Ascent of Katahdin on 2015-08-16

Climber: Michael Vecchiarelli

Others in Party:Maria
Date:Sunday, August 16, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
    Elevation:5268 ft / 1605 m

Ascent Trip Report

For the uninitiated, I suppose it is worth going over all that is involved with getting to the trailhead. If you are driving in with the intention of completing a day hike, it is a bit more involved then most hikes. First, you must reserve your parking space about 2 weeks ahead of time. Yes, spaces are very limited in order to preserve the wild side of the park, and non-residents of Maine can only reserve a spot beginning 2 weeks before the intended hike date, no earlier. This can all be done online through the Baxter Park website. There is a fee to park but nothing outrageous and you can also pay the fee to enter the park at the same time, which I recommend because the gatehouse only accepts cash. Print the pass and don't forget it. Most people hike from Roaring Brook campground which has about 40 parking spaces for day-use. Saturday's sell out very fast, so I went with a Sunday. Now you would think that once you reserved a spot, you can just drive in and hike. Wrong! The park opens at 6:00 AM. However, if you do not present your pass at the gatehouse by 7:00 AM, it becomes useless. Void. At 7:05, the park will give your spot away. My recommendation is to stay somewhere nearby so you can get to the gatehouse early.

We decided to stay in Millinocket the night before the hike, at the Baxter Park Inn, which is a very basic motel. Perfectly adaquate for our purposes. There are also campgrounds, B&B's and other motels in town, so you have options. And there is a supermarket, which came in handy. The par entrance is about 18 miles from Millinocket. The day of the hike we woke up at 5:00 in Millinocket. We left the Inn at 5:30, Drive about 18 miles, Arrive at Gate 6:05, pass in hand. But, we must Wait in a line of cars to get in for about 30 minutes. The park has to turn around people without passes and record the people with passes, so this takes time. Once past the gatehouse you have to Drive 20 minutes more to the trailhead parking area. All in all, about 90 minutes from our hotel parking space to the trail parking space. Start hiking shortly after 7:00

I hiked this trail with my youngest sister. We started at the Roaring Brook Campground where we registered. We were really excited to finally be out of the car and we got an absolutely gorgeous day to hike, I was not sure of my sister's hiking ability so we decided on the easier ascent, Chimney Pond Trail to Chimney Pond, then the Saddle Trail to Baxter Cutoff, and then a short hike to Baxter Peak. In total 5.5 miles up. The hike from Roaring Brook to Chimney Pond is pleasant, with gradual gains until you get to the pond which is at about 3,000 feet. There are absolutely stunning views of the summit from the pond. Truly amazing. From the pond we took the Saddle Trail. This starts with 1.2 miles of steep uphill. But, we were prepared because we knew we had to gain over 2,000 feet in 2 miles. After the slide, the saddle trail is more gradual, very rocky but manageable all the way to the summit. I'll refrain from describing the summit so you can enjoy it firsthand with no spoilers.

Well, it turns out my sister is in great hiking shape. So, we decided on a more challenging route back: Knife's Edge to Helon Taylor, Helon Taylor back to Roaring Brook Campground. Knife's Edge kicked our asses. It was the toughest 1.1 miles I've done in a while. It is rocky, narrow and a little scary at the very precipitous narrow points. But we ascended and descended the multiple peaks until we got the the junction with the other trails. My sister was adamant about not using the same trail down as we used up so we went with Helon Taylor. This was a 3.2 mile downhill to the starting point. This was my least favorite part of the hike. It was long, exposed, hot, dry, rocky and there wasn't much to see on the way down unless you turned around. And after knife's edge, My legs were tired so I was really happy to be done with it.

One of my favorite hikes ever!
Pretty tough. Tougher because I need to lose some weight. On a scale of 1-10 though, with 1 being walking to the refrigerator from the sofa and 10 being walking to my certain Death, I give it about a 6. Around 10 miles roundtrip but all rocks and boulders. Steep, heavy elevation gains and drops at points. You have to use your hands a lot too. Took me almost 7 hours and I normally hike 2.5 to 3 miles per hour. The hassle of getting here and the difficulty of the hike are all totally worth it. I hope to return to Baxter Park one day and spend a few days trying to find moose. Hope this helps others.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Blue Skies as far as the eye can see (2015-08-16). Photo by Michael Vecchiarelli.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3768 ft / 1148 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3768 ft / 1148 m
    Round-Trip Distance:10.1 mi / 16.2 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear
Heat advisory in effect. Very clear day.
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3768 ft / 1148 m
    Distance:5.5 mi / 8.9 km
    Route:Chimney Pond to Saddle to Baxter Peak
    Start Trailhead:Roaring Brook Campground  1500 ft / 457 m
    Time:3 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3768 ft / 1148 m
    Distance:4.6 mi / 7.4 km
    Route:Knife's Edge to Helon Taylor
    End Trailhead:Roaring Brook Campground  1500 ft / 457 m
    Time:4 Hours 

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