This trip was a peak bagging mission, to be sure, but it's also one of the most remote areas in the Whites. We wanted to spend some time up on the Bond ridge. Most of my time there had been passing through on long day hikes or overnights where I didn't have time to enjoy the place. So some of us elected to take Friday off from work and hike up early. This also would allow us to get some places at Guyot Campsite, which is often overrun on the weekends. Ed and Kathy (and Jobildunk) drove up from Hanover while Brenda and I came up from Boston, meeting at the WMNF Sugarloaf Campground which is on the Zealand Road. Nothing special, just a place to pitch a tent, but it allowed us to get out early the next day.
Our start was delayed as we stashed a car a the North Twin trailhead (after I got lost finding it) then we dropped Ed off at the Hale Brook trailhead. He only had two left on his 4000'er list, Hale and West Bond. This trip would finish it off for him! The rest of us continued up to the Zealand trailhead and started in. The first part of the hike, up to the hut, is pretty flat and we made good time. The view through Zealand Notch was wonderful, but a little hazy. We cooled off in the waterfalls and then Brenda and I pressed on, leaving Kathy at the hut to wait for Ed to loop around on the Lend-a-hand trail.
The climb from the hut was steep and hot, but we had plenty of time and water. There were several groups of hikers coming from Galehead to Zealand, and occasionally we felt like salmon swimming upstream. They all left the hut at roughly the same time after breakfast and seemed to travel in a pack. By the time we reached Zeacliff, we were ready for a rest. Zeacliff is truly one of the most spectacular views in the Whites. You're right opposite Whitewall Mountain, a beautiful slide that has an old railroad bed running through it carrying the AT. Just beyond that is the Willey Range; Tom, Field and Willey. To the south is Carrigain which will be Brenda's last 4000'er. It's definately a place to inspire you. We grabbed a relaxed lunch and drank lots of water before pushing on.
From here the ridge is more gentle, and we climbed through more mixed terrain. We eventually came to Zealand Pond, just a short spur trail off the Twinway. We dropped pack and ran down for a bit, then continued to the trail junction for Mt Zealand. There's a fair sized cairn and a sign pointing to a rather narrow and unmaintained spur trail to the actual summit, whose main feature is a nicely routed sign. There's no view, no nothing, just a nice quiet spot in the woods. After dropping a bit of elevation, the trail begins a rocky climb to Mt Guyot. Although it is over 4000' it doesn't qualify as a 4000'er due to it not rising more than 200' from the nearest 4000'er.
At the Bondcliff trail junction we were getting out into more open terrain, especially as you approach the true summit of Guyot. We took summit photos looking north and south, then settled in for a spell. There's something about the summit area of Guyot that always mesmerizes me. It's not a dramatic place, more subtle than that. You get a sense of being apart from the fray up there. The weather was holding so we felt no rush to move on. It was still warm and sunny, and with Guyot Shelter just a mile or so away there was nothing that made us move on. Eventually a chilly breeze came along and we decided to push on, make camp, and start in on dinner. The section from Guyot towards the Bonds is to be savored, not rushed. When we reached the campsite, all the platforms were taken (4:00 on a Friday!) but the shelter was free. We staked out four spots for Brenda and me, plus Ed and Kathy, changed out of our hiking gear, and settle in for the night.
Day 2 dawned with one of the nicest sunrises I've ever seen from a shelter. But the wonderful colors also meant that there were clouds in the sky, and the forecast was for rain on and off. But peakbagging is peakbagging, and there was no thought of not going. Several groups were leaving, so we snagged three tentsites for us and Ching, Andrew, and Dave who were coming up that day. The shelter was going to be jammed, and we all prefered the solitude of the tent platforms. After setting up Brenda and I headed out, with Ed and Kathy to follow. They were going straight up West Bond to finish Ed's 4000'ers, we were doing Bond and Bondcliff first, expecting to hit West Bond on the way back. It was raining a bit, but we still had some beautiful and eerie views north towards Bondcliff. We grabbed a summit photo and continued on hoping that the weather would hold. But, alas, it didn't. As we approached the summit (and ate the wonderful blueberries that were in season) the skies opened up on us. We got a very gray view of the cliffs themselves and reluctantly turned back. By the time we met up with Ed and Kathy back on the summit of Bond the rain had stopped and there were at least some views. Brenda and I headed out to West Bond, which is a short spur off of the ridge. The summit is just a spike of rock that sticks out above the trees but it gives a sense of solitude that is hard to get elsewhere on the ridge.
We headed back to the campsite, wondering about Ching, Andrew, and Dave. They showed up around 2:30, dropped pack and proceeded to do the Bonds, very determined peakbaggers that they are. They didn't really get any views, but they accomplished their goals. We settled into our tents for a nap in the rain. By the time they got back we had set up the kitchen area at one of our tent platforms and Ching prepared a scrumption Pad Thai for dinner. It was devoured by us hungry hikers. Later, we settled into a slightly damp evening and an early bed.
We had lots of different agendas for the last day. Ching and Andrew needed to be at an afternoon party down near Worchester, so they took off early and headed back along the Twinway, the way they came in. Brenda and I and the other Dave were going out via the Twins to grab two more 4000'ers and hopefully get some more views. Ed and Kathy were going to sleep in, then follow our tracks. We were supposed to drive back to Zealand, pick up Ed's truck and drop it off back at the North Twin trailhead. We were hearing some thunder as we crossed the two summits of Guyot and we were getting a bit worried about our safety. Once we cleared the open areas and got back in the woods, the rain picked up and the thunder sounded directly overhead. We stopped, took off our packs, and found some cover and waited it out. It was a bit sketchy at times, but the storm passed without incident.
When we did get to the summit of South Twin, it was pretty cloudy. But after a few minutes some of the clouds cleared off and we spend some time drying out and enjoying the partial views. Then we pushed off towards North Twin, enjoying occasional views and a lovely walk in the woods. We only saw a few people along the ridge, and none on either summit. The summit ledges of North Twin provided a great place for lunch. Occasionally the ridges would come out of the clouds for some spectacular views. The rest of the trip was steady and long, a gradual trail once we got past the steep upper ridges of North Twin. A good chunk of the bottom of the trail is along a river and made for a nice end to the three day journey. We did all the car swaps and headed out by 4:00, and by then the summits were clearing.
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