Katahdin – High Point of MaineKatahdin – 緬因州最高峰

view from chimney pond
A view from Chimney Pond; photo credit: Bill Steinmetz

Katahdin: last winter I learned this name the first time. I was sitting in a cozy restaurant surrounded by my fellow winter hikers, enjoying the early hot coffee with a giant blueberry pancake, I overheard that the hike leader, Bill, was to attempt Katahdin in a few weeks. “Katahdin? What is it? Is it a trail and…where is it?” I couldn’t suppress my curiosity arisen from my adventurous blood. “It seems like some nice place to go,” I drew this conclusion based on the mild commotion observed from the group, “and…it must be a place to go if it requires Bill to train for it.”

The second time I heard Katahdin, was on a bus ride to NOLS headquarters in Palmer, Alaska. The bus driver moved to Alaska many years ago from Maine. She described how much she was in love with the mountains in Alaska and she mentioned Katahdin when she laid Alaska and Maine in parallel for comparison. At that moment, Katahdin won its place in my to-do list. But not until I started to plan it last November, did I realize that this trip was to be a great one!

Several factors contribute to the difficulty of this trip:

1. Katahdin is remote. It is located in Baxter State Park and in the winter time roads in the park are not plowed. Before we reach the base camp, the Chimney Pond campground, we have to do 12 miles of road walking and 3.3 miles of trail hiking.

2. Winter conditions can be brutal. In addition to subzero temperatures and possible icy terrain, the most haunting part about Katahdin is the unpredictability of its orographic weather – especially the violent, merciless gusts. Wind can deteriorate visibility which will challenge climbers’ navigation skills. Wind chill makes heat preservation substantially difficult and frostbites and other cold-related injuries are more likely to occur.

3. Terrain is unfavorable. From Chimney Pond there are several trails that lead to the summit. Steep ones are more difficult and depending on the conditions, it might require us to set up a safety system. Gentler trails are avalanche prone – we need to be equipped with avalanche beacons, shovels, and probes and mostly importantly we need to know how to use them effectively.

To plan a winter Katahdin trip, there are many regulations to follow. For example, four is the minimum group size; a winter trip registration form is required to come in the park headquarters two weeks (preferably 4 weeks or earlier) before your trip. In the form, a group needs to specify a leader and two assistant leaders along with their winter experience and the leader has to sign his/her name so that “s/he attests that to the best of his/her knowledge, all members are capable and fit enough to ensure their safe completion of their proposed itinerary.” I always do my best when I lead a trip but this signature certainly will remind me the weight of the responsibility.

Perhaps after all I will find myself overly concerned. The trip is scheduled in early March, and it will be a seven-day trip, including two days of driving, four days of climbing and a one day window to enhance our chance of reaching the summit. Considering global warming, although the point is to do a challenging winter trip, in March we probably will encounter spring conditions and we don’t have to worry about avalanches. The drawback of spring conditions is possible wet and icy terrain and we will not be able to haul sleds for the 12 miles of road walking. Of course, it’s still two months away, and we can’t predict the conditions right now. What we can do is as usual – hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

If you want to plan your Katahdin trip, here are some references I’ve used:

1. Baxter State Park: It’s imperative that you study this site as thoroughly as possible, especially the “winter camping” section under “Camping and Reservation.”
2. A trip journal written by Bill Steinmetz: Bill describes in great detail about his group’s approach of last winter. I have learned precious experience by reading this journal and by talking with him.
3. Maine Mountain Guide. 9th Edition. AMC Guide to Hiking Trails of Maine, Featuring Baxter State Park.


第二次聽到Katahdin這個名字,在去年夏天。前往NOLS在Palmer, Alaska的根據地途中,和巴士司機對話,她數年前,從緬因州搬到阿拉斯加。她談著她是如何如何地愛著阿拉斯加的秀麗山色,比較家鄉和阿拉斯加的對話中,她提及Katahdin。我望著窗外的山景,想像著Katahdin該是怎麼個樣子,那一刻,Katahdin排進了個人要爬的山峰列表。不過,一直到去年十一月,真正開始計畫往Katahdin的行程,我才了解,Katahdin,其實是件大工程。



Katahdin位於Baxter州立公園內。冬季時,園內的道路是不剷雪的。所以在抵達攀登Katahdin的base camp,也就是Chimney Pond營地之前,要攜帶裝備行走十二英里的道路,和3.3英里的步道。




從Chimney Pond,有數條不同的上峰路線。較陡峭的路線難度高,如果冰雪的狀況不佳,需要設立安全措施。較平緩的路線則可能有雪崩危險,眾人必須攜帶因應雪崩的裝備,包括信號器(avalanche beacon)、雪剷(snow shovel)、探測工具(probe)等,更重要的是,隊伍中每個人,都需要知道如何有效率地使用該些裝備。




1. Baxter State Park: 這份是官方資料,必須精讀。尤其是「Camping and Reservation」下的「winter camping」部分。
2. Bill Steinmetz所寫的行程記錄: 這是Bill寫的行程記錄,詳載去年冬季,Bill的團隊攀登Katahdin的所有過程。我從閱讀這份資料以及與Bill的討論中,獲益良多。
3. Maine Mountain Guide. 9th Edition. AMC Guide to Hiking Trails of Maine, Featuring Baxter State Park.

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