Winter Climbing in Baxter State Park

Winter Camping, Ski Mountaineering,
and Alpine Climbing
in Baxter State Park

copywrite 1998, 2003 by Jon Tierney

1. General Information
2. Leave No Trace
3. Search and Rescue
4. Winter Hazard
5. Avalanche Hazard
6. Winter Equipment Checklists
7. Equipment Recommendations
8. Getting There
9. Winter Mileages
10. Reference Materials

Written By Jon Tierney for Baxter State Park Authority

Baxter State Park Authority
64 Balsam Drive, Millinocket, ME

Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn‘t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the sun is less visible even though closer. These are things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It‘s the sides of the mountains which sustain life, not the top...

Robert Pirsig, Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


Park History
First time visitors are often stunned by the wild remoteness and beauty of Baxter State Park. Some of the most challenging and rewarding backcountry skiing and climbing is located within park boundaries. It is home to eighteen peaks over three-thousand feet. This 202,064 acre sanctuary was preserved through the efforts of Percival P. Baxter, governor of Maine from 1921 to 1925, who sought to protect the land from the hands of the timber industry. Beginning in 1930, Baxter purchased land and subsequently donated the land to the state to "forever be left in its natural wild state, forever be kept as a sanctuary for wild beasts and birds, and forever be used for public forest, public park, and public recreational purposes."

Day Use
Day users are encouraged to check in at headquarters in Millinocket to find out the latest information on trails, access, weather and avalanche conditions. Individual day users should sign in and out at headquarters or at the self-registration boxes.

Skiing & Snowshoeing
Excellent ski touring and snowshoeing can be found near the major trailheads. It is very difficult to reach any of the summits within the park in a single day without snowmobile support. Very fit skiers travelling in ideal conditions may be able to ascend Katahdin via the Abol Trail in a single day. Day users expecting to travel above tree-line are required to register with through park headquarters.

Ice Climbing
There is no easily accessible ice climbing unless one is willing to approach by snowmobile. Several moderate ice climbs can be found on the north side of Doubletop Mountain. These climbs also require you to cross Nesowadnehunk Stream.

Snowmobiling is permitted only on the perimeter road which circumnavigates the park. There are no warming huts, fuel sources or open facilities along the route.

Overnight Use
All overnight users are required to have a backcountry permit. These are available beginning November 1st and should be applied for well in advance particularly for bunkhouse reservations. Permits are issued on a first-come, first serve basis and only a limited number of backcountry permits are issued for each campsite, lean-to or bunkhouse at a given time. Winter users should be familiar with current regulations concerning group size, travel guidelines and registration deadlines.

Significant weather changes should be expected. It is not unusual to have sixty degree temperature shifts and eighteen inches of new snow within a twenty-four hour period. Such shifts can dramatically effect travelling ability. Trails may rapidly become impassable due to high water or heavy snow. Above tree-line winds can make travel impossible and can quickly move large amounts of snow creating dangerous snow loading leeward slopes.

Simply put, winter travel will take longer than summer travel. A basic rule of thumb is to expect to travel approximately two miles per hour in a small group with the following variables:

add 1/2 hour per thousand feet of elevation gain.
add 1/2 hour per hour for carrying a heavy pack.
add 1/2 hour per hour trailbreaking in deep snow.

Terrain Expectations

Chimney Pond Area
The Chimney Pond area is the most popular areas in the park for winter climbing and skiing. Reservations for the bunkhouse need to be made as early as possible. However, lean-to and tent-site reservations are usually available for those willing to endure the elements twenty-four hours a day.

The approach to Chimney Pond is best done on skis and begins from the Golden Road at the Abol Bridge crossing. Follow a well marked ski trail along Abol Stream to the Perimeter Road which is followed to the Togue Pond Gate. The perimeter road is usually well packed due to the frequent snowmobile traffic. At the Togue Pond Gatehouse, one begins an eight mile haul to Roaring Brook Campground on a relatively flat road bed. Do not expect this stretch to be packed as no public snowmobile traffic is allowed on the road. For most travellers, the ski in to Roaring Brook is a full day effort. The final 3.3 miles to Chimney Pond climbs 1400 feet along old morainal deposits and over the Basin Ponds. Ski skins or snowshoes are very useful on this final bit.

South Basin
Chimney Pond lies in the South Basin which is framed by the summits of Pamola, Chimney Peak, and the twin summits of Katahdin. Connecting Chimney Peak to Katahdin is the famed Knife Edge.

Those wishing to climb to the summit should have practical knowledge of ice axe and crampon use. As in the summer, the Saddle trail is the most common approach to the summit of Katahdin and the Knife Edge from Chimney Pond. Avalanches are common on this route. The Knife Edge traverse is a superb full day trip and the decision to continue across the Knife Edge should be carefully considered based on time, fitness, and environmental factors.Occasionally, the use of a rope may be useful between Chimney Notch and Chimney Peak.

Climbers will find the greatest concentration of ice and snow climbs in New England in the South Basin. The Pamola ice cliffs offer several difficult ice climbs. Most are Grade II, NEI 4+ or harder. Rappelling the route is usually your best choice although traversing off to the left is possible. Expect the ice be hard and brittle. Classic couloirs (gullies) offer mountaineers several bottom to top routes of varying difficulty and intensity. A straightforward snow climb up South Gully is one of the easier ascents leading to the Cathedral Trail. The Chimney, when not prone to avalanches, is a fast approach to the Knife Edge for experienced snow climbers. Dougal's Delight and Pamola's Fury are fine full day intermediate routes while the longer Cilley-Barber offers steeper ice and snow climbing. All climbers doing long gully climbs should bring bivouac gear and be prepared for a night-time descent.

Although many of the snow gullies have been skied by extreme skiers, including the Chimney on free-heel gear, this should only be considered by experienced, expert backcountry skiers and snowboarders. A enjoyable and challenging day of skiing and riding on the lower slopes of the basin will satisfy all but the most die-hards.

Great Basin
The Great Basin sports several 30 - 40 degree world-class ski and board descents on the south face of Hamlin Peak. The best approach to the top is via the Hamlin Ridge Trail. From the bases of the chutes, one can ski the drainage back to the Chimney Pond Trail. By ascending up the drainage, intermediate skiers and riders can find appropriate terrain.
North Basin
The more remote north Basin is approached from Chimney Pond via the North Basin trail to Blueberry Knoll. A short bushwack from here leads to the open slopes of the basin floor. Above, several rock and ice climbs ascend the North Basin Headwall. On the left, the 1000 foot Taber Gully splits the face. First skied in 1980, the narrow gully begins at 40 degrees then relents to 30-35 degrees for the remainder. For skiers, the best approach to the top gullies is via the Hamlin Ridge Trail. As in all gullies, be alert for wind loading and small pockets of cross loaded snow. Several other gullies are also attractive to skiers and climbers.


The south side of Katahdin is becoming increasingly popular as a winter route due to snowmobile access and the new winter trailhead at Abol Bridge. Most parties will prefer the Abol Trail due to it's direct line to the summit. Trail conditions vary greatly from deep snow to icy, semi-technical snow. Abol Trail ascends a landslide path and is on the leeward side of the moutnain. It can present significant avalanche danger.


A trip to Russel Pond is ideal for skiers and snowshoers seeking even greater solitude and gentle terrain. A multi-day loop from Roaring Brook can be made by combining the Russel Pond Trail and the Wassatoaquoik Trails.

Wildlife remains very active during the winter months. Along the trail you are very likely to cross the tracks of snowshoe hare, red squirrel, deer, red fox, moose and mice. Squirrels, mice and the elusive pine marten look for every opportunity for an easy meal so put your food away carefully.

Park Facilities
Convenient bunkhouses are located at Chimney Pond (capacity 12), Roaring Brook (12), Russel Pond (8), South Branch Pond (8), Trout Brook Farm (4) , Togue Pond (4), Nesowadnehunk Field (6), McCarty Field ( ). Bunkhouses are equipped with woodstoves but have no propane lights or mattresses. A firewood supply is also provided.

Cabins outfitted with woodstoves, lights and mattresses are located at Daicey Pond (8) and Kidney Pond (12). Winter camping is permitted in any designated campground or picnic area that is provided with a firepit and outhouse.

Group Size and Makeup
A larger expedition of four or more generally provides a greater inherent strength and self-rescue capability. However, in the interest of resource protection and minimizing impacts upon other visitors, expeditions should not exceed 10 members.

A group composed primarily of individuals who have not camped or climbed together tends to be a weaker group and is not recommended. Each member should have solid winter camping and travelling skills, stamina, conditioning, excellent equipment and the mental fortitude to survive in severe arctic conditions. Each person seeking to climb peaks in Baxter State Park should have mountaineering skills and avalanche knowledge appropriate to the intended route. Experience has shown that even these qualifications do not guarantee safety or success. The more difficult routes are technically very demanding and all members attempting these routes should be highly skilled. All members must know the physical condition, limitations, and the experience of each team member.

Solo overnight trips and solo above treeline travel are not permitted.

Winter camping and mountaineering require skills which can only be gained through education, mentoring, and experience. These skills combined with the application of good judgement through a conservative itinerary, and a willingness to turn back are at the heart of a successful journey into the backcountry.

Mountain Guides
Mountain sports are hazardous. While a guide cannot eliminate all risk, a professionally trained mountain guide can minimize exposure to risks through their significant education and experience in mountain skills, guiding techniques, wilderness medicine, rescue, and avalanche safety. For parties with insufficient training and experience, hiring a mountain guide to ascend Katahdin or one of its neighboring peaks may increase your chances for success. Following the standards established by the American Mountain Guides Association, the terrain encountered on Katahdin is considered alpine and /or ski mountaineering terrain depending upon the principal modes of travel. Those seeking to ski technical terrain should seek out certified ski-mountaineering guides while those wishing to climb snow, ice or mixed routes should look for a certified alpine guide.
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“Simple living, adventure, and solitude are still a part of the Baxter State Park winter experience, but in order to assure their ontinued existence we must take the time to educate ourselves and become equipped withthe skills and habits that enable us to Leave No Trace.” By utilizing the five basic principles of Leave No Trace you can enjoy the park and preserve its beauty and health.

• Plan ahead and prepare
Before you go, familiarize yourself with the area. Choose a small group of four to six to limit damage to the environment and disturbance to wildlife and other users. Planning and camping is also easier in small groups. Also, select equipment and clothing in subdued colors. The likelihood of an unplanned camp will be minimized through careful planning and time management. For maximum solitude plan your journey at an off-peak time. School breaks and holidays are some of the busiest times.

• Pack it in, Pack it out
Everything taken into the park must be brought out of the backcountry when you leave. Avoid leaving any permanent caches on the mountain. KEEP THE PARK CLEAN.

Maintain the pristine nature of the lakes and streams by properly disposing of human waste and washwater.

Washwater: Use a bio-degradable soap in small amounts if you have to. If a filtering station is available use it. It will often have to be cleaned of snow in the winter. Otherwise, do all of your washing at least 200 feet from water sources and camps. Collect food scraps into a plastic bag and strain your graywater for any remaining scraps through a bandana. By cooking only what you need, clean-up will be easier.

Human Waste: Outhouses areavailable in all campgrounds and should be used. Along the trail, carry a poop bucket with a few shavings that can be emptied at the next outhouse. Avoid leaving toilet paper along the trail - carry it back to the trailhead or to the next outhouse.

• Travel on Durable Surfaces
Utilize existing trails when possible. Choose the most durable surfaces available such as frozen snow or rock. Avoid grasses and gravel. This is particlarly important during thaws and above treeline.
If travelling off trail, use a map and compass to eliminate the need for more cairns and tree scars.

• Leave What you Find Undisturbed
If you see wildlife, observe from a distance so they are not forced to flee or disturbed. Resist the urge to take home a sample twig or rock and leave the land intact. Pets are not allowed in Baxter State Park for this reason.
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Head and brain injury: Winter hiker slides several hundred feet on snow into rocks and trees. 1998, Abol Trail.

Leg Fracture / avalanche: Climber triggers avalanche at base of Chimney.

Three injured, two killed / avalanche: mountaineering party triggers slab release at base of the Cathedral trail resulting in five burials.

Whiteout: hiking party lost on plateau spends night out.

Stranded, hypothermia: A group of six "accomplished mountaineers" camped above treeline on Pamola. When the storm had cleared five were rescued and one was dead.

Killed in 1985 due to head trauma from snowmobile collison.

One enters the winter backcountry environment of Baxter State Park at one's own risk. It is an individual's responsibility to minimize various hazards through the application of good judgment gained from a foundation of education and experience. Self-reliance in the face of adversity is expected on the part of the wilderness traveller entering the wilderness areas of Baxter State Park.

All groups confronted with an emergency situation should first consider what they can do to handle the situation on their own or with the help of other parties nearby. Only when all other options have been tried should the group request additional assistance. Cellular phones and radios should not be relied upon in an emergency. Non-emergency use of radios or cellular phones is prohibited within Baxter State Park.

The Park Authority will attempt to assist those in need. However, a rescue effort on the mountain or in the park backcountry should not be expected. Search and rescue operations are conducted on a discretionary basis. The level and urgency of the response is determined by field personnel based on their evaluation of the situation. A rescue will be initiated only when necessary and when within the reasonable technical ability of available personnel and provides when rescuers have a reasonable margin of safety. A helicopter rescue is risky and expensive and will only be used when medical or technical demands warrant it. Rescue is not automatic. For all practical purposes, a party is alone and must depend upon its own resources for self-rescue and be equipped for an extended emergency.
• Minimize the impact of fires
Backpacking stoves provide a quick, clean, lighweight means for cooking. Fires may provide a psychological boost but are more difficult to cook over and require more effort to maintain and clean up. If you choose to build a fire, you should do it in such a way that no evidence of it remains.

Many backcountry cabins are equipped with woodstoves and the backcountry campsites have existing fire rings. Utilize fires only if there is plenty of dead and down wood that will be replenished quickly. Unfortunately, at Chimney Pond, the human browse line from winter users extends high up into the trees. Be conservative and use the woodstove only for drying gear or cooking as only a limited amount of firewood is flown into Chimney Pond and cached for winter usage.
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Avoiding Cold Injuries
The primary hazards of a winter trip are frostbite, hypothermia and trauma. These are generally due to falling on snow, avalanches or becoming lost. Winters in northern Maine presents long periods of sub-zero temperature and periodic heavy snowfalls. Strong winds can also add significant environmental challenge particularly above treeline. Fatigue and dehydration are often precursors to accidents and exacerbate all forms of injury. In this setting, seemingly insignificant problems may magnify into full blown emergencies. On-going anticipation of potential problems can prevent this. When prevention fails, The ability to manage an emergency in winter while maintaining the basic essentials of adequate clothing, food and water is critical at all times.

Simply put, frostbite is the localized freezing of tissue. Ice crystals form within and between the cells and grow by extracting water from the cells. Physical damage is often permanent, and long-term treatment may require amputation and extended hospitalization. Although extreme cold exposure can be the sole cause of frostbite, it more typically results from decreased circulation due to cold-induced vasoconstriction, restrictive clothing, and/or dehydration in combination with severe cold and wind. The areas most often affected are the hands, feet, and face. In the field, frostbite may be identified as superficial (frostnip) or deep.

Superficial frostbite is characterized by a sensation of numbness and sometimes pain. The skin color will be blanched and soft to touch. Immediate recognition and rewarming will prevent further freezing. Treatment focuses on sheltering the exposed tissue in an armpit or a partner's belly, adding or changing hand and footwear, adding external heat or increasing heat production through physical activity such as skiing or wind-milling the affected extremity.

In severe deep frostbite, the skin is hard to the touch and bleach white. The exact severity of damage cannot be known until rewarming has occurred. The preferred treatment for deep frostbite is rapid rewarming in a warm water bath. However, this treatment should be attempted only when the following conditions can be met:

• Further freezing of tissue can be prevented as greater tissue damage occurs
when frostbitten tissues are thawed and then refrozen.
• The rewarmed area can be adequately protected and will not be traumatized by
walking out on it.
• Water temperature can be maintained at 100 - 105 degrees until the frozen
tissues are soft and pliable. This may take up to an hour.

Otherwise, less damage is produced by walking on a frostbitten foot or getting out with a frozen hand. The frostbitten area may spontaneously thaw by physical activity, a night in the sleeping bag, or by changing environmental conditions.

Once thawed the area should be protected and treatment directed toward preventing infection. Small amounts of dry, thin, clean cotton may be placed between fingers or toes to avoid maceration although they should not cause further constriction inside of a mitten. Infection prevention is extremely important. Immerse the damaged area every six to eight hours in warm to which an antibacterial agent such as iodine has been added.

After rewarming, the extent of injury can be determined. In superficial frostbite, the skin is normal to reddish in color and slightly painful. In deep frostbite, hope for the appearance of clear, fluid-filled blisters indicating that the underlying tissues is still alive and likely to recover well. Blood filled blisters signify underlying dead tissue. The most severe frostbite injuries retain a deep purple color and are not followed by any blisters.

Often labelled "exposure," hypothermia is the result of a cold challenge overwhelming one's ability to produce and maintain heat. This results in a progressive deterioration of body functions and may lead to death.

A cold challenge may be presented through extreme cold, high winds, or cold water. More commonly, the recipe for hypothermia is a mix of these three ingredients each of which by themselves would present no problem. Secondary hypothermia may result following an injury that renders you unable to move enough to generate heat.

Prevention of hypothermia aims first to maintain heat production through adequate food, fluids, and activity. You must "feed the fire, if you want it to keep burning." Equally important is the preservation of heat through proper clothing that both insulates and shields the body from the outside forces of cold, wind, and water.

Shivering is an early warning of cold stress. This is a compensatory response to help maintain body temperature and must be recognized and acted upon immediately. Left to progress, the cold challenges begin overwhelming our cold responses and mild hypothermia results.

Mild hypothermia is indicated by violent shivering, a core temperature between 90 degrees F and 95 degrees F and an awake, though sometimes confused mental status. Fine motor function will be impaired and one ultimately loses the ability to care for themselves. Treatment should be aggressive and focus on improving heat production and decreasing the cold challenge. The slogan of "feed them and beat them" comes to mind. Give this person plenty of easy to digest, high energy foods and water. Heat can be added to the body from warm water bottle being placed near the trunk and wet clothing replaced with dry insulating clothing and wind protection. Exercise will generate heat and this should be strongly encouraged. Contrary to popular opinion, alcohol will not "warm you" and actually hastens the cooling process through vasodilation.

Signs of severe hypothermia include a core temperature of less than 90&Mac176; F and a person who does not appear awake. They may respond to your voice or physical stimulus or may be completely unresponsive. Shivering ceases as the body uses up its energy source or stops producing insulin. At this point rapid cooling is likely if no intervention occurs. Unlike mild hypothermia, the most important treatment plan for severe hypothermia is GENTLE HORIZONTAL HANDLING. The patient should be kept flat and placed in dry clothing and a sleeping bags as gently as possible. A vapor barrier such as a bivouac sack is very useful and is critical if any wet or frozen clothing remains on the person. Warm bottles or heat packs may be applied to the core of the body to minimize further cooling and a plan for a gentle evacuation should be initiated. In any evacuation less than 24 hours, further rewarming treatment should be done in a clinical setting as it may compromise the patient more if done in the field.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
“Carbon monoxide poisoning among mountaineers is probably much more common than realized." Measurements by William Turner and Bill Summer,
on Denali, found toxic levels of CO near the stove in tents, snow caves and igloos. Cook only in well ventilated bunkhouses, tents, and snow shelters. In a tent, ventilation is a function of the wind and the area of the vent opening. When cooking in a snow shelter, the vent must be at least of 2 - 3" in diameter, and placed directly above the stove. It can be sealed when not cooking in order to maintain warmth. Another factor in producing CO is the damping effect on the flame of having the pot too close to the flame and from condensation on the pot. Keeping the pot warm and adding snow slowly to warm water thus produces much less CO than filling a pot with snow. Those cooking in shelters should try to minimize condensation on the pot.

Recognization of CO poisoning may be difficult and is often masked or masks fatigue or hypothermia. Treatment is to stop the CO production, and have the victim if conscious, hyperventilate in fresh air. Administration of oxygen, and forced hyperventilation by mouth to mouth breathing may be required for comatose victims.

(Information taken from 1986 Analysis of the CO Poisoning Deaths of Two Swiss Climbers on Mount McKinley, by Peter Hackett, M.D.)

Giardia, Infection

Despite common belief, Giardia cysts persist in cold stream or pond water. Your most effective treatment measure is boiling. Boiling will kill all bacteria, viruses, and protozoans (Giardia). Chemical methods such as iodine derivatives are useful although the water should be warmed to sixty degrees for better effectiveness. If you prefer to use a filters or purifier, it should be protected from freezing.
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Avalanches are common in Baxter State Park. Many human triggered avalanches have caused death or serious injury. Many avalanche victims would have described themselves as experienced mountaineers and skiers and that bad timing was their mistake. The rangers to may be able to provide information on current weather, recent snowfall and reported avalanche activity.

Carrying shovels and wearing beacons does not protect you from an avalanche. They are simply tools to help out in an already bad situation after the fact. All winter users should learn about snow safety through field courses and to choose your partners carefully. By taking precautions you will reduce the risk of accidents that are often the result of missed or ignored clues.


• 25 - 45 degree slopes frequently produce avalanches
• Evidence of other avalanches occurring
• Snow intensity of greater than 1" (2.5 cm) per hour
• Snowfall consisting of heavilyy rimed snow crystals
• Steady winds that are transporting snow onto leeward slopes
• Rapid temperature changes
• Snowpack temperatures around 32 degrees F (0 degree C) and warming
• Presence of temperature gradients greater than 1 degree/10cm
• Rain that adds weight to a snowpack
• Persistent cold temperatures delay bonding and strengthening the snow
• Gullies often have huge accumulation zones and can easily
become terrain traps.

Pamola Chimney, Saddle Trail, Cathedral Trail, Cilley-Barber route

Parties that want to travel on or near steep slopes must be capable of doing their own avalanche hazard estimation, snow stability evaluation and searches. Avalanche knowledge, good judgement and a careful approach to route-finding are the key elements in avoiding avalanches. Each team member should carry avalanche transceivers, shovels and probe poles and be thoroughly trained in their use. Avoid situations that you can't handle confidently and competently. You can always come back!
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Below Timberline Day Trips
Forests and trails

*Heavy duty day pack
*Pack boots with wool liners such as mouse boots, climbing or touring double
boots appropriate to mode of travel
* Gaiters (high reaching)
* Snowshoes or heavy duty touring skis
* Insulating mittens
* Insulating gloves
* Mitten shells
* Thin wicking sock liners
* Insulating socks
* Insulating balaclava that covers entire head
* Wicking innnerwear top and bottom
* Insulating jacket or sweater r Insulating pants
* Light wind / rain shell
* Thermos or water bottles that are insulated and wide-mouthed
* Extra food
* Sunscreen and lip balm
* Trekking poles
* Snow goggles
* Personal first aid kit
* Headlamp
* Firestarting material
* Map and compass
* Shovel
* Avalanche transceiver and probe pole if entering avalanche terrain

Extended Camping Trips

* Large, sturdy internal or external frame pack
* -20 degree F sleeping bag
* insulating full-length ground pad made of cold-resistant material. An
additional 1/2 pad or ThermaRest added a great deal of comfort
* Pack boots with wool liners such as mouse boots, climbing or touring double
boot appropriate to mode of travel
* High gaiters or supergaiters
* Snowshoes or heavy duty touring skis
* Insulating mittens and gloves
* Mitten shells
* Thin wicking sock liners
* Vapor barrier sock
* 2 - 3 pairs insulating socks
* 1 - 2 pairs insulating balaclava that covers entire head
* Heavy weight insulating jacket or sweater
* Midweight insulating jacket or sweater
* Sunglasses with side protection
* Snow goggles
* Wicking innnerwear top and bottom
* Insulating pants with side zips
* Light wind shell shirt
* Waterproof / breathable jacket and pants with side zips
* Unbreakable bowl, insulated cup & spoon
* Water bottle and thermos that are insulated and wide mouthed
* Headlamp with fresh batteries
* Sunscreen and lip balm
* Food for an extra day or more
* Trekking poles
* Personal first aid kit
* Firestarting material
* Map and compass
* Winter expedition tent per 2 -3 people
* Haul sled or drag bag
* Large contractor grade plastic bags

Mountaineers and Peak Baggers should consider:

* Avalanche transceiver and probe pole
* Heavy duty snow/avalanche shovel
* Probe Poles
* Snow study kit
* Ice axe
* Crampons
* Helmet
* Bivouac sack
* Expedition weight down or synthetic jacket
* Extra mittens and hat

Techical climbers should also consider:

* Harness
* Two steep ice tools and a third tool
* A dry rope and second retreat rope
* Anchor and protection appropriate to intended routes
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Whether you are skiing, snowshoeing or climbing, footwear should be designed for expedition use and offer the warmest possible rating. Temperatures often exceed twenty below zero for extended periods of time. Backcountry travellers should use military vapor barrier (mouse) boots or waterproof boots with removable insulating inner boots. Skiers and climbers should wear high quality double plastic boots. High end, insulated single leather boots may be adequate on warm, single day trips but should be avoided for extended trips. Boots should be fitted with sock layers and broken in prior to journeying in the park. An inner vapor barrier and outer gaitor or supergaitor sock is suggested to help keep the boot insulation dry and provide additional insulation. At night, feet should be dried and the insulating boot liners can be placed in a sleeping bag to dry.

Clothing must be adequate for the most severe conditions and follow the general principles of layering to accomodate often widely fluctuating temperatures. A moisture transport and insulating layer should be worn next to the skin. One or more bulky insulating layers of synthetic fleece or wool should follow. An outer layer offering head to toe protection against wind and rain completes the system. Since most of us don't like to sit around camp during bouts of precipitation, this layer should be breathable to allow that sweat to evaporate. A large expedition weight down or synthetic parka with a good hood is essential for evenings in camp and insulated booties will make camp life more pleasant.

Since much of one's heat loss is through the head and neck, wool or synthetic balaclavas or a hat and neck warmer are recommended. Hats should fit under climbing helmets. Face protection against sunlight, wind, and snow is essential for above treeline travel.

Mittens are warmer than gloves and wind/water proof shells over these provide added protection. Spare pairs are always useful as are some wool gloves for using around the stove.

Cotton clothing is not recommended as it loses its insulating capacity when wet and takes a long time to dry out.

Sleeping Gear
A good night's sleep hinges upon being warm and dry. For those sleeping in tents, lean-tos, or snow shelters, an expedition quality sleeping bag is essential. Down or synthetic fiber filled bags should be rated to at least -20&Mac176;F. Allow extra room in the sleeping bag for wearing layers of clothing, inner boots, and storing a water bottle.

Bunkhouse residents: A sleeping bag rated to 0 - 10&Mac176; should suffice. Bunkhouses are provided with woodstoves for heating but no provision is made for cooking or lighting. Firewood is available at most campgrounds (it is flown into Chimney Pond) although a saw should still be carried in case cutting firewood is needed. The use of stoves and gas lanterns are permitted inside bunkhouses and cabins during the winter season. Candles must be totally enclosed in a candle lantern.

A great deal of heat loss can be prevented by using one or more closed cell foam pads made of EVA underneath your sleeping bag. A combination closed cell with an inflatable foam pad are comfortable and common.

Food is your source of heat. A diet high in carbohydrates, along with some fats is recommended. Dry foods such as pasta, rice and powdered potatoes, cheeses and freeze dried meals are good choices because of their light weight. Liquids and canned goods should be minimized due to freezing. "GORP" (Good Ole Raisens and Peanuts) is good, high energy trail food. Granola based GORP is discouraged as it is often difficult to avoid spilling it and thus feeding wild animals unnatural foods. Bring plenty of drink and instant soup mixes to make refreshing hot drinks upon one's return to camp and to help restore body liquids.

Snowshoes or Skis
A pair of snowshoes or skis per person must be taken along with tools and repair materials. Snowshoes should be sturdy with traction devices for steeper sections and side hill traversing. Only experienced skiers should attempt to ski and it is wise to practice skiing with a heavy pack and sled before arriving at the park. An alpine touring set-up works well for those seeking a pure ski experience. Climbing skins and extendable trekking poles will be very useful. An extra pole in each party often comes in handy.

Sleds and Haul Sacks
Many people prefer to carry some of their gear in a sled or drag bag. Providing that your harness system works, a 30 - 40 lbs(13 - 18kg) load can be easily hauled. Lightweight plastic sleds such as those found in department stores are adequate and may be equipped with simple rope haul line.

Carry at least two stoves of proven efficiency that work in extreme cold along with spare parts. If you are using large pots for a group, use a stove with a very stable base (such as an Optimus Hiker) to prevent accidental spills and burns. Before leaving home, take your stove apart and put it back together. For added fun and challenge, put your mittens on and stand in a cold shower and try it. White gas is recommended as disposable gas cartridges are less environmentally friendly, are sometimes difficult to obtain near the park and may not be pressurized enough for the extreme cold. Plan on 8 ounces (.30 liters) of white gas per person per day if you are staying outside. All fuel containers must be packed out.

Snow Shovels
A sturdy shovel is extremely useful to clear out lean-tos, remove snow from around tents, pile and hollow out snow shelters, and sculpt snow kitchens. Those travelling in avalanche terrain should carry several shovels per party.

Tents should be of four season quality and capable of withstanding wind and heavy snow. A three person dome shaped tent with a rainfly works well for two people allowing extra room for gear and passing time if snowbound. A vestibule adds a welcome measure of convenience and comfort. The tent should have plenty of guy points and enough attached cords to use them all. An extra pole section or pole splint and repair materials are important. Always be prepared for a tent failure with a strategy to build a snow shelter.

Ice Axes, Crampons & Trekking Poles
For those attempting a summit one ice axe per person should be available along with crampons. An ice axe, 70cm or taller, is more practical for non-technical climbs such as the Saddle, Abol, or Cathedral trail. Tape the grip area on the head of the ice axe with closed cell foam and duct tape to reduce cold conduction. Learning to properly use an axe to climb, descend, anchor and self-arrest is essential. Crampons should be adjusted to the boot and gaiter prior to leaving home. Extended trips should have spare parts. A trekking pole is not a substitution for an axe but is extremely useful for ascending snow covered trails and takes some pressure off the knees upon descent.

Eye Protection
Eye protection is essential above treeline. Each person should have goggles that will provide full protection against blowing snow and sunlight. Glacier glasses may also be carried but do not afford complete protection. An extra set should be available in each party.

Medical Kits
All members of the party should be familiar with the contents of the medical kit. However, a first aid kit is only a supplement to knowledge and skill. Those going off trail or into the remote regions of the park would be wise to participate in at least basic wilderness first aid training.

Repair Kits
A pair of pliers, a small screwdriver, a knife, 50' of parachute cord, some duct tape, a spare ski tip, patch material and a few bolts and nuts form a basic kit along with spare stove and crampon parts. Ski parties should carry spare binding parts suitable to particular equipment.

Avalanche Transceiver (beacon)
Avalanche beacons should be worn by all individuals venturing into possible avalanche terrain. The standard world-wide frequency is the 457kHz. Those with older 2275kHz beacons would be wise to make sure that someone in their party has a dual frequency beacon in order that they can be found if buried. A beacon must be worn close to the chest and turned on. A beacon is irrelevant if it is in your pack or if party members are not familiar with search strategies. A beacon is no substitute for avalanche knowledge and cannot prevent a disaster.
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Baxter State Park is accessible from Interstate 95. Those entering from the south side (ie. Togue Pond, Abol areas) should follow the public highway to where it stops being plowed at Millinocket Lake. At Millinocket Lake, take the adjacent "Golden Road" to Abol Bridge. A parking area is provided just before the bridge. From here one may enter the park on skis or snowshoes by following a marked trail to Abol Beach and the Tote Road. Snowmobilers should follow the abandoned road back to the junction with the Togue Pond Road.

The public highway leading to the north entrance from Patten (route 159) is plowed as far as the Matagamon parking lot about 1/4 mile beyond the bridge over the East Branch of the Penobscot River.

All visitors are encouraged to stop at Baxter State Park Visitor Center and Headquarters, off route 157 in Millinocket (next to McDonald's). Hours are 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Monday - Friday.
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Millinocket - Abol Bridge (parking) 20.0 miles
Abol Bridge to Abol Beach 1.5
Abol Bridge to Abol CG 4.7
Abol CG to summit 3.8
Abol Bridge to Togue Pond via Abol Beach & perimeter rd. 4.0
Abol Bridge to Roaring Brook CG 12.0
Togue Pond to Roaring Brook CG 8.0
Roaring Brook CG to Chimney Pond CG 3.3
Chimney Pond CG to summit via Cathedral Trail 1.6
Chimney Pond CG to summit via Saddle Trail 2.2
Knife Edge traverse (via Cathedral and Dudley) 4.0
Roaring Brook CG to Russell Pond via Russell Pond trail 7.2
Russell Pond to Pogy Pond 3.7
Russell Pond to South Branch Pond 9.6
Togue Pond to Abol CG 5.7
Abol CG to Katahdin Stream 2.0
Katahdin Stream to Daicey Pond via road system 3.6
Katahdin Stream to Kidney Pond via road system 4.1
Katahdin Stream to Nesowadnehunk Field Campground 9.1
Nesowadnehunk Field CG to South Branch CG 19.3
South Branch Pond CG to Trout Brook Farm CG 7.0
Trout Brook Farm Campground to Matagamon parking lot 4.2
Nesowadnehunk Field CG to McCarty Field bunkhouse 9.8
via perimeter road and Dwelly Pond trail
South Branch CG to McCarty Field bunkhouse 10.8
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Goodman, David. Backcountry Skiing Adventures. Boston: Appalachian Mountain Club, 1999.

Isaac, Jeff and Peter Goth. The Outward Bound Wilderness First Aid Handbook. 1998

Wilcox, Rick. Guide to New England Ice Climbing.

Gillette, Ned and John Dostal. Cross Country Skiing. Seattle: The Mountaineers, 1983.

Prater, Gene. Snowshoeing. Seattle: The Mountaineers, 1980.

Bruce Hampton and Dave Cole. Soft Paths. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books.

Stokes, Donald. Nature in Winter.

Daffern, Tony. Avalanche Safety for Skiers and Climbers. 2nd ed. Calgary: Rocky Mountain Books, 1992.

AMC Maine Mountain Guide. 7th ed. Boston: Appalachian Mountain Club, 1993.

Gorman, Stephen. AMC Guide to Winter Camping. Boston: Appalachian Mountain Club, 1991.

Graydon, Don and Kurt Hanson, eds. Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills. 6th ed. Seattle: The Mountaineers, 1997.

Cinnamon, Jerry. Climbing Rock and Ice - Learning the Vertical Dance. Camden, ME: Ragged Mountain Press. 1994.

DeLorme Maine Atlas and Gazetter. 1998.

Brady, Michael. Cross Country Ski Gear. Seattle: The Mountaineers, 1987.
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A History of
Leading the way...

Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School is the preeminent leader in climbing instruction and guiding in Acadia and across Maine. We specialize in designing customized experiences or training for you, your family or your group.

Directed by internationally recognized IFMGA guide Jon Tierney who has been climbing in Acadia since 1982. Jon has over 30 years of local and worldwide experience. The IFMGA requires full AMGA certification as a rock, alpine and ski mountaineering guide.

All AMGCS instructors are certified by either the AMGA or the PCIA and all guides have been trained or certified by the AMGA.

• Since 1994 •
AMGCS is one of 30 AMGA accredited programs in the US and was one of the earliest to achieve accreditation.

AMGCS is the only climbing school in Maine to remain continuously accredited by the AMGA for eighteen years - several years longer than any other local service. We have had one or more full time AMGA certified rock instructors or rock guides on staff each year since 1994 - sixteen years more than any other local school.

• Since 2007 •
AMGCS has the distinction of also being accredited to the highest standards of the Professional Climbing Instructors Association. The PCIA requires all staff to be individually trained and certified.

Experience the difference.
Reach your peak with Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School.



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