead for a bit, but correct and find the right run out on the second try--fairly easy 0.4 or so to base of slide. The Barren Slide is pretty large-I'm guessing about 0.4+ miles in length and allows you to gain about 1150' much more easily than going through thick woods. The slide is not a slabby, dangerous when wet variety, but more like the ABOL Slide (though not as steep and rocks are smaller)--gravel interspersed with crumbly rocks and not bad to travel with good route choice. I ended up tacking all over the place due to limited vision, but found the slide the fun part of the hike. It was full sun and my face and ear tops are toasted. I never felt particularly vulnerable as i do on some other slides.

Finally figured out how to get pics in-took me slightly longer than forever and i suspect anyone who was going to read this saw only the "before", no pics in text version, oh well--thanks for help TK
Barren Slide-pretty long


When you reach the top of the slide, you are only about 0.1 mile from the top-easy, right? Anything but. I was warned i probably could not get through that way, but i of course figured i was tuff enough-not so-pretty much impenetrable with lots of blowdown and thick crap grown up through it or just total pick up sticks blowdown patches. After moving almost nowhere, i finally decided to slab left (west) and come at the summit from there. Very difficult going-actually slithered under stuff on my stomach in several places. Finally, i am there, Barren, done (well I'm not down, as Ed V might say) Jar intact, dry on the single rock summit. Five signers in last 4 years-Ryman 2009, Oncoman 2009, Carl C2010, Pin Pin 2011and jt (BigMoose) 2011--good company. It's funny as before that almost all the climbers were at least duos and often packs (it does frighten people i suspect), but these last 5 signers were all solo. Views in ALL directions are breathtaking, the big peaks are all around you. Well now i'm exhausted and i still need to get back down.

jt is in the jar, most recent visitor--

and now and so am i [though as someone pointed out, i am looking a bit (actually very) grim]--

Howe Peaks? woozy enough i almost tumbled off the single little summit boulder when i shot this--

I slab around the ugly top (going from super difficult going to just rough going) again to find the slide-slide it's a bit harder going down than it should be due to lost pole, but not bad. I head back to the run out and turn back for the mile slog to the Owl Trail. The going is even worse this time and i'm just not making progress and getting more and more exhausted. I actually consider the possibility of lying down and spending the night--amazing how your mind can turn on you when you've been inside it too long under stress. I'm trying to use the 2000' contour again and it's just not working. I decide to "go with the mountain", flow downward and hope to find better woods. Amazing... at about 16-1700', the woods opens and it's a decent walk out the last 0.6 to the Hunt Trail--joy, joy; i am happier than you could know as i waltz bad the trail to the car. It's hard to imagine how relatively carefree trail hiking will be when i finally finish these little off trail excursions.

Back to KS Campground, a nice debrief chat with the Rangers ( they are actually happy, excited and want to know all about the hike.

I'm sure the key to the route i chose is contouring around 1500-1700 after you leave the trail, angling eventually to find the run out around 2050 in that "valley", follow run out to base of slide at 2400' and going from there. That's walking the "longer" 2 legs of a right triangle rather than the more "obvious" diagonal (hypotenuse) from the Hunt (or Owl) to the slide-i would have saved time and a wicked beating. However it's not easy to find the right "alleys" and suggest you be ready for possibility of The Hell of the North (apologies to Paris-Roubaix and the cobbles).

Very happy tonight and so glad this one is in the bag--2 left --Mullen and Poland -- that's 300/300 x ME "P" and "stop"



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Great trip and very entertaining read. Thanks for posting this and your other, uhhh, "out-of-the-way" experiences. ;)
A stirring tale made even better with your photos aligned and inserted. That slide looks sweet. How frustrating to find yourself easily at its top, just 0.1 mile from the summit, only to encounter an Iron Curtain of wood. I'm surprised you look so cheerful in that summit self-portrait.

barren slide has been on my mind last few years, the access to it has been the largest deterrent.. thanx for the report, when I finally man up, I will have to re-read this one.. would you make any big navi. changes next time? glad you got your pix up, looking forward to more of your remote hill tr.'s!:)
natron--thanks...lots of different feelings among my colleagues re commenting on "whack routes" publically, but i'm easy and hope not to be shunned for this

-changes? of course :)
-while more people seem to use the OJI route, i have never been a fan of the OJI south slide so would still use a modification of the route i tried--the big problems are 1) the route between the established trail (s) and the slide and 2) from the top of the slide to the summit

1) i left the Owl Trail at about 1950', crossed that little "x" 2026 on the topo and then stayed between 2000-2100 lines (relatively flat) for over a mile until my path crossed that stream (dry) you can see leading to the slide; the going for the most part was awful--a friend left the Hunt Trail around 1550' and made a diagonal for the slide bottom--his going was OK for about 0.5, then much awfulness--on the way down, i followed that 2000-2100 route again--even worse and about 0.6 miles before hitting my start on Owl Trail was in (and would have remained in) woods almost too thick to walk through (compass and an altimiter were more useful than a GPS if you use one because you are going way too slowly to get good bearings on GPS)--i "dropped" "down" (SW) and hit much more open woods at maybe 1600 or lower and followed open woods to Hunt Trail about 1450', were i to do it again, i'd head into woods about 1450 off Hunt Trail and stay where woods was thinnest (just sorta bad) on a 1450-1650' contour course, hopefully hitting the streambed and following it to slide--i have no idea what the say about last 0.5 miles between Hunt and streambed would be like--then around 2060' find the correct slide run out stream (it's wide, but grown in and some blowdown-also not the most obvious one at first) and follow about 0.5 to slide base

..i'd use Acme Mapper 2.0 site to be able to see sat pics and topos and toggle back and forth between them to see "what's where"--you CAN see the run out to the slide if you look carefully

the slide is NOT an issue if you are used to this stuff; never seemed dangerous (and i could not see w/o my glasses)

2) top slide to summit--trying to go straight ahead is useless unless you are even loonier and MUCH tougher than most of us who do this--wicked thick, sharp, slice you up stuff--curving left and around to west was some better, but i think i'd go even more directly west , then north and come in from north--persons who did OJI route seemed to find this summit approach at least doable

-if i could hit all this stuff, i'd cut my up/down time considerably and not have been close to exhaustion on return from slide to Owl--that said, be prepared because even with all the beta i've given you, it won't be easy and you may miss your "marks" and be in the real crap like most of us have been

-and if you don't solo all the time on tough hikes, this is absolutely not the one to start on--mental state is key

..and maybe someone else will tell you to try OJI route (and may be correct)

the slide is very cool, but other than that, the hike is either standard trail or really ugly whack (tiny top is nice) and you need to have a very good reason to climb Barren (3Ker) or just want to prove you can do it

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thanx Jim!

I'm only interested in the slide, not the peak.. hope ya don't get shunned for too much beta, hopefully I'll be able to do this late summer.. thank you!:)