Ascent of Hamlin Peak on 2013-01-04

Climber: Michael Blair

Date:Friday, January 4, 2013
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Peak:Hamlin Peak
    Elevation:4200 ft / 1280 m

Ascent Trip Report

With Monica and Peg. We stayed in Millinocket on Tuesday night and hiked into Roaring Brook on Wednesday and then up to Chimney Pond on Thursday.

We had broken out the Saddle Trail from the Cabin to the Gully the day before our summit attempt. While the snow was knee deep in many spots for all three of us, there were some spots where Monica and Peg stayed on the surface. There weren't any where I did. In fact, there were a couple spots that ended up being chest deep.

It was cold but we were able to easily regulate our temperatures using layers. The cold wasn't the problem, it was the wind. It was 30-40 MPH at Chimney Pond and it was 70-80 MPH along the ridge. The plan was to use the "winter route" which goes up the Gully a little before heading to the west towards the Buttress but with the wind and snow it was a white out and we never found it.

We wore snow shoes the entire way up the Gully to a small rock outcropping about 300' below the ridge. It got steeper and had we continued we would have had to switch to our crampons if we were to continue. As I came out from behind a rock I was nearly blown over by a gust of wind. That was it - time to turn around. We had the stuff we needed to get up and get around (snow shoes, crampons, ice axe, compass, and GPS) and the stuff if we got stuck (sleeping bag and high sacks) but the steep climb, high winds, and limited visibility made the decision to turn back pretty easy.

There were two guys in the cabin who went up Cathedral Trail. They were minimilaists and carried little more than what they were wearing. They used cross country skis to reach the trail then went with crampons. The got to the ridge OK but got a little disoriented in the white out and had to search for the summit. They found it and got the pictures - they were the first ones in a couple of weeks to make it that far. On their way down though they couldn't find the trail and came down way off course. After crossing an avalanche field and post-holing back to their skis they worked their way back to the cabin.

They said they should have turned back like we did and that there adventure was a "life changing" event. In fact, they cut their trip short by a day because they were too rattled to climb again. The next day the ranger confided in us that he had actually began preparing the crew cabin for the rescue crew he thought he would need to call for them. He was concerned with their lack of experience on the ridge in winter and their minimilaist "light and fast" approach considering the conditions.

The conditions were even worse on Saturday so we never even left the Cabin. Blue skies tried to tease us every once in a while but the temperatures were colder and the winds were more fierce than they were on Friday. In fact, there was quite a bit of fresh snow overnight and foot prints would disappear in just an hour or two. We rode our sleds back down to Roaring Brook.
Summary Total Data
    Route:Saddle Trail
    Trailhead:Chimney Pond  
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Ski Poles, Snowshoes, Hut Camp
    Weather:Snowing, Cold, Extremely Windy, Whiteout/Fog

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