Climbing Mount Kathadin, the lone giant in the northeast wilderness, offers one of the few true alpine climbing experiences the east has to offer. This foreboding peak challenges climbers in the summer, winter…really year round. The mountain is the northmost point on the 2000 mile-plus Appalachian Trail. The area offers long trad climbs, rock scrambles, hiking and steep winter ice routes. Approaches are long, weather is often extreme, and the routes are not to be reckoned with. This are is a true alpine jewel in the remote part of Maine just north of Millinocket. Baxter State Park governs the area and allows climbing on the mountain. Be prepared to deal with a lot of red tape with the park however. This 2000-foot wall has trained climbers for many larger summits and walls in North America. Don’t underestimate this mountain’s challenges as weather, terrain, loose rock and most alpine dangers occur here.
Plan on spending a long, long day to climb here. The park does not allow climbers up to the mountain after 6 am, usually, and a guide is recommended but not necessary. You need to fill out a permit ahead of time as well. If you are not at the gate by 5 am you run a serious risk of not getting a spot to the Chimney Pond parking lot. The lot only accommodates a small number of cars and lots of hikers use the same lot. If weather is iffy you will not be allowed to climb either because the rangers do not like to accept risk. Rangers here are notorious for grilling climbers, giving red tape, and not allowing climbers to hike to the base if they think they are ill prepared. Bring a sizable rack as they will inspect it. Honestly, the rangers probably should give the hassle they do as this is a serious mountain.
Bring a good assortment of small, medium, and large cams and nuts. Long webbing is needed as well as a helmet! Climbing Mt Kathadin is a great experience but one that should not be underestimated. Plenty of water is a must as well as food and high-energy snacks.
Type of Climbing
The area is true alpine grade I, II, and better. You can expect a 5/6 mile approach, lots of bushwacking for the last mile, and an equally hike from the summit. Routes are typically 4 to 5 technical pitches and then a thousand feet or more of ridge traversing or roped scrambling with some technical mixed in. There is a bit of 4th and 5th class to gain the climbs too.
The area is located just north of Millinocket Maine in Baxter State Park. Park for the access point to the summit and hike 5/6 miles to Chimney Pond. Check in again at the ranger station and proceed to scramble to the base around the pond then up steeping terrain to the rock.