Monday, August 25, 2014

Knife Edge Trail to Baxter Peak at Northern Terminus of Appalachian Trail


Six friends planned a long day of hiking, only to find a day and evening of climbing.  The plan seemed relatively simple:

1. Hike to Baxter Peak, the northern terminus of the 2,162 mile Appalachian Trail (AT).
2. Cross the fabled 1.1 mile Knife Edge Trail.
3. Hike five miles on the AT starting at its northern beginning at Baxter Peak.

Our ultimate achievement through endurance and teamwork brought more satisfaction because of the challenges and time on the mountain.  Below are comments, maps, pictures, and videos of our climb. Our Mt. Katahdin accomplishment was both physically demanding, and mentally tough.  I am extremely proud of my fellow adventurers and how we worked together for this team triumph.



Mount Katahdin is the highest mountain in Maine at 5,269 feet. Named Katahdin by the Penobscot Indians, the term means "The Greatest Mountain".  It is part of the Appalachian Mountain range and is located in Baxter State Park.  Baxter State Park is a large wilderness area permanently preserved as a state park, located in Piscataquis County in north-central Maine. It covers 327 square miles.
 



The Knife Edge was the highpoint of our trip, but the descent from Pamola Peak was nearly as challenging as we had to use technical rock climbing skills.

Our trip started at Roaring Brook campground on the Chimney Pond Trail at 6:45 am.  We arrived at Chimney Pond Campground after a 2 hr 45 minute hike.  From the Campground we took Dudley Trail to Pamola Peak.  We had to do a 40 foot rock straight down climbing descent grabbing cracks in the granite rocks while seeking spots for footholds.  Then immediately followed up by climbing straight up 40 feet to Chimney Peak.  FYI, counterintuitively up is easy because gravity isn’t pulling you down and you and can see where to put your feet.  Admittedly this 80 feet was the most challenging section for this author.  Once atop Chimney Peak we climbed and scooted the 1.1 mile Knife Edge Trail.  This brought us to South Peak.  Our 15 hour trip was an unrelenting 11 miles. We finished the last two hours with headlamps.

Enjoy the below videos of our Mount Katahdin hike.



Detail Videos of Knife Edge, Google Route, and Overview on Our Katahdin Trek



Below is the time and miles breakdown by trail:



Trails
Start
End
Total Trip Hrs:Min

Hours 


 Miles

Comments
Roaring Brook Campground to
Chimney Pond Campground
Start 6:45 am

9:30 am
2 ¾ hrs

3.3 miles
Chimney Pond Trail easy hike.  4 of us used Tracking Poles.  Some nice side trail views.
Chimney Pond Campground to Pamola Peak via Dudley Trail
10 am
1 pm
3 hrs

1.4 miles
After a snack and rest at Chimney Pond Campground, we tied our tracking poles to our packs.  The Dudley Trail is a 2,000 elevation gain and a relentless massive granite boulder laden trail nearly straight up requiring our hands for pulling, grabbing rocks and hand holds, our legs for pushing, our arms for lifting our bodies, our feet for pushing and toe holds, and our butts to sliding up and holding our bodies at times.
All of us were exhausted.  Indeed it was a very trying physical test of our mettle.
Pamola Peak to Chimney Peak/Knife Edge
1:20 pm
2:12 pm
¾ hr
Our descent down the 40 foot drop from Pamola Peak was technical “rock climbing” .  We held indentations in the rocks while reaching for footholds.  Indeed for this descent we used using hands, arms, body and butt.
Knife Edge to South Peak
2:12
3:00 pm
1 hr

.8 miles
A 1.1 mile balancing act along the ridge of the Knife Edge Trail. Prior to this trip I had visions of panicking because of the elevation and 1000 foot drop offs and extremely narrow trail.  Truthfully, I had no fear as I crossed this very unique trail.
South Peak to Baxter Peak
3:00
3:50 pm
1 hr

.3 miles
This ridge trail went up and down.  Just when we got to the top of the trail, it would drop and we would start another descent.  Then an ascent followed by another descent.  We were close to 7 hours since we left Roaring Brook campground and were tired.  At each high ledge we could see Baxter Peak, but could not differentiate the rolling ridge.
Baxter Peak  via Hunt Trail through Table Land
4:00 pm
5:15 pm
1 ¼ hr

1.0 miles
Tableland was like a country hike.  It was flat and a welcome hike.  We passed the famous Henry David Thorough Spring. We had been hiking for near ten hours. 
Hunt Trail after TableLand to Katahdin Stream Campground
5:15 pm
10:00 pm
4.5 hrs

4.2 miles
We were now headed down and home, BUT still had 4.2 miles according to the trail sign. The first two miles were a steep down and over rough granite.  We did have some technical areas.  One section had steel handles in the granite to make the descent from huge ledges a bit easier.
Took us two hours just to get below the tree line.
At 8:30 pm we put on our headlamps.  We used our trekking poles to give us stability through the downward rock strewn path.

At 10 pm we reached the ranger check-in station where we signed-on the register that six of us were back. We also met the Park Ranger who had been told by two people who passed us earlier in the dark with headlamps and that we were fine and on our way
TOTAL HOURS
6:45 am
10:00 pm
11 miles

 15 hrs!


What a Journey!!!






Knife Edge Trail
We were into our hike for about 6 ½ hrs. of rock strewn, rugged and prolonged steepness,  on the Dudley trail, reaching Pamola Peak, followed by a technical Pamola descent, we ascended Chimney Peak, the start of the almost mile high Knife Edge Trail.  Whew!

The Knife Edge Trail is perhaps the most spectacular trail in New England – and also the most dangerous.  It would take us two hours to cross from Chimney Peak to Baxter Peak. 

We were advised to avoid the Knife Edge in stormy weather.  The exposure to high winds and lightning is extreme.  We were warned once we decide to cross the Knife Edge we MUST CONTINUE ON THE TRAIL. There is no safe way to descend off either side of the mountain ridge.

The mile long path stretches across the South Basin’s headwall between Pamola and Baxter Peak.  I believe you will get a sense of what these six outdoor enthusiasts experienced crossing this unique narrow mile-high ridge with 1,000 foot drops on both sides.  At one point for about 20 feet the width of the ridge was close to 10 inches. The views, when we dared a birds-eyed glimpse, are magnificent and certainly breathtaking.

References


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"Everyone must do something.  I believe I will go outdoors with family and friends"

Steve’s latest book, Outdoor Play "Fun 4 4 Seasons" is available as an e-Book at Kindle ($3.99) and hard copy at Amazon.com ($11.95)

3 comments:

  1. Fantastic footage of a fantastic hike/climb! Congratulations on the trip, it makes me want to go!

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a beautiful hike! Will have to do it some day, my dad said it was great!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I am extremely proud of my fellow adventurers and how we worked together for this team triumph. Bedford Community TV has accepted the 35 minute Knife Edge video for presentation. You can see the link on this blog.

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