Climbing Mount Katahdin – SectionHiker.com

I didn’t intend to climb to the summit of Mt Katadhin this week, it just sort of happened. But that’s ok, I needed to hike to the northern terminus of  the Appalachian Trail eventually and things just worked out.

Mount Katahdin from Darcy Pond
Mount Katahdin from Darcy Pond

Hike: Mount Katahdin (Baxter Peak)
Location: Baxter State Park, approximately 300 miles north of Boston, outside of Millinocket, Maine
Route: The Hunt Trail
Mountains: Mount Katahdin (5,201 feet)
Elevation Gain: 4,200 feet
Distance: ~10 miles, round trip
Available Water: Streams below treeline, filter required.

Mount Katahdin is really awesome. I’m sure I’ll be back to climb it again and some of it’s sub-peaks and surrounding hills. It’s a challenging climb, intimidating even, despite the fact that the mountain is only slightly above 5,000 feet in elevation.

Mount Katadhin's Neighboring Peaks
Mount Katadhin’s Neighboring Peaks

I climbed up and down on the Hunt Trail. This is the last 5 miles of the 2,178 miles that thru-hikers need to walk to complete the Appalachian Trail. Katahdin is certainly a sublime end to such a enormous endeavor.

The Hunt Trail, Mt Katahdin
The Hunt Trail, Mt Katahdin

Climbing Katahdin is really a climb and less of a hike. The first 3 miles are very steep and hard scrambling is required. Once you hit treeline, it’s best to stow trekking poles to free your hands because you need to use them to climb up the exposed ridge to The Gateway. It’s an exciting climb, especially coming down in the rain when the rock becomes very slippery!

Steep Section leading to The Gateway
Steep Section leading to The Gateway

Scary too. I met a teenage girl who’s father had left her to climb the mountain without her when she became to scared to continue. She had insisted that he continue without her, but was shivering and weeping in an alcove of rock below the steepest point of the ascent. It reminded me of a time when I watched my father swim way out from shore in Atlantic City to retrieve my beach ball when it washed away in the waves. I was afraid that he wouldn’t return and remember crying in terror when he disappeared over the horizon. I tried to console her, but she was hurting. I did catch up to her dad though and talked to him. Later I saw her smiling and climbing again with him.

Katahdin Alpine Zone
Katahdin Alpine Zone

Once past the vertical climb, you come to a flat tableland that leads across an alpine zone to the summit cone. From here, it’s about a two mile walk in full exposure. The day I was there we had intermittent breaks in the clouds, but the mountain was pretty much socked in. Still the blazing is good enough that you can see the path except in a total whiteout. I wouldn’t count on the cairns though; they are quite small and hard to see in the mist.

Philip Werner at the summit of Mount Katahdin
Philip Werner at the summit of Mount Katahdin

At last, I reached the summit and got my very own Katahdin Victory shot. It’s still premature because I have about 1200 miles of the Appalachian Trail left to hike, but a section is a section. I was also happy to be around other people, thru-hikers and even some section hikers who were finishing the entire trail that day. One day, I’ll finish it too.

Read More:  AT Section Hike: The Mahoosucs and Old Speck Mountain

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