Katahdin, Hamlin Peak (4751 feet)


This description was written many years before my web project started. Since the 100 highest club only requires that you climb each peak "sometime during your lifetime" this description should still be valid. I have corrected some spelling and glaring grammatical errors, but otherwise I left this description just as I originally wrote it. I will include some modern comments in the text of the description below using italics. (Date transcribed: July 27, 1996)

August 8, 1984

The weather was excellent. A front moved through yesterday leaving the air clear and cool. Cathi [my first wife] and I got up at 5:40am EDT and were on the road at 6:30am. We arrived at Baxter State Park a little before 8:30am.

Starting at Roaring Brook Campground (0.0m), we climbed up Chimney Pond Trail. This climb starts out along Roaring Brook—a fast moving mountain stream of crystal clear water. The trail was not too strenous, ascending steadily but not very steeply. After awhile we reached a side trail to a view point. From the viewpoint we obtained excellent views of the mountian. From this angle Katahdin looks like something in the Rockies.

Somewhat after passing Basin Pond (also worth the trip down the short side trail) we reached the North Basin Cut Off (2.3m). It was evident that this trail did not see the usage of the Chimney Pond Trail, for it was relatively overgrown. Furthermore we broke a lot of cobwebs walking along it. The cut-off trail itself was quite rough. It remained rather level at first but the latter half of the trail climbed steadily with a grade similar to the steeper portions of the Chimney Pond Trail.

At 3.0m we reached the North Basin Trail where we turned left. We followed this fairly level trail to the junction of the Hamlin Ridge Trail at 3.2m. The Hamlin Ridge Trail climbed fairly steeply at first, breaking through the treeline after only a tenth of a mile or so. The trail then climbed along the crest of Hamlin Ridge from which we obtained excellent views of Pamola, the Knife Edge, the North Peaks, and the North Basin. A good view of the North Basin, with its many rocky walls was a valuable feature of this trip. Two small ponds dotted the floor of the North Basin and the vegetation along the floor also suggested that it was higher than the floor of the Great Basin.

As the Hamlin Ridge Trail ascended Hamlin Ridge we were able to chart our progress by watching Chimney Pond go by us on our left. The trail climbed steadily, but not too steeply. However, there was a lot of boulder hopping.

Hamlin Ridge seemd like a knife edge that didn't quite make it. It's narrow portions were less dramatic than the wide portions of the Knife Edge. However, the atmosphere of the climb was quite similar: two deep valleys falling away steeply at either side. If the weather precluded a climb across the Knife Edge, I'd think carefully before doing Hamlin Ridge Trail also.

At 4.7m we reached the top of Hamlin Peak. The summit was surprisingly broad and level with many grassy [probably really alpine sedges] regions between rocks. I got the impression that Hamlin Peak was nothing more than a high point on the Tableland. The view from the summit was not as good as it would have been if the mountain had fallen away more steeply. We sat at the top of a cliff on the NE side to eat lunch so that we could catch a breeze and avoid black flies. There was, at times, a good wind blowing across Hamlin Ridge up out of North Basin but the top was relatively still.

After lunch we climbed down the back side of the peak and reached Caribou Spring at 4.9m. There we met a group of backpackers who had climbed out of the Northwest Basin -- the first people we saw since Chimney Pond Trail. We also refilled our water from the icy cold spring before heading south to the Saddle Trail junction.

As we descended the south side of Hamlin Peak we obtained what I think was the most spectactular view of Katahdin I've yet seen. On the left was Pamola, the Knife Edge, and the steep, rugged east side of Baxter Peak. In front of us the Tableland spread out dramatically, falling off steeply on the east side and more smoothly on the west side. On our right the cliffs of the Owl as well as Mt. O-J-I, Mt. Coe, North and South Brother, and the Klondike were all visible. From our vantage point on the south slope of Hamlin Peak we were able to see both the rough east side and the gentler west side of the mountain in one 180 degree panarama. Getting this view is an excellent reason to do the Hamlin climb.

At 5.9m we reached the Saddle Trail and began our serious descent. The trail fell off steeply and the footing was rather loose in places making the climb down tricky. By the time we reached the treeline, however, the footing was much improved and the trail much less steep. By the way, the view from the top of the Saddle of the Great Basin was also rather spectacular. It was easy to see where the name "Saddle" came from.

We stopped at Chimney Pond (7.1m) for a drink and a rest and to admire the view of Baxter Peak before taking the long, gradually descending hike back to the car (10.4m). We arrived at Roaring Brook Campground around 4:45pm EDT.

In the way of wildlife, we saw, first of all, two white-tailed deer just as we turned the car into the entrance of Baxter State Park. On the trail we saw a woodpecker on the North Basin Cut Off and two ravens(?) circling around the cliffs on the top of Hamlin Peak. We got a good view of one of those big, black birds on our way down to the Saddle as he hopped around on the rocks only about 40 feet to our left. Best of all, however, was the Bull Moose we saw in Basin Pond on the way down. He was standing in water about 15 feet from the shore near the trail. He seemed quite unconcerned about us.

One final point: we had good food on this outing. This was the first climb where we brought baked potatoes with us and I suspect that it won't be the last.

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© Copyright 1996 by Peter C. Chapin.
Last Revised: July 27, 1996