Mt Katahdin Gone Awry - part 3

continued from Part 2

Part 3

Mac and Jenny were off like a shot. They really had no idea what taking your time and enjoying the moment was all about. To them it was go as fast and as hard as you can from start to finish so you can get on to the next activity. They were very “city energy”. Libby was quite the opposite and could sit for hours and days in the same spot meditating, and being perfectly content doing so. I could do either so it was not difficult for me to adapt to whoever I was pacing.

Libby and I headed west towards the knife edge and made a short decent into a saddle before slowly making our way up the sub-peak, Chimney Peak. This was trickier than anyone expected, and even though Mac and Jenny had taken off quickly, we caught up to them just as quickly. We had to crawl/climb down steep, smooth boulders about 30 feet to the trail below. There were few handholds and the cracks we were negotiating between the boulders was slick and quite steep. You had to pay close attention to your every move and body positioning so as not to take a quick trip down to a very sudden stop.

Both Jenny and Libby were not all that happy about that section, especially because it was a taste of the mile long knife edge before us. Nonetheless they were determined and stubborn, so we continued. Mac and I were both taller and stronger so we assisted them down the boulders to the trail. Satisfied, we moved up Chimney Peak and down the other side to start the knife edge ridge traverse.

Libby was taking it very slowly, and with great caution, and this was just too much for Mac and Jenny so they moved ahead. Actually, I also though Libby’s pace was too slow. After all, we had a long way to go to get back to the car and the mountain trek was not even half over. I understood we needed to be cautious, but also knew we required a decent pace to complete the high ridges before dark. I was willing to bet I was the only one that had a flashlight.

The knife edge was all it was talked up to be; rough, steep, broken, narrow and in spots quite exposed. I was quite enjoying myself. Mac and Jenny were gone. The ridge was so filled with massive boulders and the “trail” that traveled the edge went up and down, some areas quite severely. It was a combination of walking and climbing, scrambling and sliding. The views, of course, were exceptional since there was nothing but air and view on both sides. Now it was nothing compared to the knife edge ridges I climbed in the Rocky Mountains up around 13,000 feet and higher, but for the region it had intensity, and in a storm or winter ascent, or for beginners, it could prove deadly with the wrong step. History certainly clarified that fact.

About halfway across the knife edge, I noticed the amount of people had thinned dramatically as most of them had made the peaks and were heading back down to Chimney Pond or most likely back to their cars on the lower elevation thoroughfare trails. I could see Mac and Jenny nearing South Peak about half mile ahead, and far above Libby and me. Libby was going slower and slower and I had to help her more and more. Finally I said, “Let’s take a short break.” She sat down, and as I looked around I kept my eye on her as well. She had her hands on her knees and I knew she was not resting them there. She was an energy worker and I could see her working energy going from her hands into her knees. After a few moments I gently but directly asked how her knees were doing. She looked up at me and leveled her eyes with mine with a look of concern.

She did not even have to speak for me to know her knees were not doing well. I asked her how bad they were. She grimaced a bit and said, “Not good.” She said they were swollen and the right one hurt so bad she could hardly put weight on it anymore. I studied her a bit and we spoke lightly. Then after feeling her knee a bit more she said it felt like she had torn something inside from the type and location of the pain. I looked behind us and the mountain was empty. I looked ahead and the only people I could see were a few at the top of South Peak. It was late in the day and the only ways down were back the way we came, over the knife edge, up Chimney Peak and Pamola Peak and down the rough boulder filled Dudley Trail, or continue on up to South Peak, across another ridge to Baxter Peak, and along north a good ways to hit a trail that went all the long way down to Chimney Pond. Beyond those two options the only other ways were technical climbs or falls down the cliffs beside us.

Libby was far too heavy for me to carry up South Peak on my back. During those days none of us had cell phones, and my “company phone” was back at the boat, so it was not like I could just phone for help. I told Libby to try and stand so we could see where we were with her physical ability. She stood on one leg and when she put the smallest amount of weight on her right one she yelled out in pain and collapsed back onto the boulder she was sitting on. Well that option was certainly out. I knew she was worried and I told her not to worry because I would get her off that mountain and she would be fine. She looked at me and with absolute seriousness she said, “Yeah, I know. I wouldn’t believe anyone else if they told me that but I know you can do it.”

To be continued in Part 4


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