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Katahdin knife edge in winter

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Katahdin knife edge in winter

Postby axius0 » Thu Nov 18, 2010 7:00 pm

My friends and I are planning on doing the knife edge on Katahdin in February or March. We've climbed tuckerman's ravine a few times in the winter and we have some winter experience on a few other mountains.

I've been trying to determine how technical the knife edge would be, but I can't find enough information. My biggest concern is the notch near the chimney. We only have general mountaineering axes and have never done any actual ice climbing. We'll be bringing a rope but what type of protection would we need, pitons or ice screws? Are technical axes needed for this route or will we be able to get by with what we have?
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Re: Katahdin knife edge in winter

Postby AlexeyD » Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:25 pm

Just curious, have you done it in the summer?
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Re: Katahdin knife edge in winter

Postby welle » Thu Nov 18, 2010 9:04 pm

Maybe they need to put back the red-tape for Katahdin. Please don't ruin it for others!
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Re: Katahdin knife edge in winter

Postby axius0 » Thu Nov 18, 2010 9:39 pm

Yes AlexeyD I've done it in the summer. Welle I don't understand why you would say something like that. If you know anything about the route, it would be good if you could tell me, but if not you're negativity doesn't really help.
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Re: Katahdin knife edge in winter

Postby nartreb » Thu Nov 18, 2010 10:28 pm

I think Welle was reacting to this:

I've been trying to determine how technical the knife edge would be, but I can't find enough information.


Aside from the vast trove of photos here on Summitpost, you've been on the route!

That you're considering bringing ice tools on a hiking route is not a good sign, and that you even mention pitons in this day and age is downright alarming.

(Did I just say "in this day and age"?? I'm getting old and senile!)
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Re: Katahdin knife edge in winter

Postby AlexeyD » Thu Nov 18, 2010 10:41 pm

OK, so I actually haven't done it in the winter either, but my thoughts are as follows. Since you are on an exposed ridge, I wouldn't expect any ice that you can put screws into, though there will likely be enough rime/glaze ice on the rocks to warrant crampons. My recollection of the geology of the Knife Edge is that it is fractured with cracks and fins parallel to the direction of the ridge, which means plenty of placements for rock gear. I assume you mentioned pitons because you're afraid the cracks will all be covered in ice, but given the abundance of these cracks on the Knife Edge and the fact that you will most likely need to only find a couple of placements, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Basically a small alpine rack should do the trick. At least that's what I would take if I were to do it in the winter. The thing about the knife edge is that if you do it from the Pamola end, the notch is right in the beginning, so you can always back off if you find that it is too sketch. I'd say the main concern is the weather - getting stuck up there in high winds and poor visibility can get you in serious trouble with no easy way off.
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Re: Katahdin knife edge in winter

Postby kakakiw » Fri Nov 19, 2010 12:25 am

FortMental wrote:Isn't the crux of this thing getting past the Rangers? Don't you need to provide a full climbing resume, blood-urine-stool samples, 12 references, proof of insurance, updated will, and credit report for each team member and blood relations thereof?


Nah, we made it easier for the winter. The thought is the logging trucks will weed out some.
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Re: Katahdin knife edge in winter

Postby NW » Fri Nov 19, 2010 12:45 pm

AlexeyD wrote: Since you are on an exposed ridge, I wouldn't expect any ice that you can put screws into, though there will likely be enough rime/glaze ice on the rocks to warrant crampons. .


When I was in the park October 13th alot of the routes that day were all ready closed because of ice on them and it wasn't even that cold, lowest was 3C (37 F). The knife edge, Cathedral and a couple of others were closed. If I managed to get a group assembled, get approved to go and actually get everyone there to climb then I wouldn't feel ashamed to use protection when things got slippery just because it's not Denali. A fall on the Knife's Edge is still a fall that could cause a serious situation. What are you going to use to get to the mountain? I don't think there's much park road maintenance in the winter.
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Re: Katahdin knife edge in winter

Postby kakakiw » Fri Nov 19, 2010 1:48 pm

NW wrote: What are you going to use to get to the mountain? I don't think there's much park road maintenance in the winter.


The road isn't maintained during the winter and the approaches to get to the Great Basin are long. So, figure a few days and a lot of foot travel.

You can go in with a smaller group or alone a lot easier than you could before. Yes you need to fill out an application but considering how it used to be,where you had to put up your first born male child, have sherpa support and well, it's better than not being allowed in.
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Re: Katahdin knife edge in winter

Postby nartreb » Fri Nov 19, 2010 2:43 pm

Still, I just don't get this. What's the verdict? Is the mountain both difficult and easy?


Yes. This route is well above treeline, with a cliff on one side and steep talus on the other. From Pamola peak to Baxter Peak (the Knife edge plus the somewhat broader ridge betweeen Baxter peak and South peak) is about a mile, with 2000' of gain on the approach from Chimney Pond. All of this in a rather isolated spot -- no plowed roads. The big risk is that you get stuck up on this ridge after dark or in bad weather because you're moving too slowly because you don't know what you're doing. This is not the place to be figuring stuff out. Either you can do it as a hike, i.e., unroped, or you shouldn't venture onto the ridge. If you have one team member who's nervous about the notch, then a short rope and a very light clean rack are reasonable to bring along, but somebody has to be there who knows how to set up a belay.
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Re: Katahdin knife edge in winter

Postby nartreb » Fri Nov 19, 2010 2:48 pm

it looks like a pretty pathetic excuse of a mountain from the topo map


Look again. See how those lines come real close together?
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Re: Katahdin knife edge in winter

Postby AlexeyD » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:37 pm

nartreb wrote:
Still, I just don't get this. What's the verdict? Is the mountain both difficult and easy?


Either you can do it as a hike, i.e., unroped, or you shouldn't venture onto the ridge. If you have one team member who's nervous about the notch, then a short rope and a very light clean rack are reasonable to bring along, but somebody has to be there who knows how to set up a belay.


The people I know who did the Knife Edge in winter, who are far from novices, definitely brought a rope, though I don't remember if they said they ended up using it. What I do remember them saying is that they almost got lost...yeah I know, my first reaction was how on earth do you get lost on a knife edge? Well, apparently they mistook one of the spur ridges near Chimney Peak for the main ridge. Now thinking about it, I actually think I know which spur it was, and yes, I can see someone doing that if the visibility is really poor.
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Re: Katahdin knife edge in winter

Postby NW » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:38 pm

Some of the pictures in the different posts about Katahdin give a better idea of it then just the topo as well. I even like it with the google earth 3d view, it actually isn't bad. But then again I really like using it to look at different places. Everyone might not find it as useful as I do.
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