I stood beneath the massive, sloping rock, wanting virtually straight up. I used to be attempting to determine ascend, doubting whether or not my sneakers would offer enough grip.
My son William had already climbed up, with minimal problem. As I mustered the braveness to proceed, one other hiker, a person from the Czech Republic who we had spoken with earlier, approached from beneath.
I welcomed the idle banter and the prolonged breather, and he climbed up with no points. Earlier than I may proceed, two extra hikers emerged from the rocks.
An older man, his boots strengthened with black duct tape, sprang expertly up the rock with minimal effort. He spoke loudly, and seemingly impatiently, in a overseas language to a youthful man, who we expect might have been his son.
He clearly had his personal reservations, however made his method up whereas being yelled at by the older man.
Lastly, with some technical steerage from William, I gripped the sting of an adjoining rock, lifted myself up onto the ledge and dragged myself to security.
It was probably the most important problem of a grueling day climbing Katahdin on the testy Cathedral Path. I had no concept what I used to be moving into.
Some cursory analysis for our first journey to Baxter State Park had led us to imagine Cathedral, whereas thought-about maybe the hardest path on the mountain, can be doable.
It was a impolite awakening for a 61-year-old who, whereas in respectable form (due to common periods at Wilcox Wellness and Health in Bangor), just isn’t a hiker or rock climber.
Taking up Maine’s storied mountain just isn’t for the faint of coronary heart. Our ascent, which took us alongside the Chimney Pond Path, then up the steep face of Katahdin, lasted greater than 5 hours.
I ended regularly, voicing my shock on the quantity of power, agility and stamina required to select one’s method alongside the painted blue hashes that mark the path. Some occasional wind gusts additionally obtained my consideration.
Even William, who’s 23 years youthful and who has performed a substantial quantity of mountaineering, couldn’t deny Cathedral was a testy path, more durable than he had been led to imagine.
Admittedly, I used to be involved about what potential hazards I’d encounter on the mountain. My dad died of a coronary heart assault at 58 and despite the fact that I’ve taken significantly better care of myself, I’m no athlete.
BDN colleague Mike Dowd informed me after the very fact a couple of e book titled “Dying On Katahdin: And Different Adventures in Maine’s Baxter State Park,” which lists males over 60 who die of coronary heart failure as the biggest demographic for deaths on the mountain.
“I’m glad you didn’t point out that earlier than I went,” I informed him.
That cloud of uncertainty adopted me all through the ascent, which included quite a few quick relaxation stops in spots the place I used to be in a position to lean comfortably towards the rocks. William remained affected person and didn’t let himself get too far forward of me.
For some cause, a music that had come into my consciousness out of the blue a couple of days earlier than started repeating itself in my head.
“It’s a protracted method to the highest if you wish to rock and roll,” the AC/DC lyric goes. I even started listening to the sound of the bagpipes within the music throughout lengthy exhales. It was bizarre, however utterly applicable.
We hadn’t rushed the method. We arrived at Bear Brook Campground on Tuesday afternoon, spent the night time in a tent and slept soundly.
We awoke the subsequent morning, drank espresso and water, and ate Canadian bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches on an English muffin. We checked on the ranger station at Roaring Brook and began up the path.
It was a cool, sunny morning, good for a hike. And the three.2 miles to Chimney Pond have been comparatively uneventful, save for a few water crossings that resulted in moist toes.
We sat down for perhaps 10 minutes for a fast snack and a few water. By that point, it had already occurred to me that I had forgotten to assemble and pack the sandwiches that have been to function our lunch.
As an alternative, we needed to accept two vitality bars every, some electrolyte drink combine and ample water to get us by means of the remaining 7 1/2 hours on the path.
The best possible a part of the climb up Cathedral was the unbelievable views of Chimney Pond, the steep adjoining cliffs, and the mountains, valleys and waters seen within the distance. It gave me much more excuses to cease and take pictures.
In the end, my quads burning and my hamstrings aching, we trudged up the ultimate piece of floor to the summit. Hikers posed for pictures in entrance of the signal and we did likewise, to protect the second.
We didn’t get to benefit from the superb views from the highest as a persistent layer of skinny clouds obscured a lot of the panorama beneath. However it wasn’t in the least disappointing.
Reaching the summit was all of the reward we would wish. We sat down for 5 or 10 minutes for a snack and a water break earlier than heading down.
The descent, whereas markedly totally different from the climb, was sufficiently excruciating to make me marvel how so many individuals may communicate in any respect fondly of taking Saddle Path.
After negotiating the scree within the increased elevations, we have been greeted with a steep, slim, slippery, unpredictable path that appeared to by no means finish. Solely the overhanging bushes and bushes stored me from falling.
Fatigue was changing into an actual issue as we went down, down, down from rock to rock, by means of water and dust. Everybody has at all times stated taking place is more durable. I feel it’s extra so as a result of the bodily calls for are taking their toll. William stayed out in entrance and patiently waited for me to catch up.
Lastly, exhausted, soiled and moist, we made it again to Roaring Brook. Our reward was scrumptious steak, potatoes and asparagus cooked on the grill. A celebratory drink and a hug made the day full.
We went to sleep speaking about the opportunity of attempting a unique method to the summit subsequent yr.
It was gratifying to perform the hike and climb with William, who additionally obtained his first glimpse of northern Maine from the state’s highest peak. The shared challenges and joys of the journey undoubtedly will stick with us without end.