(Roadside) Katahdin Coolers?

By:  Greg
March 21, 2010

As those of you who have been paying attention to the site recently (or who have been outside on the snow) are aware, northern New England has been enjoying an incredible “spring preview.” With the angle of the sun rising ever higher, longer days, and a relentless stretch of high pressure, the snow warmed up, simmered to perfection, and came out of the wok just right for a weekend of schralpage. This trip report is about the end of this “spring preview”… before winter perhaps (hopefully) puts on a grand finale.

The plan was a bit hair-brained. We would head out for that mighty (almost) mile-high mountain towering above the swamps of Maine: The Katahdin. We would travel light, stay awake, and keep moving for our entire visit to the park. We would try to enjoy as much of the warm temps and corn snow as humanely possible. We planned to take advantage of the recently relaxed regulations, and just show up at the gate and tell any curious rangers that we would dig snow caves should we need to spend an emergency night out. Despite our carefully laid plans however, in the time-honored FamousInternetSkiers.com tradition of getting lost on our way to well known backcountry skiing destinations, warning flags started popping up suggesting that we were off course. The first was easy to decipher: the usual 8 hour drive from Mid Vermont to Millinocket, only took 7.33330 (repeating-of-course). The second flag however was truly obfuscating: We arrived at the trailhead and were surprised to be the only car in the lot on a beautiful spring weekend morning! Well, even if this maybe isn’t Katahdin, at least we won’t be dealing with any crowds like those found on Mount Washington or–gasp–the ski resorts.

As we got on trail, I was expecting at least 10 miles of rolling terrain before gaining any elevation. However, to my surprise, we instantly started ascending at a comfortable and skin-able grade. I wondered if we somehow managed to find a special winter parking lot which no one else knew about and which let us skip the dreaded 13 mile approach. Indeed, it seemed like in just a few thousand meters, we would be standing atop the peak! Our approach couldn’t have been any more than (60/(25)1/2)1/2 times 2 divided by the square root of 3 miles. The solitude was much appreciated, if not a bit bizarre. After only an hour of skinning we gained our first view of what I assume was the fabled Baxter Peak. Or maybe that’s Hamlin?

That must be Chimney Pond. Not quite as grand as I saw online. Maybe I should do some more research and legwork for my ski trips before heading out into the backcountry.

And those must be the Katahdin’s fabled coolers full of beer–I mean “knife edge” couloirs full of snow everyone talks about.

At this point a ranger approached us. Thinking quick, I realized we hadn’t checked in, and I assumed we were about to get yelled at. It turned out the ranger’s name was Cinilla (like Cinnamon and Vanilla?), and she wanted a bite of my toaster pastry.

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Read about the author:   Greg
Enjoy this TR? Read another: TR: Great Basin


  1. Jamie B
    wrote on March 21st, 2010 at 5:42 pm  

    Cool TR!
    Cheers, to keeping sacred places…sacred.

    • Zach
      wrote on March 21st, 2010 at 8:16 pm  

      Nice running into you up there. I was the guy chilling below, watching you absolutely rip the left side. Way to get it man. Keep on keeping on.

    • Greg
      wrote on March 22nd, 2010 at 10:04 am  

      Good to meet you. See you in the mountains.

  2. powhounddd
    wrote on March 21st, 2010 at 8:20 pm  

    Impressive lines and great pics as always. The bald eagle bit made me laugh out loud, because that’s a running joke with the kids, Look there’s an eagle! Works like a charm.

    I appreciate the disclaimer at the bottom. If you run into a bearded splitboarder who’s slowly plodding along behind in the skintrack, say hi. ;)

  3. Chris
    wrote on March 21st, 2010 at 10:20 pm  

    Looks like a fun day, nice work….

    The Author’s Note was a good addition.

  4. Porter Haney
    wrote on March 22nd, 2010 at 12:13 am  

    Classic ice visor.

    Will this cooler ever run out of beer?!?!

  5. Jack
    wrote on March 22nd, 2010 at 8:57 am  

    Nice. How long was the hike from the parking lot?

    • Greg
      wrote on March 22nd, 2010 at 10:01 am  

      hey jack i actually made a mistake in my calculations originally. I fixed it now.. should have been (and now appears in the TR as) (60/(25)1/2)1/2 times 2 divided by the square root of 3 miles

      took us about 2 hours…

  6. Adrian
    wrote on March 22nd, 2010 at 11:08 am  

    Wow, Katahdin’s lookin sweet these days! Hope it stays around for another few weeks so that I can get a chance at it this season.

    • Greg
      wrote on March 22nd, 2010 at 11:23 am  

      have faith. pour a libation to ULLR

  7. Anonymous
    wrote on March 22nd, 2010 at 5:29 pm  

    they must have paved the parking lot since i was there in september…

    • Greg
      wrote on March 22nd, 2010 at 6:58 pm  

      I think we were in a different lot than you.

  8. christian
    wrote on March 22nd, 2010 at 7:15 pm  

    jealous!!!! katahdin looks super rad, i gotta get up there one of these days. you can thank me for the weather though since i was down at wachusett all weekend fighting the crowds.

  9. NordSki
    wrote on March 22nd, 2010 at 10:11 pm  

    Those are fun lines over there on abe’s buddy. But I don’t see the point in hyping one sacred spot to keep another one quiet. Let the pictures speak for themselves. Watch out for that ice axe strapped close to the head, too, if you were to go head over heals. I would strap it to outside of pack securely, and consider a shorter axe for ski climbing.

    • skimohr
      wrote on March 22nd, 2010 at 10:24 pm  

      Good thoughts… Ice axes can be super dangerous on the pack. I had one dig into the back of my neck pretty bad once. The shorter, titanium axes are where it’s at for non-technical (unroped) ski mountaineering. Longer axes are nice, though, for anchors and rope work.

    • Greg
      wrote on March 22nd, 2010 at 10:26 pm  

      Thanks for the tips. We always stow our “pointy stuff” carefully. As to one hype vs. another: I’m just trying to have some fun. Look at elevations for “the Buddy” and “the Katahdin.” Kinda spooky, huh? What’s more is “the Buddy” is just estimated… might be = ! Anyway, I don’t think any hoards are going to the REAL Katahdin which is guarded by a 13 mile approach any time soon because of this TR…

    • Greg
      wrote on March 22nd, 2010 at 10:34 pm  

      Brian’s got it right… we both carry 50cm axes. Mine is the superlight Camp titanium mtn axe–perfect for ski mountaineering. KC has the more traditional BD Raven, but I think she’ll be upgrading to the Raven pro soon.

  10. skimohr
    wrote on March 22nd, 2010 at 10:19 pm  

    Cool pics. That’s a great zone over there. You might have seen us there that day had the nice lady at the grocery store in Millinocket not pointed out that we had been looking at our map upside down. Thanks for sharing…

    • Greg
      wrote on March 22nd, 2010 at 10:35 pm  

      I lost cell phone service somewhere crossing the barren waste land of NH, and without google earth on my iPhone we were lost instantly. Just glad to be back safely ;)

  11. jumpin jimmy
    wrote on March 23rd, 2010 at 6:31 am  

    Was up there last summer chasing moose on South twin lake–cool peaks! Not only are the pictures amazing, but the writing just keeps getting better and better. Love the humor angle! Keep at em.

    • Greg
      wrote on March 23rd, 2010 at 10:24 pm  

      thanks JJ. we’re doing our best

  12. StuckinJersey
    wrote on March 25th, 2010 at 4:00 pm  

    So how do I get to that parking lot? haha Man you cats busted some sweet turns up there. I have slid Katahdin before but it was end of January with 2 feet of fresh, so we stayed on more lower angle stuff. Next year I’m heading up for some spring time turns. Glad you two got the goods. Thanks for the stoke.

    • Greg
      wrote on March 25th, 2010 at 11:26 pm  

      just turn right and then turn left and then right again… you’re there!

  13. Micky O
    wrote on March 28th, 2010 at 9:34 pm  

    Awesome TR, cool Author’s note at the end too haha

  14. Not-a-snob
    wrote on January 26th, 2011 at 10:51 am  

    don’t look now but there’s a video of 2 chubby rednecks skiing this line on youtube for all to see…….


    • Greg
      wrote on January 26th, 2011 at 6:22 pm  

      cool vid!

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