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Climbing a Z-Bonds Traverse in December

Hiking a ZBonds Traverse in December

A ZBonds Traverse is among the tougher hikes you are able to do in winter within the White Mountains. It’s even longer than a Presidential Traverse and way more distant. It requires mountaineering throughout the breadth of the Pemigewasset Wilderness for 23.3 miles from Rt 302 close to Twin Mountain, NH to the Lincoln Woods Trailhead outdoors of Lincoln, NH. It’s difficult by the very fact the forest service highway to the northern trailhead is gated shut, so you must stroll it, which provides about 3 miles to the size of the route. In all, you may anticipate to spend 12-14 hours mountaineering from one finish to a different except you must break path in deep snow, which makes the hike way more time-consuming.

The route plan:

  1. Zealand Rd – 3.5 miles
  2. Zealand Path – 2.5 miles
  3. Twinway 4.4: miles
  4. Zeland Mtn Spur – 0.2 miles
  5. Bondcliff Path: 8.7 miles
  6. West Bond Spur:1.0 mile
  7. Lincoln Woods Path: 2.9 miles

The route climbs 4 mountains on the Appalachian Mountain Membership’s 4000-footer record:

  • Zealand Mountain – 4264′
  • West Bond – 4518′
  • Mt Bond – 4696′
  • Bondcliff – 4263′

My common mountaineering companions weren’t accessible for this hike, so I connected with a crew that I’d by no means met in particular person earlier than. There was a climate window that was too good to move up, with low wind and little snow cowl. I wanted all 4 peaks for December on the White Mountain 4000 Footer Grid peak record and I used to be psyched to hike them early within the month. The Grid requires mountaineering all 48 4 thousand footers in every month of the yr for a complete of 576 summits. It takes most individuals a number of years to complete the 12 full rounds of the 4 thousand footers required to complete.

Sunrise on the Zealand Trail
Dawn on the Zealand Path

This was a particular hike as a result of it was the final hike that one of many hikers, Jamie Brunt, wanted to finish his Grid. He’d been engaged on the height record for 11 years and he was psyched that he’d end on Bondcliff, which is among the most picturesque peaks within the White Mountains. You couldn’t ask for a greater day too, with beautiful climate and wonderful path circumstances.

This was additionally a particular hike for me. Certainly one of my “massive” targets for this yr was to achieve 500 summits on the highway to the 576 summits required to complete the Grid. Bagging these 4 peaks would carry my rely to 498/576, placing me only one or two hikes from reaching that purpose with a couple of weeks left within the yr. In fact, mountaineering means extra to me than simply filling in a listing. I really like these mountains and being a member of the closely-knit White Mountains mountaineering neighborhood.

The day of the hike I awakened at 3:00 am so I may meet the workforce at 5:00 on the Zealand Lot on Rt 302, close to the Mt Washington auto highway. It often takes me about 75 minutes to get out the door for a winter hike within the morning. I ate, drank plenty of espresso, boiled 3 liters of consuming water for the hike so it wouldn’t freeze in the course of the day, and packed the meals I hadn’t packed the evening earlier than. The important thing to those lengthy winter hikes is to eat and drink very often to maintain up your vitality degree.

Zeacliff in the distance - our first climb
Zeacliff within the distance – our first climb

Essentially the most harmful a part of these winter hikes is driving to the trailhead at the hours of darkness after which house at the hours of darkness afterward. I hate driving within the Nationwide Forest at evening as a result of there are such a lot of animals crossing the highway. I’ve had a number of shut calls previously with moose, deer, and bears and most of my buddies have too.

Jamie arrived, coming from the trailhead on the finish of the hike with all the different hikers in our crew: Alex, Molly, Donna, and Jeremy. I couldn’t see any of their faces or what they actually regarded like standing at the hours of darkness, regardless of our headlamps.

We crossed the freeway and began up Zealand Highway, passing the closed gate. The highway was coated with a lightweight coating of snow however there wasn’t any ice and we had been in a position to naked boot it. Give it a month and will probably be coated in ice, rotten snow, and snowmobile tracks which might be a lot more durable to stroll on.

It was 3.5 miles to the conventional 3-season trailhead. The women took off and the boys tried to maintain up. I knew this was going to be a quick group and the miles glided by rapidly within the mild of our headlamps.

Taking a short break at Zealand Hut
Taking a brief break at Zealand Hut

We got here to the three-season trailhead after an hour and had a brief break earlier than heading up the Zealand Path to the Zealand Hut, an AMC cabin staffed by a caretaker which is open in winter. The charges are diminished if you wish to sleep there, however the cabin is unheated so you might want to haul in a heavy sleeping bag, pad, and meals if you wish to spend the evening. I stayed there earlier than on a winter Bonds Traverse in 2014 and I don’t suppose it’s actually value it. It doesn’t prevent that a lot time the subsequent day and you must haul heavier gear all day consequently.

Jamie and I naked booted for some time longer till the path turned too icy to proceed. Everybody else has placed on microspikes again on the three-season trailhead. We made it to the hut in after one other hour and took a brief break to chill out on the porch. The caretaker got here outdoors and chatted with us for some time after which we took off, managing the stream crossing on the backside of the Twinway Path with ease.

Early morning view of Carrigain Notch
Early morning view of Carrigain Notch

The primary mile of the Twinway isn’t my good friend. It climbs straight up 1000 ft in a mile. I couldn’t sustain with the tempo of the remainder of the group however I used to be solely jiffy behind them. This part might be the toughest a part of a Bond Traverse however it was over quickly sufficient. We met on the Zeacliff viewpoint which overlooks the japanese half of Pemigewasset Wilderness, Mt Carrigan, Mt Hancock, Mt Washington, and Mt Jefferson. It’s a fabulous viewpoint, nicely value a cease.

We set off towards Zealand Mountain and I fell off the group’s quick tempo once more. We had been mountaineering in about 4″ of unconsolidated powder. I caught up with everybody on the Zealand summit signal and informed Jamie I wasn’t feeling so sizzling. The group was actually supportive and so they inspired me to proceed, particularly since we had been almost midway by way of the route. They slowed down a bit and I used to be in a position to regain my composure. I think the all-out dash as much as that time had worn me out. Though I hike quite a bit, I’m in a special age group, and I’m not the pace demon I used to be 20 years in the past.

Above treeline on Mt Guyot
Above treeline on Mt Guyot

We left Zealand Mtn and climbed into the col between Zealand and Guyot, climbing by way of barely deeper powder. It was simple going although after which we broke above treeline at Guyot, which is a 4000-footer within the heart of the Pemigewasset, though it’s not on the White Mountain 4000-footer record. Guyot is my favourite peak within the Whites. It’s named after the one who drew the primary map of the Whites, Albert Guyot, pronounced with a tough “G”, Gee-oh.

There was just about no wind. The solar was out as we turned onto the Bondcliff Path, reaching the summit cairn on Guyot earlier than descending again into the krumholz on the south aspect. We handed the spur path to the Guyot campsite and climbed a brief distance to the West Bond Spur, the place we dropped our packs to hike out to the summit, a half mile away. We nonetheless hadn’t seen anybody all day.

Jamie is reveling in the perfect weather
Jamie is reveling within the good climate

West Bond was a simple climb and we had been quickly again on the Bondcliff Path, climbing to Mt Bond, the best peak within the group. Jamie was now at 575 peaks and the anticipation was rising. Molly had introduced some small cordial bottles to share with the group and gave Jamie his favourite, a Jameson’s.

The long decent from Mt Bond to Bondcliff.
The lengthy first rate from Mt Bond to Bondcliff.

Jamie led the best way down the lengthy ridge that runs from Mt Bond all the way down to Bondcliff and we adopted shut behind. Whereas it’s gradual, you do need to climb up the again aspect of Bondcliff to get to the well-known viewpoint overlooking the Hellgate. This can be a rocky ledge with an amazing view of Owlshead Mountain, Garfield, and your entire end-to-end size of Franconia ridge. Hundreds of individuals have stood right here for a summit picture.

Jamie and Alex head toward Bondcliff, #576
Jamie and Alex head towards Bondcliff, #576

Molly and Donna caught up with us and raced forward of Jamie to arrange for his celebration. They’d purchased occasion favors and glowing white wine to have a good time Jamie’s end. It was good enjoyable. We blew tiny plastic horns and posed for quite a few pictures. Though these had been Jamie’s good buddies, I felt very welcomed by them and joined within the celebration.

Jamie brunt’s Grid finish on Bondcliff
Jamie brunt’s Grid end on Bondcliff

Jamie was consuming all of it up, however I can’t think about what he was pondering. Think about engaged on peak record for 11 years and at last ending it. It should be an amazing sense of accomplishment.

The hellgate.
The hellgate.

We had been quickly again at it, starting the lengthy 9 mile stroll to the Lincoln Woods Trailhead and the final 6 miles within the flats glided by quick. We’d discarded the spikes and had been again in naked boots once more. There was little or no snow on this aspect of the mountains. so we had been in a position to end rapidly regardless of the darkish. After we lastly arrived on the Lincoln Woods Trailhead, I used to be amazed on the quantity of people that got here out to greet us. Jamie is a very fashionable man!

After a couple of items of pizza equipped by Jamie’s spouse, we ran the reverse shuttle and I drove again house at the hours of darkness. I used to be drained however exhilarated to be a part of such an outpouring of friendship in Jamie’s honor. Certainly one of nowadays, I hope to complete the Grid too.


Zbonds in Winter

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