FKT: Jordan Fields - Mt Katahdin (ME) - 2020-07-09

Gender category
Route variation
Abol Trail, car-to-car
Start date
Finish date
Total time
1h 36m 47s
GPS track(s)

After a preview of the Abol Trail the day before, I decided to give the FKT a shot. This trail is rugged with some sustained sections that require ambulation by all-fours on both the ascent and descent. The sign at the trailhead reads 4.4 miles to the summit but both times I did the route, my GPS watch read between 7.35 and 7.6 miles, round trip. I wonder if the signs have not been updated to reflect the re-route of the trail (after a landslide a few years ago) or if the dense canopy at the bottom just interferes with the satellite coverage. In any case, I began at 7:48am, starting at the trail register box next to the ranger station at Abol Campground. I was not sure whether the FKT started here or at the end of the campground, where there is another trailhead sign. I took laps on my watch both time I passed that later sign in case the route start and ends there, my time from that point would have been 1hr 35min 29 seconds. I began at what felt like a controlled pace but what quickly started to feel like a start too hot. I suffered a bit through the later parts of the grades below the landslide, alternating between a run and a power hike before hitting my stride on the steeper landslide sections once again and over the top of the tablelands to Katahdin summit, arriving there at 1:00:44. I touched the summit sign, with some looks of mixed disapproval and amusement by onlookers, and dove down back the way I'd come. Expecting the tablelands to be cruiser, I was surprised to find even these lower grades presented a significant technical challenge with a heterogenous mixture of basketball to refrigerator sized blocks creating the trail, resulting in a classical New England running style of three steps sideways, one step forward. Over the edge of the tablelands and onto the steeps I relied on the climbing adage "slow is smooth, smooth is fast" to move through the terrain where each step forward earns you about 4 feet down over large blocks strewn haphazardly across the mountain's flank. bale to relax a bit after surviving this section unscathed, I opened it up on the lower section of trail, avoiding disaster on a few slippery bedrock surfaces littered with grus and arriving at the trail register in 1 hour 36min and 47 seconds. Katahdin is not a peak to be missed for its isolation in Maine's North Woods, there are no places like it in New England. The scale, grades, and terrain will make Western runner feel at home albeit with significantly more technical trails. I scoffed at Thoreau's remark before coming to Katahdin, but perhaps he's right: "Why go west when Maine has it all?"