Crossing the expansive table lands, in the middle of winter, can be a physically and mentally demanding endeavor. High winds, snow drifts and bitter cold challenge even the most fit and courageous adventurer. It is a battle of man against a monolithic obstacle older than time itself.
Staring across the clear vast expanse, it is easy to forget oneself and proceed forward without locking in a GPS coordinate and determining a compass bearing. This however could prove a fatal error given that this area is prone to whiteout conditions that can appear from no where on otherwise calm days. The God Pamola striving to obliterate those who violate these high empty expanses during his time of slumber.
My plastic boots creak and groan in the cold and my crampons pierce packed snow the consistency of Styrofoam. The squeaking noise sends a shiver down my spine with each footfall. Rocks and crevasses are hidden by the snow and a footfall unfortunate enough to land upon one of these soft spots could easily break a leg or hyperextend a knee, instantly making a winter hike a life or death experience.
Here high on the mountains there is little room for error and a lost team member can invoke a best case scenario of an exhaustive search and the worse case possibility of death. As I tire I begin to count my foot falls, putting my mind into a meditative state that allows me to forget that I am tired and my legs hurt. The trick of the mind works and within a short time I am standing with my friends on the summit. It is yet another battle hard won and a chance for reflection, wonderment and pride that is connected to the accomplishment of a difficult goal. Our moments on the summit are brief and we are soon on our way down the mountain. Though our breath is labored and our backs tired, in our minds we are already plotting our return to this high place.
For more on Katahdin See:
- Climbing Partner Ranger Mans Account of the Katahdin Winter Climb
- Katahdin Winter Summit Video
- Katahdin Winter Hiking - http://www.themaineoutdoorsman.com/2008/02/katahdin.html
- Katahdin Relaxes Winter Climbing Regulations - http://www.themaineoutdoorsman.com/2009/12/mt-katahdin-relaxes-winter-climbing.html
- Katahdin Picture - http://www.themaineoutdoorsman.com/2010/05/mt-katahdin-picture.html