Hiking up to Katahdin With Ryan Gibbs
Back in Ryan Gibbs, an east coast Icelantic Ambassador and crew took their annual trip up to Katahdin and brought along a DSLR documenting their travels. Photographer Forrest Frizzell-Lenka Flaherty snapped the pics and the rest is history. Here's how the trip unfolded...
Ryan, still nursing a broken hand, and company left their day jobs for over a week to set off for their annual week long ski mountaineering expedition looking to tackle the biggest lines the east coast has to offer. Katahdin's remoteness coupled with stringent park regulations help keep this pristine wilderness the way Percival Baxter intended. The crew of 4 set off for the Chimney Pond Bunkhouse with pulks full of supplies for the week long mission. The road is normally open in the summer, but is closed to public use by vehicle or snow machine in the winter. 16 miles and 2200ft later you arrive at the bunkhouse, a 10 person cabin complete with wood stove and some meddlesome local Pine Marten.
Katahdin conditions are vastly different year to year depending on snow and wind. Slightly less than average snow fell in the Katahdin region in 2015 and what did fall was extremely light density (4-7% water content) on high Northwest winds. As a result, most of the major ski mountaineering objectives were left solid ice, boilerplate, and barely edge able sastrugi. Fortunately, it opened up secondary objectives and after a few days of consolidation we began ticking off some really aesthetically pleasing fun lines. Lines on Katahdin are longer than anywhere else out east. Couloirs run anywhere from 800 to over 2200 vertical ft off the Knifes Edge and surrounding ridge-lines offering any type of skiing you could ever dream of.
From mellow powder choked cruisers to incredibly technical descents involving multiple rappels this mountain has it all. If you didn't know you were only at 5269ft above sea level you'd almost think you were in the Tetons. The possibilities are endless, but if the mountain doesn't want you to have it you must be able to listen, adjust, and wait patiently until the next season.
Though I was disappointed we didn't get to ski the most technical terrain, we skied the highest quality stable snow I've seen on that mountain in March.
Ryan works as a Mechanical Engineer during the week and also works guiding weekends in the winter for Northeast Mountaineering located in Glen, NH.
See more from Ryan this winter here on our First Tracks Blog or follow him on Instagram @powdergibbs