Sunday, February 15, 2015

Zealand and The Bonds - Jan. 24, 2015

Route: Zealand Road, Zealand Trail, Twinway, Zealand Spur, Bondcliff Trail, West Bond Spur, Lincoln Woods Trail
Peaks: Zealand (4260', NH4K), Guyot (4580', TW72), West Bond (4540', NH4K), Bond (4698', NH4K), Bondcliff (4265', NH4K)
Mileage: 23.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 4600'
Book Time: 14hr (actual: 11hr 10min)

After a great trip to Maine at the beginning of the month, I took a week off from hiking and then began eying a Zealand-Bonds traverse as the weather was staying fairly stable. The first target weekend was cancelled due to weather, but as the week before this hike progressed, it was looking good for this hike. Theresa needed these peaks for her winter 4000-footer list, and both Ian and I had a hankering to get to these peaks, and so a plan was formed for the 3 of us to do the traverse. Towards the end of the week, however, I found out that Tim was heading to the same place, for his golden retriever Gryffin's 4000-footer (non-winter at the moment) finish, and had a group already lined up to head with him. So we tagged onto the group, which ended up totaling 10 human hikers and 4 canine hikers.


Gryffin, the happy golden who probably hiked/ran over 40 miles on this hike and was still bouncing around at the end.

Brent and Lucy, plus Jason. It was great to finally meet Brent and his beautiful pup after reading about their exploits.

Zealand Mountain (R) with the Zeacliff viewpoint on the left, from the Zealand beaver ponds.

Zealand Hut from the beaver ponds.

The weather forecast was a little less perfect late in the game, as it looked like the clouds were going to roll in mid-afternoon, but the temperatures and winds were to be mild, so we moved the meet time up to 5:15 at Lincoln Woods, and were on trail around 6:10 from Zealand Road. Headlamps were on for the first half hour or so of this hike, but the sky soon lightened as we motored up the road at a good pace. It is a roughly 3.75-mile road walk to the start of the Zealand Trail in winter, which we knocked off in about 1hr 15min. Fast would be the theme of this hike as it turned out. We made similarly good time up to the Zealand Hut, still bare-booting on the solid track, where we put the snowshoes on and after a snack break, we tackled the steepest, longest climb of the day up to Zeacliff. The group started to spread out a little during the climb, which turned out just as well as the dogs were all still getting used to each other. I was also having trouble getting the bindings set properly on my MSR snowshoes, which were new bindings after a trip out to Seattle for some RMA work. The views from the viewpoint were tremendous as always, despite the overcast skies. The cloud deck was way over our heads and in fact even the summit of Mount Washington was clear out of them!

The Presidential Range behind the Willey Range as seen from Zeacliff

Pano from Zeacliff

Whitewall Mountain

Mount Washington standing tall

Carrigain Notch from Zeacliff - that's Carrigain on the right

Carrigain and Vose Spur - you can just see the talus field in the col between them that offers some really cool views.

The Hancocks
After enjoying the views for a little while, we headed off up the trail towards Zealand's summit, accessed via a short spur trail after a gradual climb with a couple short steep pitches along the way. The summit had plenty of snow on it, but not as much as when I was there in March a couple years ago, where the sign was only about a foot off the snowpack. Still, this is much earlier in the season right now. Returning to the Twinway from the summit for a snack break, Alex and Chris caught up to us for the second (and not the last) time on the day. They were doing the same traverse as us, and a little ways behind them was a 9-person Meetup Group that I knew several people from (they never caught us as they climbed up the Firewarden's Trail to Hale first, for an added challenge to this lengthy hike. All in all, there were probably 30-35 people on the Bonds on this day, it was the place to be!

I love this summit sign! Probably about 3 feet of snow on the ground here.

Ian and Marlie on Guyot.
We made the short descent and then the climb up to Guyot, breaking treeline near the summit, and finding only a light breeze. I was still in my base layer at this point, and perfectly comfortable in fact! We could see our next destination, West Bond, a little ways away, along with all the usual peaks that can be seen from this area.

Bond (C) and West Bond (R) from treeline on Guyot

The Presidentials again, this time from Guyot

The Twins

Franconia Ridge

The rest of the crew heads towards West Bond, first having to climb over the Southern knob of Guyot.

Garfield (L) and South Twin (R) from Guyot

Franconia Ridge
With most of the climbing for the day out of the way, we made quick work of the descent to the spur to the Guyot Shelter (which didn't look to have seen any traffic in a while), dropped our packs at the 1/2-mile spur to West Bond, and scampered off now unencumbered, to that terrific little peak. The views are terrific from all 3 of the Bond peaks, but West Bond is a tiny summit area, fairly close to the Guyot Shelter (about 1 mile away), and is a popular spot for taking in the sunset. On this day, we had it to ourselves for a while, before we headed back to our packs, where we ran into several other hikers who had come up from Lincoln Woods.

Mount Mansfield, the high point of Vermont, was clearly visible, despite being over 70 miles away on an overcast day!

South Twin from West Bond

Bond (L) and Bondcliff (R) from West Bond

Franconia Ridge and Garfield from West Bond.

Franconia Ridge with the mass of Owl's Head in front.
We could see clouds rolling in over the Osceolas to the South, so we wasted little time in climbing up to Bond, but by the time we got there the visibility had dropped pretty abruptly and there were a few snowflakes in the air. With an exposed ridge to traverse still, we headed off pretty quickly, and made the traverse, during which time the clouds cleared up a little bit again. Most of us had our pictures taken on the infamous Bondcliff cliff, or at least close to it, as the actual rock was covered in ice and a bit treacherous. We had a short celebration on Bondcliff to congratulate Gryffin (not that he probably cares about lists!). Then it was time for the long 9-mile hike out, which starts off with a steady descent, but eventually levels off and returns to railroad grades. The first part of the descent was punctuated by some steady snow, but that lasted for only about 30 minutes. Down around the second or third crossing we took off our snowshoes and barebooted or microspiked the rest of the way out to the waiting cars.

Bondcliff from Bond - the clouds rolled in

West Bond from Bond - barely visible!

West Bond while on the way to Bondcliff - hey, things cleared up a little!

Climbing Bondcliff, with Bond looming behind.

Taking turns on Bondcliff's infamous cliff.
We had some great color in the sky for sunset on the Lincoln Woods Trail as the skies had cleared some, and we just barely needed headlamps before reaching the parking lot. We had made absolutely terrific time, just over 11 hours to traverse the over 23 miles! We'd all had a great time, it was a great hike with some great people (and dogs! I don't think I've ever hiked with 2 at once before, let alone 4!), and with a group of extremely strong hikers (including one recent grid finisher), we made quick work of this hike thanks to excellent trail conditions and weather. After ferrying everyone back North to their cars, everyone parted ways, most for home, but Theresa and I had plans to do a short hike the next morning...

Down at the old Wilderness Trail junction, now a continuation of the Bondcliff Trail. 5 miles to the cars!

Sunset lighting the sky from the Lincoln Woods Trail

No comments:

Post a Comment