Jul 6, 2010

Photos from Maine - Mt Katahdin, Knife Edge, Cathedral Ridge

On Saturday, July 3rd 2010 I hiked Mt. Katahdin in Maine. It was my 32nd State Highpoint. I ascended via the Cathedral Ridge and Descended via the Knife Edge. The just-under-10-mile hike took just-under-11-hours. I started right after 6am and finished before 5pm. I did the hike solo: I was by myself, but not alone as there was plenty of company on all the trails.

If you're here to find out what you can expect on the Knife Edge in terms of exposure, I tried to capture its essence in the photos below. You can click on them for larger versions. I hesitate to say that I did justice to the Knife Edge, but I will say that my photos did as good a job as I was capable of shooting. The best photos are here in this post, but there's a link to the entire gallery of photos at the bottom of this email.

I will say this about Cathedral Ridge and the Knife Edge - they're both not to be missed. The Knife Edge is famously spectacular; unique among hiking trails in the Eastern United States. But don't discount the Cathedral Ridge, which, like the Knife Edge, features significant scrambling combined with exposure. Two park rangers advised against descending via the Cathedral Ridge, and instead climb Cathedral and do Knife Edge on the way down. I reversed by planned route to follow their suggestion and in retrospect have to agree with them. It is much easier to Ascend Cathedral Ridge - descending it would have been unnecessarily dangerous.

Mt. Katahdin's parking reservation system is excellent. I recommend using it. I left New York on Friday night confident that I'd have a spot at the Roaring Brook campground, which appears to be the best place to park if you want to experience the Knife Edge. If I remember correctly, all the spots for Roaring Brook were reserved before the gate opened at 5:30am.

I wore a GPS on this hike, and the log is available here.

This model of the Mountain shows my route. I ascended via the Cathedral Trail, and descended via the Knife Edge to Helon Taylor.

GPS Log of my Route, with miles marked. Mile 5 is at the Summit.

Elevation Chart

The Ascent - Cathedral Trail

The real work begins shortly after Chimney Pond at mile 3.5

This is what Chimney Pond looks like from the summit.

The route up ascends three enormous cathedral rocks

Zoomed out view of previous photo (both were shot from the knife edge)

Difficult rock scrambling begins immediately. These boulders were all larger than 4 feet across.

After an hour of scrambling to go about a half-mile, this is how far I'd gotten

Halfway there

A few hundred vertical feet below the summit. "oops." Much more mellow saddle trail in background.

State Highpoint #32. Northeast region complete.

360º Panorama from the Summit of Katahdin
360º Panorama from the Summit of Katahdin
The Descent - Knife Edge to Helon Taylor

The Knife Edge from Cathedral
The Knife Edge from the Summit. 50MPH wind gusts, otherwise nice. (:
At first - "This isn't so bad"
Trail gets more and more rugged the farther away from the peak

Imagine climbing over this, realizing a fall off either side would be.. bad

It probably took me two hours to do the 1-mile knife edge

Leaving electrolytes in the car didn't help, I got cramps

By the way, don't look down. That's Chimney Pond, 2500' below
This window of exposure is only 2' wide, but look - a rare stretch of dirt trail!

The very end of the knife edge was probably the hardest part, with a steep climb down Chimney peak to a notch, then an equally steep climb up Pamola Peak. I skipped the climb up Pamola, bad idea.

Climbing down from Chimney Peak. Path around Pamola visible. Don't take it.

Looking back up at what I just climbed

Pamola Peak. You can understand why I skipped this part, and just went around to Helon Taylor. I don't recommend doing this. The path from the notch looks really promising, but it soon ends and you have to scramble over loose rock and bad footing.

Helon Taylor trail descending the ridge. Lots of hiking still to do, but I was done with the gnarly stuff.

Entire photo gallery.

New entries for Steve's blog are published on Mondays and Thursdays at 10:00am NY time


  1. Great pics! Looks like an awesome hike. I plan on doing this solo in a couple weeks. What time of year did you do this? How were the winds as you were crossing knife edge?

  2. Hi,

    I did this in early July. Winds were gusting to about 50MPH, which sounds a lot worse than it was. On the way up the winds that I felt on Cathedral made me second-guess doing the Knife Edge, and instead descend the Saddle Trail. But, when on the summit, I asked a few people who had just come across the Knife Edge on their ascent, and said the wind wasn't too bad.