So I get into work on Tuesday and go to check the weather for this weekend's hike, expecting the same thing I've been seeing. Showers, showers, more showers. Wait, what's this? Sunny on Wednesday??? Not showers, not mostly cloudy, not partly sunny, not even mostly sunny. Just flat out sunny. Rush to the bosses' office and get Wednesday off. It's time, the hike was decided in 486 microseconds (like my brain works that fast...). It's finally time to get W. Bond, and pick up Zealand and Guyot along the way. Woo hoo! I'm pumped, I'm psyched!
OK, set the alarm for 6. Book time is 9.5 hours, sure I can shave 1.5 off that. Gotta get to bed early. Try at 11:00, mind is racing. Argh. Finally I am all but out and I hear my alarm. WTF? It's 6 already? No, it's a wrong number at midnight (my cell is my alarm clock). Argh!!!! Toss, turn, mind still going, I maybe drifted off at 12:30.
I wake up at 4:45, and know there's no going back to sleep. Ah well, nice early start! Out the door, and can't wait for the drive to be over. I'm on the trail at 7:45 and enjoy (except for the bouldery part not on the old rail bed) the pleasant walk on the Zealand Trail. I start to hear Zealand Falls and know I'm about to arrive at a section of trail that will be new to me, the Twinway. Woo hoo! I also realize I actually have to climb now. Crap. Yeah, about 1300 feet to get up to the ridge, and it'll all be easy from there. Crap, I forgot there's a lot of little bumps between here and W. Bond. And what's up with the high summits in the clouds, dammit? It's supposed to be clear today! OK, it'll probably burn off. Onward!
Up to the hut where some kids are hanging out and a peek at the falls. Nice.
I quickly come to the Lend-A-Hand junction and then a brook crossing that gives me pause. It looks like a mini-Thoreau Falls crossing, with wet side that threaten to lose my traction and send me plunging a million miles to my death. Argh. I find a spot and jump uneventfully (and relievedly) across. Only on the way back do I notice three stepping stones downstream a tiny bit. Duh. OK, up, up, up the badly eroded, bouldery Twinway. I feel awesome today, I don't stop for extremely long stretches, adjusting my pace accordingly. A guy and his dog pass by me, which given paw prints later on, might have been doing the full traverse. Finally the slope lessens and I come to the much anticipated Zeacliff spur. And it lived up to all of the hype, and this was only the first of three excellent viewpoints of the day. The view down Carrigan Notch was the first thing my eye was drawn to.
A close second was the excellent view of the cliffs of Whitewall. This is another peak I'm looking forward to on a sunny, clear day.
A rather brazen White Throated Sparrow was hopping by me within a couple of feet. What, do you think you're a Grey Jay?
Still, those annoying clouds were in the way. Sunshine always brightens my mood, and were now threatening my precious views, so I kept wishing them away, and soon. Onward! To Zealand, the perhaps most maligned 4000 footer out there. The spur does a loop, and comes to a rather watery junction, perhaps the most unique junction I've ever seen.
There was some nice ledgey sections with its blessedly smooth walking, and finally I had to climb yet again to about the 4000 foot level. Which is where I saw “it.” “It” was not welcome. “It” was not unexpected, but I've had enough of “it.” “It” was snow.
I had heard of much nastiness on the Twinway coming over from S. Twin to Guyot, so I had my snowshoes and microspikes with me. What's a pack without lots of weight, anyway? It was patchy at first, so changing into anything would be useless. I topped out on the ridge, or so I thought, as I was then going down. A quick check of the map. Oh yes, this is one of the bumps. This will suck on the way out. Then it happened again, except with more down, which means more up on the way back, which will suck. A final up and I found myself at the Zealand spur. Cool. Peak #1 coming up. Some kids were hanging out here too, coming out of Guyot shelter, and told me they wished they had shoes. I felt good about my genius of adding this extra weight. A surprisingly quick and flat walk and I almost had to put on full brakes to keep from overshooting the summit. A family was there, and my first question was “where's that stupid sign?”. Ah, yes, to the right. They came up from the hut and were strolling about the mountains. I wish I could be that casual. A nice chat and off they went to Guyot but not before they took a shot of me admiring the view.
Actually, just off the summit, I was surprised to see there was something of a view, albeit extremely limited by the tree tops. Still, better than the thick closed in mess I was expecting. I ate some much needed food at this point, and then saw something move in front of me. A Grey Jay! Oh dang it, that's right, I had forgotten I had noticed Zealand has resident jays. Quick, quick, what do I have. No berries, no nuts. Damn, wonder if they like hermit cookies. Answer: a lot. The first bit might have gone into storage, but the second and third were eaten on the spot. I had wished the family hadn't left yet in case they didn't know about this bit of fun.
Well, I had exhausted all opportunities to do something on Zealand, so onward! Next stop, Guyot, the just barely non-4k, but happily shows up in the NH3k list, is above treeline, and has excellent views.
More snow, including some 2-3 foot patches, but it was somewhat firm, and never lasted, so it would have been a complete waste of time to switch into some traction. It was annoying that it was slowing me down my surprisingly excellent pace. Ah well, best to be safe as I got deeper and deeper into the woods. Geez, the slope off Zealand is steep and prolonged. This will really suck on the way back. I pass the family. Finally it bottoms. Yay! Oh wait, I have to climb some more. I keep checking my GPS for the mileage ticked off. Crap, I'm hardly through this 16.6 mile adventure. No no, don't think in large terms. Just think of Guyot. The climb up Guyot, as promised, is gentle enough to keep moving. Sweet. I can see the trees getting stubbier, and I top out. Woo hoo, peak #2 of the day! I see the bump in front of me is even more open. Oh yeah, bump, another hill I gotta climb up on the way back. That will suck.
Never mind that, the views! The views! Simply awesome. Dramatic slides along the Twinway, peaks everywhere. I make the quick trip to the other bump and take a ton of pictures. I spot what I think is Kearsarge (the mountain close to home), but it turns out to be Croydon and Gratham (a pleasant surprise). I snap another mountain, and that is Kearsarge. It's a beautiful clear day, and the clouds have finally disappeared. Oh, what a great day to be alive!
Boy, that col to Bond looks deep. And so does the one on W. Bond. What a bumpy day. So, back to treeline, more snow, but nothing lasts for terribly long. Where's the part I need the snowshoes for that these kids promised? Into the Bond col, and now I'm feeling the uphill. I pass the shelter spur and blow that off. This and Garfield are my favorites, but I have no desire to deal with any more down and up than I have to. A slow walk up and finally I see the spur junction. Thank God. I had forgotten (convienently or inconviently) about the col here, and I keep heading down, down, down. Oh how this will SUCK on the way back. Then I'm going up, up, up. It's ok, it's the last stretch, and it doesn't bother me, despite the steepness. And then, there I am standing on a bare ledgey summit. #3 for the day and #109/176 in the NH3k quest. And the view is everything it's cracked up to be. Carrigain's nice, but it ain't got nothing on this one.
Mountains, slides, talus, scree, everywhere to be seen. Ah yes, there's Loon, the piece of civilization that can be seen from here. No other sign of man. Wait, isn't that Littleton? Well, yeah, but it's far off and only a sliver. Never mind that. :) I scope out all kinds of bushwhacking adventures of the future. The summit is warm with enough of a breeze to be comfortable. It is a glorious day, and I've got this summit completely to myself the whole time. Despite any signs of humanity, I readily get a cell signal (not surprising given the altitude), and let my wife know things are going swimmingly and how thankful I am to be out here today.
Back to business, I eat some lunch thinking about how I'm only halfway done and start mentally counting all the bumps to be climbed over. All the while, I'm drinking in the views. It's funny, I've stayed at Guyot at least twice, and both times, I wasn't up for doing the hike out here for sunset. Which left this an evil straggler, best done as an overnight. Today was the opportunity to get this done as a day hike, and there is no doubt in my mind I will be back many times, and I will see that sunset more than once.
I hated to leave, even after sitting there for a good long while on such a perfect day, but I did want to get back home at a reasonable time. So I packed up, and picked my way down. From here on in, it was not to focus on how far out, but only getting up to each and every bump. The walk up to the Bondcliff Trail was a bit demoralizing, knowing how many of these uphills lay ahead, but it went relatively quick enough to perk me up. Down into the Guyot col, and I could see Little Guyot looming above. Why do peaks always look so far off and high? Again, it wasn't so bad and I ran into yet another group of kids heading to the shelter. The last one queried my plans, and I told him, and he said I was hardcore. Well, yeah, I felt like this was a big personal accomplishment, but in typical fashion, I replied, “more like crazy.”
OK, Little Guyot done, just focus on Guyot. Again, easy going. Nagging thoughts of that danged Zealand climb. Sigh. Get 'er done. Down I went, and at least the snow was getting easier to manage. Not sure if it was familiarity with the current conditions, or the warmth, but it was better going. And then the climb up to Zealand. Sigh. Just keep trudging. There was a blowdown here, so I placed my foot on a pile of snow, lifted my leg over, and plop. The snow foot sunk down nearly crushing some precious parts. Yoiks. Got over that without further incident and again, just focusing on the current bump at hand helped and reasonably enough, I was at the spur again. Next up, the nearest Zealand Ridge bump, nearly nothing, then the next one, a little more significant, and then I pass the Zealand family again. Along the way, a couple was heading to the shelter, and was a bit worried about my snowshoes. I assured them they were useless, and were only here to enjoy the scenery. Ah well, extra workout for me. Ha ha.
Now up to the Zeacliff bump, the last one before the long trudge down the Twinway, and I made another stop at Zeacliff to take in the cloud free views. Finally, I headed down, and realized just how horrible the Twinway is here. It was slow picking down the rocks, with some minor slips and major pole plants. The hut couldn't come fast enough. I was tempted to stop in and see what deliciousness was for sale, but I just flat out wanted to get out of here at that point. No time for pleasantries. More down, and the blessed relief of the Zealand junction appeared. Now it was mindless cruise time. Except for that rotten bumpy section (final insult to injury) off the railroad grade. Full circle. I was out at 4:30. A bit more behind than I had guessed at, so I was glad for the early start, and couldn't have had a better day. Despite the endless ups and downs, they were never that bad, and this is coming from a perpetual whiner. This was always rank as one of the most memorable and enjoyable hikes I have ever been on, and Guyot and W. Bond are now at the top of the best mountains in the Whites.