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RECOMMENDATIONS FOR WINTER VISITORS

The isolation of the Park in winter and the possibility of exceptionally harsh weather for this latitude should be sufficient warning to leaders and other members of their parties not to underestimate the care and thought which should go into the planning of their visits. To aid in this planning and to help make your visit more enjoyable, the following suggestions obtained from experienced winter visitors to the Park are offered:
Food
Clothing
Personal Equipment
Search and Rescue

FOOD

Food, not clothing, is the source of your heat, so a diet high in carbohydrates, along with some fats, is recommended. Dry foods, such as pasta, rice and powdered potatoes, cheeses, and freeze dried meals are good choices because of their light weight. Canned goods and anything liquid should be kept to a minimum because of the weight and the possibility of their freezing. "Gorp" (a mixture of nuts, raisins and candy), a fruit cake and cheese are good high-energy trail food. Eating small amounts at frequent intervals will keep your "engine" running at its peak. The steady intake of liquids is important to replace those you are losing constantly because of exertion. While a canteen at the hip or a plastic bottle in a day pack are adequate in temperatures above freezing, smaller plastic containers carried inside one's clothing are a better bet in winter. An added advantage is that the water or fruit juice will be preheated to some degree by body heat and therefore will not chill one's inner core when swallowed. Instant soups make refreshing hot drink upon one's return to camp and help restore body salts and liquids.
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CLOTHING

Wool and its synthetic substitutes, such as pile, are the preferred materials for inner clothing. "Cotton kills" is the simple motto of most winter mountaineers. While wool wicks moisture away from the body, cotton absorbs it and, thus, feels cold and clammy; wind and wet cotton can quickly lead to hypothermia. Easily removed layers of clothing make it possible to maintain steady body heat in varying degrees of effort and temperatures. Windproof outer clothing, such as a hooded mountain parka and windpants, should be a basic part of everyone's equipment.

Since much of one's heat loss is through the head, warm wool caps or balaclavas are recommended. This headgear should be wearable under a climbing helmet. Face protection against high winds is a necessity above timberline (masks and balaclava are best) and frequently welcome anywhere in the Park. A second pair of sunglasses capable of dealing with bright snow conditions is good insurance.

Wool mittens are warmer than gloves, and windproof shells over these assure added warmth. A spare pair of mittens should be carried in one's day pack. Proper footgear can be of life-and-death importance. Some prefer double boots; some like single boots with insulated gaiters or overboots; while others swear by rubber-soled pacs with felt inner liners. The latter are among the warmest of footgear and well liked by snowshoers and as camp footwear by cross-country skiers. Rubber-soled pacs with felt liners and U.S. surplus moonboots or "mickey-mouse" boots are not rigid enough to be safely fitted with crampons.

ACCEPTABLE BOOTS FOR WINTER TECHNICAL CLIMBING:

1. Rigid soled double climbing boots made of leather or plastic.
2. Pac boots with felt liner and rigid vibram soles.
"Supergaiters" are not an accepted substitute for boots listed above. All boots should be adequately waterproofed and further protected by snowproof gaiters reaching to just below the knee. Remembering that heat comes from the body and not from the footgear, one should allow for plenty of insulation around the foot (at least two pairs of heavy wool socks in mountain boots and cross-country ski boots) and a slightly loose fit so as not to interfere with blood circulation. Spare socks are a must.

Many like to carry a down jacket or parka for use around camp, for emergency bivouacs and to wear in extreme cold. However, since rain is a possibility in Maine at any time of the year, and because wet down offers little in the way of protection, one is better off relying on wool or synthetic pile for all-around use since the latter materials are little affected by water and will help keep one warm even when wet. Supplement these basic suggestions as needed, with a light woolen shirt or sweater, trousers, etc., remembering that the weight and bulk of clothing quickly fill the pack and leave little room for food and essential gear.

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PERSONAL GEAR AND EQUIPMENT

Most of the designated campsites and campgrounds in the Park are a considerable distance from the winter roadhead, with the exception of those in certain parts of the west and northern sections which may be approached by snowmobiles. The more isolated sites require several hours of foot travel under good conditions and more when the weather deteriorates. Because of possible deep snows, all visitors are required to have skis or snowshoes. And since there is always the chance of delay due to injury or weather, it is strongly suggested that all parties, both above and below timberline, carry lightweight two-person bivouac sacks for each two persons in the group.

If a party has more gear than can be carried in a single move by its members, it probably has two much. In paring down one's load, a good rule to follow is to carry nothing which will not be used -- except, of course, first aid kits and repair materials.

Bunkhouses are provided with woodstoves for heating, but no provision is made for cooking or lighting. Firewood is available at most campgrounds; (check to verify before your trip, in the event that we were unable to haul wood to a particular site in any given year) campers will need to bring a saw or ax (per group) to work up firewood. Backpacking stoves with fuel in leakproof containers, plus cooking pots and pans, are the usual choice. The use of portable gas stoves for cooking purposes is only permitted during the winter camping season in bunkhouses and cabins. The use of candles is prohibited in cabins and bunkhouses unless the candles are totally enclosed in candle lanterns. Flashlights, candle lanterns, and headlamps can be used for light, but some veterans of long winter evenings in the bunkhouse opt for one gasoline lantern, figuring the luxury of the brighter light is worth the extra weight and fuel.

A party of climbers is usually happy to have a file, tools for adjusting crampons, a few spare parts, and an extra pair of crampons and a spare ice ax. Alpine skiers will also want to have spare parts on hand. A light-weight day pack for each pair of climbers or skiers may be worth the slight extra weight.

The bunkhouses do not have mattresses so sleeping pads will be needed. A water-resistant sleeping bag cover will also prove useful, both for added warmth and in the event that the bag has to be used outside. Campers staying in cabins at Daicey and Kidney Pond should be every bit as prepared for cold conditions as any other winter campers; these cabins are old and though in good repair, they do not heat up thoroughly or retain heat in cold weather despite the use of woodstoves. Therefore, warm footwear and clothing for in-camp use is a necessity.

Mandatory accessories include a topographic map of the Park, a personal compass (NOTE: Because of ore deposits present, a compass is not always reliable on Mt. Katahdin), suggested accessories include: pocket knife, a chemical heat pack, a pocket hand warmer, and a small roll of electrician's tape.

Some skiers and climbers have found that they can ease the load on the long trip in and out by hauling their packs on small plastic children's toboggans or woods sleds on the road sections. However, bear in mind that crust or ice conditions may make such tows a nuisance.

While the above notes should prove useful in your planning, they are not meant to cover all aspects of your preparation. Each leader is responsible for seeing that his party is properly equipped, sufficiently skilled and made fully aware of the Park rules. Ultimately, each individual is responsible for his or her actions and well being.

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A NOTE ON SEARCH AND RESCUE

One enters a wilderness environment such as Baxter State Park at one's own risk. While fortunately uncommon in occurrence, the possibility of injury or death is always there, and one of a leader's responsibilities is to minimize hazards by good planning and common sense. For instance, parties leaving on day trips should do so at an early enough hour to be back well before dark. Any trip, be it technical climbing, hiking or skiing, should have a "turn-back time" that is honored religiously by all members of the party. Late arrivals may trigger the start of search and rescue operations which are costly in time, effort and danger to those participating.

A rescue effort on the mountains or in more isolated sections of the Park will be hours in coming, at best, and may be delayed far longer by bad weather, nightfall or accidents among the rescuers (they are not immune from trouble despite their training). Thus, a party should be prepared for self-rescue, if possible, and be equipped for an extended stay in the open in any event. This is the reason for requiring a minimum of four persons for all activities and for recommending that each pair of mountain day trippers have a sleeping bag, two-person bivouac sack, extra clothing, and food and water.

Good prior planning and everyday common sense will greatly reduce the inherent dangers one accepts when visiting this remote Park in winter. With these two important considerations guiding your approach, chances are excellent that you will visit Baxter Park in winter safely year after year to enjoy its pleasures and challenges.

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Return To Baxter State Park Home Page


Baxter State Park - Baxter State Park is in the heart of Maine, with Mt. Katahdin as its crown jewel. Hiking, climbing and other recreational activities await you in Baxter State Park.

Winter Rules - The Baxter State Park Authority has developed a set of procedures and guidelines for winter use in an effort to assist Park users in planning trips to Baxter State Park, to promote safety of all persons using the Park and to protect the Baxter State Park Authority and its staff from unnecessary search and rescue efforts.

Day Use Regulations - No special permission is required for day use below tree line. However, in the interest of public safety we strongly discourage people from traveling alone in the winter; party size of at least 2 is strongly recommended, 3 or 4 is better! Day users are requested to check in and out at Park gates, volunteer registration points or Park Headquarters, by phone if more convenient. This is for the safety of users in the event of an accident or emergency and helps us keep statistics on Park use.

Technical Climbing - Get the latest in rules and regulations before you head out on a climb.

Winter Camping Regulations - Camping in the winter is not for everyone, so check this page before you venture out to the Park for a winter camping adventure.

Administrative Procedures Governing Winter Activities - The Baxter State Park Authority encourages winter use of the Park; but is vitally concerned with the safety of winter visitors. Users of the Park in the winter must comply with the Rules and Regulations of the Park.

Recommendations For Winter Visitors - Food, not clothing, is the source of your heat, so a diet high in carbohydrates, along with some fats, is recommended. Dry foods, such as pasta, rice and powdered potatoes, cheeses, and freeze dried meals are good choices because of their light weight.

Alpine Skiing Regulations - Get the latest in rules and regulations before you head out on a climb.

Day Use Hiking Guide - Those of us who work for Baxter State Park cherish the land we manage and hope you will strive to respect both the land and its inhabitants during your visit here.

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