Foxcroft Academy employees and resident explorers Robert Canning, Jeremy Koch, and Jeryme Smith took four intrepid students–Matthew Kim, Kohei Kotani, Luiz Lyu, and Peter Xue–on a two-day trek to Mount Katahdin over the weekend of January 24-25. The seven brave souls camped near the base of the mountain Saturday night before beginning their ascent Sunday morning just before 8:00. They battled icy conditions, frigid temperatures, and heavy winds, but all seven were able to reach the summit.
“Very few experiences are like standing at the summit of Katahdin in January,” said Canning, who also took Foxcroft teacher Dan Straine and four students up the formidable mountain last winter. “I would say that, all things considered, the trip went very well. I don’t think any of us from FA had been in such extreme conditions before.”
Including the five-mile hike from camp to the base of the mountain, the group, which was accompanied by three experienced guides–including Jon Tierney, whom Canning described as “probably the most experienced guide in Maine”–traversed 15 miles on Sunday. They returned to the parking lot around 9 pm after spending nearly the entire day climbing and walking. “The day seemed endless,” said Canning. “Nonetheless, the kids were helpful and in good spirits throughout the trip. Despite a long and difficult descent, [Matthew Kim] talked and joked with the three of us chaperones for much of the ride back to Dover-Foxcroft.”
“It was the coldest I’ve ever been, but I felt so happy to make it to the top,” said Kim, who described the icy descent as the most harrowing part of the journey. “When we finally got back to the base, I was just so proud of myself that I made it. It was certainly an experience that I will never forget.”
Lyu, who wanted another shot at the mountain after badly chafing his ankle on last year’s trip, helped lead an inspirational reading of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” the evening before the climb. “At first he did not want to read to us (our group included some people who were not from FA),” said Canning. “But after some arm-twisting and encouragement, he suggested that each of the boys read a stanza of the poem, which they did, with the last two readers splitting the fourth stanza. The reading added something to our experience, and Luiz overcame a hurdle aside from the physical hurdle of climbing.”
Canning, who teaches Chinese and ESL at Foxcroft, was quick to point out that they could not have pulled off the trip without the three guides and a great deal of help from many members of the FA community, who lent equipment, prepared food, and helped with planning. He added that the adult chaperones, Koch and Smith, were a tremendous help with everything. “We couldn’t have done it without them,” he said. “They were right there whenever help was needed. I can’t say how much I appreciate their help.”
Canning has now climbed Mount Katahdin six times, and he plans to lead another expedition next winter. “At the end of these trips, trudging back to Abol Bridge, I almost always feel like I never want to see another mountain again,” he said. “But within a few days, I find myself looking forward to next year’s trip. We had a wonderful group of helpful, friendly people along this year, without whom the trip would have been more difficult, and less fun (well, ‘fun’ might be a stretch). It was great to climb with all of them and share this amazing experience.”
Jeremy Koch sacrificed his fingers to capture the image above and quite a few more.