We snowshoed 6.3 miles into the Zealand Falls Hut on Sunday afternoon, up closed Zealand Road and then Zealand Trail. The road had a trail packed down but the trail had a little more powder on it. When we came around Zealand Pond, the trail was not visible at all, but previous experience helped us find it. The hike was very flat, except for the last tiny bit to the hut.
Beowulf, the caretaker, was stoking the fire when we arrived and grabbed bunks. AMC huts are not full service in winter, but a caretaker tends the wood stove during certain times of day, and the kitchen is available for use. I packed trail food, and then got to smell everyone else’s real food. Next time I’ll know to bring whatever I want to cook in the full kitchen.
There were only two other hikers there for the night in addition to my group of five, so we all hung out in the warm common room for a while before retiring to the chillier bunk rooms. I had my fifteen degree sleeping bag, but the low was expected to be below that, so I also added lots of layers and a hot water bottle. I woke up at 4AM sweating and had to get rid of it all.
We were up early for the long day ahead, 16.9 miles and about 4,000 feet of elevation gain. Bob would be finishing his first NH 48 and Inna would be finishing her Winter 48. Pam and Neil and I were just along for the ride.
The longest climb of the day was first thing out of the hut, up the Twinway Trail to Zeacliff. There were two especially steep sections that they keep ladders at in summer, but we each slowly climbed up, kicking steps in with snowshoes and slipping frequently. Once we arrived at treeline at Zeacliff, the rest of the day was spent just in and out of it. What a gorgeous day! Blue skies, low winds, sometimes no winds, and all above zero degrees. Later in the afternoon, it would get to the high twenties, and when the sun was shining, it was downright hot.
We took Twinway up Zealand Mountain, our first peak of the day. The summit at 4260′ was off trail, and the two hikers ahead of us had not been able to find it, snow was drifted so much at that elevation. Bob used his GPS to find where it should be, and we were able to bushwhack into the trail corridor to the summit. Because the snow was so high, the trees were very low, but we pushed through.
Next up was Mt Guyot at 4580′ and we would have been really out of luck without Bob’s GPS with the trail already tracked on it. Even with that, we spent quite a bit of time bushwhacking in different directions looking for a path through the tight trees. Some people found spruce traps, but nothing too severe. We stopped for lunch right below treeline, then finally popped out on the summit to expansive views.
From there, it was down into a small saddle on the Bondcliff Trail, and then up the West Bond Spur to the peak of West Bond at 4540′. Right in the middle of the Pemigewasset Wilderness, this small summit has views of so many mountains! We could see the Presidential range, Franconia Ridge, and many more.
We went back down the spur and rejoined the Bondcliff Trail up to Mount Bond at 4698′. More amazing views!
We hiked down the ridge to Bondcliff from there, an exposed stretch ending in the peak at 4265′. I had been looking forward to this section the most and it was amazing. We spent a while hanging out on top, celebrating Bob’s and Inna’s finishes, and then continued down the Bondcliff Trail.
It was already 4:30 PM and we had only done half the mileage for the day, although the remaining miles were easy: gradually downhill and then very flat for a very long time on Bondcliff and then Lincoln Woods Trails. Higher up, we were still dealing with high snow and low trees, but once we got lower, the trees were at their normal level. I felt as if I’d been hunched over and fighting branches half the day so it was a pleasure to stand upright again.
I switched into spikes for the last four or five miles of hard packed trail. I was definitely starting to get footsore at that point. We were able to move very quickly on the flat trail, but still had to get the headlamps out for the final hour or two.
I have now hiked 30 out of 48 NH 4,000 footers. See more photos here.