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deep winter katahdin - 2/14 - 2/17

February 18 2003 at 1:19 PM
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Response to Katahdin (Baxter Peak), Maine (5,267 feet)

 
i had been to katahdin many times in winter before, but never in conditions like this. it was truley arctic. our group of ten headed out on friday morning, 2/14, in -25 degrees, and 25/30 mph winds for roaring brook. the skiing was good and the cold was a great motivator. we arrived at the bunkhouse, got the fire going and spent a warm cozy night there. some considered skiing back out the next day but changed there minds in the morning and continued up with the group.
saturday morning we woke to -30 degrees, and howling winds. the three miles up to chimney pond was short and brisk to say the least. crossing the basin pond was unreal. it was so cold and so windy. the wind stopped me in my tracks twice. as the trip leader i was very concerned about everyone getting across safely. by mid day we were all safely at chimney pond bunkhouse, were the temp had "warmed up" to -20 in the bright sun. that night we had a great time sharing food and stories. when we went to bed the bunkhouse was shaking from the fierce winds.
the ranger recorded -32 degrees with a wind chill of 100 degrees below zero. thats cold. thank goodness for the ring of fire. (insiders outhouse humor. you had to be there.)
sunday we woke to a clear, cold, and still windy day and decided to scout the routes, pack the trail for a summit shot tomorrow and ski the chutes a little if they were safe.
five of us, (bob w., armand t., chip w., mike j., and garret o.) got our stuff together and headed out at 9:30 am. we looked at the cathedral gulley but it had a big, blue ice flow happening and we wanted to play it safe, so we headed towards the saddle to try some skiing. the snow was very firm, and great for cramponing. the sky was painfully blue without a cloud. as we neared the top of the saddle, the wind seemed to calm down, and the sun felt great. i checked with everyone to see how they were doing and if they felt like going to the summit, if the wind was not too bad when we stuck our heads over the lip of the saddle. all were excited to give it a shot and we had all carried all the gear we needed to keep going.
sure enough we got up on the tableland and the wind was not too bad. a quick thumbs up from all and we started up again, reaching the summit in about half an hour. chip was a little behind but eventually made it with bob and armands help. we radioed the other five back at the bunkhouse that we were on the summit and heading down. they said they were not too suprised to hear it. the summit was brutal. extremely cold and windy. we did not stay long at all. the view was crystal clear. the view on the way down looking towards double top, coe, and the brothers was beautiful. we got back to the skis at the top of the saddle and mike and chip took off down the gulley. bob, armand and i did not want to break our legs so we climbed back down to the trees. we arrived back at the bunkhouse at about 2:00 and had a big lunch.

that night the full moon was magical as it crossed over the knife's edge. the wind was gone, and it had warmed up to -5 degrees. we sat out on the frozen pond for about half an hour just looking at katahdin, under the full moon and stars, in all it's winter glory. how lucky we felt to be there.

monday was cold but nowhere near what it had been. it was 5 above and calm with a milky sky. the ski down from chimney pond to roaring brook was fun, and the rest of the ski out went quickly.
by 4:00 we were all back in millinocket at the house of pizza to eat before the drives home.
it was a great trip with a great group of people.

 
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