Friday, January 18, 2013

Katahdin 2013 - Part 1: Preparing & Submitting a Reservation

(Photo Courtesy of Chris Lang)

Around Christmas time, I announced my plan of a winter attempt of Katahdin. Well, it will be here before I know it, and that means I'm starting to prepare. Planning a winter trip into Baxter State Park (BSP) has gotten easier over the last few years, they say, but when the plan involves perhaps the most challenging winter alpine environments in all of the Northeast, it requires a good deal of coordination, knowledge, and experience beyond just making a reservation. There's a lot that goes into a trip like this, and certainly climbing Katahdin in winter is a big deal to me. For that, we're going to have some fun, and I'm going share my experience of planning and hopefully executing a successful winter Baxter trip. Welcome to Katahdin 2013 by DMOutdoors.

Before the plan and the reservation, it all starts with the idea. Katahdin in winter. No wait, a Knife Edge Traverse to Katahdin in winter. No wait, we can get Hamlin too! This is how it goes down when you have six individuals who either love to peakbag, climb in winter, or indulge in some backcountry skiing. So there it was, before this winter even started there were six of us who agreed that a winter trip to Katahdin was going to be a part of our winter, and here we are! Follow along as I take you through this adventure from idea to execution.

Part 1: Preparing & Submitting a Reservation

I submitted my reservation in the first week of November. Baxter begins accepting winter reservations on November 1st. Winter reservations are required for above treeline travel and camping. Winter day hikes below treeline only require you to check-in and out. Here are the steps I took for completing a winter reservation for our camping and above-treeline excursion in BSP:
  1. Read as much as possible from the Baxter State Park website before sitting down to plan your trip. This includes printing and reading the BSP Winter Handbook in full. Then, print out a Winter Reservation Form which will help you move through the rest of the planning process in terms of the information you will need to obtain about your group and plans.
  2. Establish an approximate itinerary with specific objectives for the outing to include on the reservation. This is where the rough plan is made up, and you start to see who is interested in those objectives. This gets the discussion going with your team so that you can take on the next couple of steps.
  3. Determine your desired group size. Be sure in advance that all team members have the appropriate experience for backcountry travel in winter. After this has been discussed, finalize the list of team members, and obtain all of the appropriate information from each member. This includes emergency contact information to be put on the reservation form and vehicle information for any vehicles being parked at the winter parking area - Abol Bridge.
  4. Determine how many nights the adventure will be, and establish first choices for your reservation. There are several different types of shelters to reserve in BSP, such as lean-tos, bunkhouses, and cabins. This an important early step in deciding your plan, because sleeping in lean-tos is a lot different than a bunkhouse with a heated stove, and will require additional preparation and gear. Although you don't have to have indicate 2nd choices on the initial reservation form, it might be a good idea to do so, or you could either include a backup on a separate piece of paper, or just have it handy and ready at home. The park may call you directly if your reservation request is already booked.
  5. Include the appropriate payment information with your lodging choices, and send your reservation form off to the BSP Authority. This is most likely going to be credit card information, so look up on the lodging prices and know what might get charged to your card.
  6. Wait for confirmation. My confirmation came in about a week for me by phone. Because the Chimney Pond Bunkhouse was already booked for the night we wanted, I made a few quick calls, and after a final call back to the park, I was all set with the agreed upon alternative. A few days later, I received the official confirmation by mail. 
And that was it! Now we wait, plan, and prepare for a long weekend of winter alpine fun in Baxter State Park. In the future parts (posts) to this trip, you can expect to read about our specific itinerary, team member introductions, gear lists, practice and preparation activities. You can find all of these posts, when posted right on my new navigation tab for Katahdin 2013!

PS. If anyone has any good winter Katahdin photos (about 3-5, maybe) that they would like to share with me for this and my next few posts, please send me an e-mail or message on Facebook. I would like to include some photos with these posts. I would be happy to add a link to your site. - Thanks!


  1. I've got some pics, video and a writeup posted here on my trip to Baxter last year.

    1. Hi Chris, Thanks very much sharing your links. I most definitely came across your blog and video when I was looking up information for the trip. Your photos and video are great. The plan will be similar. Thanks again!