Last week, Geoff Pingree, David Gibbs and I survived epic objective hazards (hurricane Irene, park rangers, and massive wild blueberries) to ultimately climb the SW Ridge of the Howe Peaks in Baxter State Park in Maine. This route is on the huge 700-foot headwall in the north basin, also known as the North Basin Headwall (NBH).
Since there is no guidebook and the ranger said, "no one ever goes to the north basin", we thought the route finding on The Nose should be straight forward. We left the Chimney Pond Campground and hiked north on the Blueberry Ledges to the end of the trail. Then we (mostly) followed the climbers path to the base of the wall. The approach normally passed between two ponds, which last week were actually one lake
The bushwhack around was lengthy and difficult. Ultimately the approach took three hours.
The route was good quality rock with a an excellent variety of moves, spacious ledges, and very adequate protection. We quickly climbed about 500 feet up old school 5.5 to a huge corner. We were all puzzled by how steep the moves into the corner were (5.10+), so we eventually moved down and left. Later, we figured out that we were on a harder variation with some aid moves through the headwall. After about 100 feet of vertical vegetable climbing, we were on top of the wall.
We switched to approach shoes and short roped for about 600 feet of fun ridge scrambling, in the 5.0 to 5.2 range. We were at the foot path on top of the main, Howe Peak ridge after 5 hours of roped climbing. We doubled back around to Hamlin Peak and down the Hamlin Ridge Trail back to Chimney Pond (11:45 RT).
THis is a highly recommended outing. The wall is not as steep as the Armadillo or the Flatiron in the South Basin, but the roped climbing sections on the NBD and its ridges are longer. Some pics are attached. DG can be seen in the lower left corner of the shot taken during the approach. It gives some sense of scale.