PHOTOGRAPHED BY Chris Bennett Andrew Drummond Chris Shane Jamie Walter
Skier Andrew Drummond takes in a view of Katahdin’s Hamlin Ridge. Photographed by Chris Shane.
In winter, northern Maine’s mile-high KATAHDIN is a rugged, spectacular world apart. When four friends set out to ski it, the trip represented a physical challenge and a spiritual feat. The photos they brought back offer a glimpse of “The Greatest Mountain” as few ever see it.
Skiers and photographers Chris Bennett, Andrew Drummond, Chris Shane, and Jamie Walter planned their winter trip to Baxter State Park in a matter of weeks, after a friend offered up a reservation he couldn’t use. Park roads are closed in winter. It’s a 13-mile ski to the bunkhouse where the team spent their first night, then another 3 miles to a cabin at Chimney Pond Campground, beneath Katahdin’s summit. “Part of the challenge,” Shane says, “is figuring out how to bring all your gear in. What’s your sled setup? How do you rig it so you can carry it efficiently? All of our sleds broke down in one way or another, to where we had to jury-rig them.”
Photographed by Chris Shane.
Photographed by: Chris Shane (skier and sled); Jamie Walter (portrait, planning table, cabin); Chris Bennett (booting up).
Backcountry skiing on any peak requires substantial skill and experience. All members of the team are trained in avalanche safety, and all carried beacons in case of disaster. Payoff for their efforts included skiing lines rarely — if ever — skied (like the steep and narrow Chimney Couloir, pictured below) and unparalleled solitude. At Chimney Pond, the team ran into two other skiers (and acquaintances), Jordan Cargill and Koby Yudkin; a pair of rangers were the only other humans for miles. “There was a moment when the ranger came by our cabin,” Bennett says, “and he told us, ‘You know, in the summer, there can be 3,000 people here, but right now, you guys have 200,000 acres of Baxter State Park all to yourselves. You’re the only people here.’”
Photographed by Chris Bennett.
Photographed by: Chris Bennett (climber); Chris Shane (couloir, ski traverse, portrait); Andrew Drummond (steep descent)
“My favorite moment was getting up to the top of Hamlin Ridge at 3 o’clock in the morning,” Walter says. “We turned our headlamps off and saw the Milky Way perfectly. It was maybe 15 degrees, no wind, and the most surreal experience to be on top of the mountain with perfectly clear skies and literally all the stars aligned. We slept in our bivvy sacks for a couple of hours, then caught this spectacular orange-and-pink sunrise. It was probably the coolest moment I’ve had on any mountain in the world — I may never be able to top that experience.”
Cargill gets first turns at dawn. Photographed by Jamie Walter.
Photographed by: Jamie Walter (descent, summit, bivvy sack); Chris Bennett (camera portrait)
“Jamie and I had a moment at the top of Chimney Couloir where we just looked at each other and fist-pounded,” Shane remembers. “We’ve been friends awhile, and it was a special moment for us to be in the middle of this cool adventure together. But some of us had never met before we hit the trail, and it was this classic thing where you go spend a few days together in the Maine wilderness — then we all left Baxter just amazing friends for life.”