4 years ago I climbed Marcy and Washington. I drove back down off Washington but endured the rocky (crap) trail back down Marcy. Earlier this week I climbed Katahdin, which was my 25th highpoint and it was on this latest hike that I finally realized they don't cut/make trails in New England but mark a trail on existing terrain, usually rock slides. It's crap on the knees coming down, anoying at the least. I guess I've been spoiled by nice trails in California, Colorado, etc.
Kahtadin harder than Borah, Whitney, and Kings? What route did you take? I went up the Abol Slide and didn't think it was too bad. My opinion may be skewed though as I did Borah as a tedious snow climb in June and had bad weather on Kings both times I was there. Whitney's on a good trail, but your knees still get hammered on it too unless you day hiked it.
I haven't had the luck of making it out West yet, but would be willing to bet that most of the peaks there will be more difficult than Katahdin.
Of all my Eastern highpoints, Katahdin is the one I remember with the fondest memories, the most intense hike, and the mountain to which I most hope to return. I went up the Knife Edge route, and that day's hike remains without question the most exhausting and draining 10-mile hike of my life (a hike of similar proportions up NH's Huntington Ravine on Mt. Wash left me only somewhat sore).
We also went up the Abol Creek "trail" (i.e. rockslide chute) on Katahdin and found it an interesting scramble. When we did Humprheys in NM, we took the direct route up from Williams Lake that involves 2,000' of gain in less than a half mile.
I dunno...given a short, steep climb versus a much longer (Hunt/Appalachian Trail on Katahdin, Bull in the Woods on Humphreys), I'll go for shorter and steeper any time (within limits...I'll avoid 4th and 5th class rock unless necessary).
We got stormed off both Kings and Borah a couple of years ago...Borah is anything but a trail once you get to the stretch just below Chicken-Out Ridge, which is where the weather blew up on us. Plus, that first half-mile or so when you go pretty much straight up from the parking lot to the ridge is a true pain in the knees on the way down. Kings was on good trails up to Gunsight Pass and could continue so if you go down into the drainage as opposed to rock-hopping up and along the ridge.
Hardest total effort? So far, Whitney. Toughest climbing-wise? So far, Borah. Best scramble? Katahdin...but I like rock-hopping... Most dangerous? Tower Hill, DE...crossing that street from the highpoint sign to the benchmark!! ;^)
Granted, we haven't tried Hood, Rainier, Gannett, Granite or Denali...yet...reports on the 41 so far on my WWW site under the "highpointing" pulldown...
You're confusing Humphrey's (HP of AZ) with Wheeler Peak (HP of NM). I started up the direct route from Williams Lake, ran out of steam, came back next day and followed the bull (no bull biscuits seen) through the woods, a pleasant scenic route and not too steep. Big "extra" or dip but I went around it on the way back; the resulting x-c route was probably as slow as the dip. 20 years ago I'd have steamed up the Wms. L. route but when I tried it it was just too steep for my waning stamina.
Haven't tried Katahdin; from what I've heard the biggest obstacle is that damn state park closing the gates when the parking lots fill up (also a problem at Long's Peak Ranger Station in Colo.). I asked about parking outside the park & walking in but somebody said it was too far. Wonder what people do who finish the AT on Katahdin then need transportation out of the park to the nearest town with rail (Portland) or bus service.
Biggest problem on Whitney is also said to be that dreadful permit system. I climbed it years ago from the west (Giant Forest) via Kaweah Gap; no problem, a scenic 12-day RT backpack. Now those damn permits are said to be hopeless.
New England trails (and NY is definately NOT in New England) can be quite rocky and uneven because that's what the terrain is like. Washington and Katahdin (as well as many other smaller peaks) are piles of granite. A lot of work goes into making the trails passable by humans but they're never going to be smoothly graded. We wouldn't want that even if it were possible to do so; it's not in the character of the peaks.
Out west there are well graded paths because pack animals traditionally walk on many of the same trails as humans. Plus, the geology is much different, the Rockies and Sierras are much younger than the Appalachians, and have more loose material to work with. However, there are hundreds of peaks out west with only class 4 and 5 routes to the top, something that simply doesn't exist in the east.
Frankly, Washington and Katahdin aren't excessively rough, even by New England standards. There are routes up both that while strenuous, don't really beat up the body like Mahoosuc Notch or King Ravine.
If all the highpoints had the same challenges, wouldn't that be boring?
Sorry about my attitude. I was a little frustrated with the hike back down Katahdin. I do not enjoy that kind of a trail, where ever step you take (similar to Marcy) could be a turned ankle.
I loved Whitney's trail, although it was a long hike and the sun beat me down (I have Lupus and am supposed to avoid the sun). I loved Borah's trail up to Chicken-out Ridge. Like Alan Ritter said, I like short, direct and step. I took the Williams Lake route up Wheeler as well and enjoyed that, getting up in two hours (and five minutes).
Going back to Katahdin, having to look down at each foot placement on the descent took away from the enjoyment of the hike. I felt some accomplishment in getting to the top but have no desire to ever do this one, Washington or Marcy again. In contrast I would do any of the western peaks again, including Colorado's Longs Peak, which is not a highpoint but was probably the most exhausting hike/climb I've done. Katahdin is second, probably tied with Borah.
This evaluating stuff, of course, is so subjective, and reflects my "preferences" for the kind of trail
well, not really. But in this case, i can understand both points of view. I remember having the same feeling after coming down Katahdin: how can i enjoy this when i have to watch my feet every step to avoid turning an ankle? Luckily, that didn't stop me from doing several more hikes in NH and Maine in subsequent years. It's a pain in the butt, but there is something magical about New England hiking that is worth the effort.