Anyone know what hapened to Katahdin’s Chimney.class 4 climb

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Anyone know what hapened to Katahdin’s Chimney.class 4 climb

by Eric2000 » Wed Aug 29, 2012 3:53 am

Before I start losing people by elaborating too much let me get down to my specific questions first:

1. Does BSP still allow people to do it without ropes like in the past?
2. Why is it still not in the AMC guides? Were too many people hurt or did some mini avalanche wipe out what was once a daring but possible non technical climb.
3. When was it taken out of the AMC guides?
4. When people list (like on this website) the most dangerous and best scramblers of all time in the East why is this not on it? Based on the descriptions in past AMC guides this thing would make Huntington’s Ravine, the Cathedral trail ECT seem as safe as Disneyland. It was considered more of a route in past guides than a trail, but it was in those guides in the first place unlike pure technical climbs, and BSP had markers that even lead to the popular(yes the AMC used the word popular) Chimney climb from the Chimney Pond. Is it really that forgotten about? It sounds like the forgotten legend of eastern mountain climbing to me.
* edit ik it sounds like i'm complaining, but it's more just a fascination than anything else that comes from something that seems to be forgotten about for some mysterious reason.
5. Clearly I find this thing fascinating, if anyone has ever ascended or descended it, I would love to hear! I’m specifically interested in how it truly compares to trails such as the Huntington’s Ravine or the regular Knifes Edge between Pamola and Chimney peaks.

For those of you that don’t know the Chimney is basically the gully that runs up between Chimney and Pamola peaks on Katahdin. It currently rates as a 5.5 for rock climbing, but as stated earlier people often climbed it without ropes in the past making it the East’s only class 4 scrambler(ropes are strongly encouraged but not mandatory).

Here is an excerpt from an AMC guide from the 1960’s for anyone curious of just how insane this thing is/was:

“The Chimney is one of the very steep clefts, technically “couloirs”, in the wall of the South Basin. It offers the most direct route from Chimney Pond to Pamola or the Knife Edge, but insecure foot and hand holds and many loose rocks make it DANGEROUS, and it should not be attempted unless some in the party are experienced rock-climbers. Wear hobnailed or rubber-soled shoes, and, unless the party is of equal strength, carry an 80ft. rope. Any directions for climbing the Chimney are merely suggestions, as, on account of the ice and rock falls, it changes considerable from season to season.”

And the very end is this:

“The descent of the Chimney without the use of a fixed or a doubled rope at the first (lowest) chockstone is DANGEROUS.”
Last edited by Eric2000 on Fri Aug 31, 2012 7:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Anyone know what hapened to Katahdin’s Chimney.class 4 c

by Bark Eater » Wed Aug 29, 2012 12:37 pm

"It currently rates as a 5.5 for rock climbing". You gave the answer yourself...the ratings have changed since the 60s. As far as climbing it without a rope, there are a few very talented souls that free climb the big walls of Yosemite. It all depends upon your skill and confidence level.

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Re: Anyone know what hapened to Katahdin’s Chimney.class 4 c

by nartreb » Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:12 pm

Nothing happened to the route. What happened was that guidebook publishers realized that when you sell a book, hundreds of people show up, many of whom have to be specifically reminded that it gets dark after the sun goes down. Some routes that were once "popular" (by the standards of an earlier time) are now officially closed, though still easy to follow - the OJI north slide for example.

PS I haven't climbed it, but I've seen it from close enough to partially answer your question: it doesn't compare much to trails at all. You don't have to worry about loose rock, or carry a rope in case you get stuck, on the Huntington Ravine trail or the Knife Edge. It's more like one of the winter gully routes (Yale or Odell maybe?) in Huntington ravine (though I think the Chimney is longer).

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Re: Anyone know what hapened to Katahdin’s Chimney.class 4 c

by Eric2000 » Wed Aug 29, 2012 8:13 pm

nartreb your reply was quite helpful. So let me get this straight it's only the Appalacian Mountain club that is in charge of the books. BSP can not block them from adding something right?

Ik that the Chimney is still there lol. What i mean is if a small rock slide happened around one of the 4 chockstone's (the really hard places) making it not longer a class 4 climb unless one was totally foolish. I think you know I meant that I just want to make sure. A 5.5 rating seems a little high for something that was once often accomplished without ropes. And unfortunately as we have seen with the Cathedral trail rock slides happpen and it would n't take much i don't think to make one of the chockstones almost impossible without a rope.

Let me just clarify this a little:
Many people like me enjoy doing all the toughest climbs in New England. The key word in that previous sentence was "all". Once people finish the ones in the AMC that are currently open; they will go for past trails like Adams slide and OJI north. So what does all mean?

Please correct me if im wrong in this paragraph, but one could invent an infinite number of routes up New England mountains. But the Chimney was popularized to the point at which BSP had trail markers that led people to it and it was published in the AMC. The bottum line is that if someone wants to do all the hardest climbs in New England that were ever in the AMC they would have to do the Chimney. I don't think i"m the only one who would draw the line of saying I've done all the hardest climbs at ,"if the climb was ever in the AMC".

Edit: And as for not calling this thing a trail sometimes I think one could argue that it is/was as much of one as the Precipice. Acadia even says it's not a trail. Why not just put a ladder all the way up El Capitan and call it a trail?
Last edited by Eric2000 on Fri Aug 31, 2012 7:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Anyone know what hapened to Katahdin’s Chimney.class 4 c

by AlexeyD » Wed Aug 29, 2012 10:46 pm

As Nartreb wrote, it's more like one of the Huntington Ravine gullies; in other words most often done as a winter snow/ice route with some mixed climbing in the upper portions of the gully. I believe it's briefly mentioned as such in the New England Ice guidebook. Actually, this is the first time I've ever heard of the Chimney being climbed as a summer scramble route...given its nature, though, I'm not surprised that it has been removed from AMC hiking guidebooks.

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Re: Anyone know what hapened to Katahdin’s Chimney.class 4 c

by mtneering » Sat Sep 01, 2012 6:43 am

As far as my experience with Chimney Gully goes it is strictly a winter climbing route for me. In the winter the climb is a straight forward snow and ice gully and only in lean snow years or random times is there ice 3/4 the way up the gully. The ice section is easily climbed by anyone competent on WI2 although the run out is 900+ feet of rock and hard wind pack snow. The issue with climbing this route is not the technical difficulties it is the fact that it is an avalanche terrain trap. The climber is locked in a gully for 1200 feet, and depending on the speed of the team upwards of 4 hours in a funnel for avalanche debris from above.

I have no experience with this route in warmer months, and would be willing to bet it is a horendous bushwhack of an approach, rough climbing through krumholtz trees in spots and only fun after you are done and can say you muscled up path not traveled in decades.

BSP may have issue with you thrashing around "off trail" in summer, during winter of trail travel is not as heavily frowned upon.

Good luck.

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Re: Anyone know what hapened to Katahdin’s Chimney.class 4 c

by NW » Tue Sep 04, 2012 4:58 pm

I would definitely run it by BSP before attempting it. They are pretty touchy about staying on the marked trails in the summer. They would probably want a record of climbing experience before giving permission. Understandable though, they get sooo many people there. I'm sure they would be wary during peak season since they wouldn't want your average weekend hiker seeing people go that way and have them follow and get themselves into trouble. Lots of people are unprepared on the easier ways to the top, underestimating what to wear, when to turn if you don't want to hike down in the dark, etc. We talked to a ranger and she said they get people coming down at 1:00am or later all the time. If they made a big deal about this route I think it would lead to some people that aren't prepared to handle it trying it out and getting hurt. As far as taking out of the book, I don't really know why they would.

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Re: Anyone know what hapened to Katahdin’s Chimney.class 4 c

by walrus » Sun Sep 09, 2012 8:39 pm

Watermans in Forest & Crag say:

"This. . . spectacular ascent, regarded today as a technical climb, was called the 'Chimney Trail' in those days[1920s] and regarded as a 'short sporting path to the summit' suitable for ladies, be they sufficiently enterprising."

from another book I can't remember:

There are at least two other "forgotten"(at least in the sense that there is a dearth of information online) climbs in Baxter that would be of interest to someone trying to do all the "hardest climbs". The old Marston Trail is a slide climb up S. Brother, closed and extensively relocated after an absurd fatality in 1985. Another is Pinnacle Ridge on The Traveler, freshly removed from the new edition of the AMC Maine Mountain guide.

The bottom line though can be found in the current 2012 BSP Management Plan available here: ... _Final.pdf

from page 125 regarding technical rock and ice climbing:

"The Park has no specific requirements regarding certain gear, equipment or certification, but the Park does offer clear recommendations regarding the gear and skills necessary to safely explore and climb in the Park."

and from page 119 regarding hiking

"While the great majority of Park hikers confine their trip to marked trails within the Park, a small percentage of more adventurous visitors plan and execute hikes to locations without trail access. The Park has no firm data on the amount of off-trail travel that occurs in the Park, but bushwhacking has long been a pastime for the most experienced and hardiest of Park visitors and requires navigational skills as well as the ability to travel through the rough and heavily vegetated terrain of the Park without impacting vegetation or leaving marks of passing. The Park has no restrictions on bushwhacking that don’t apply to marked trails. Adherence to Leave No Trace (LNT principles- sec. 10.14) and hikeSafe (h/S principles – sec. 10.15) principles are expected when bushwhacking as well as other activities in the Park. In addition, it is strongly recommended that visitors planning any off-trail travel in the Park leave a detailed itinerary with a Park Ranger and do not travel alone." (emphasis mine)

Hope this helps

disclaimer: I have not personally done any of these routes.

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Re: Anyone know what hapened to Katahdin’s Chimney.class 4 c

by Eric2000 » Wed Sep 12, 2012 3:00 pm

Thanks everyone..You did help!

I had heard of that trail on the Brothers being relocated, but I didn't know it was because of a fall...I'll have to add that one to the list now :)

Does anyone have a 1980's or early 1990's Maine AMC guide? I know that the Chimney was mentioned in the 1970's guide, but not in the late 1990's guide.

It sounds like the overwhelming consensus is that it is almost exclusively an ice climbing route these days. The big question left is exactly how this climb went from one of the most popular summer routes to almost exclusively an ice climbing route. This I find very strange. Why would people in the 1920's and 1960's popularize it in the summer, but people of today wouldn't even consider doing it in the summer? I believe the Armadillo is the most popular route up the mountain in the summer now.(but that climb has always been technical from my understanding).

For the record:
I'm definitely interested in doing the Chimney some day, but it will not be for a few years. I'm only in my mid 20's(I'm thinking everyone reading this thought I was either old or young) and definitely do need more experience before I attempt anything like this. Those old AMC guides come from older people that I know who told me about this old "trail" that I could never find any evidence of outside of rock climbing routes. I was also on Katahdin about a week before I first posted this topic hence the spark in interest. I walked about 20 yards down the Chimney to check it out and found absolutely no evidence of people having been on it.

So thanks everyone for the good luck, but I probably will not be needing it for a few more years :)
I'll make sure to post a report whenever that day comes.

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