Salty's Zealand Trip Reports


Hiking Dates



Date Climbed: 07/06/2013

Distance: 18.9 miles

Low Elevation: 1166 feet
High Elevation: 4698 feet
Elevation Gain: 4318 feet
Elevation Loss: 5184 feet

Start Location: Zealand TH
Finish Location: Lincoln Woods TH
Route: Zealand Trail, Twinway, Zeacliff loop, Twinway, Zealand spur and back, Twinway, Bondcliff Trail, Guyot Shelter spur and back, Bondcliff Trail, Lincoln Woods Trail

Weather: Overcast to mostly sunny, 70s up top, 80s down below
Companions: JustJoe, Becky, Desi, BobC


No 3k finish for me until next weekend, so something for fun this time. Becky needed 4 peaks on this hike, and I've been raring to revisit the Bonds after almost 30 years, so a Bond traverse sounded completely awesome to me!

Desi, Bob and Joe rounded out the crowd. Except this hike almost never happened. Joe was rightly worried about thunderstorms on the open ridges, so the Moats were coming into play. At the last minute in the morning, the Bonds were back on the schedule. Maybe. Frantic phone calls, and a drive up to Joe's condo. We decided to head over and see what's what for the weather. Near Zealand Road, no one was being decisive, so I took the rare step of saying, let's do it, at least get Zealand, and see what happens. It was a late start, but we had plenty of daylight.

The usual trip up the Zealand Trail. Sort of. A new bridge replaced that horrible span that leaned right and was treacherous with ice or frost on it. And the drained beaver pond I had heard about. It added some interest to the now familiar trip. Up to the hut, where we ran into Brian's cousin-in-law. Neat. We camped there for a bit, and I climbed up a bit on the falls.

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Then Bob and I lost everyone. They thought I went up the trail, I thought the trail crossed there. So much for my memory. We caught up, and began what I consider to be a monotonous and relentless climb to the ridgeline. This was the worst, I kept telling myself, wondering if I was really going to have the legs for the traverse getting this pooped already. The clouds were threatening, and we got sprinkled on, but that was it. We finally topped out and made our way over to Zeacliff. With 10 other people. Oh yeah, holiday weekend, this was not going to be a hike of solitude. The views were hazy, but decent enough.

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Another reason we wanted to get up here was to catch the promised breeze. Boy, did that feel good on this humid day. Now for the lovely ridge walk!

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Joe and I scooted ahead, and I ended up losing Joe to a pee break. Ah well, I could stand to stretch my legs and I'd just meet everyone at Zealand. Happily I motored along, feeling great now, and plopped down at Zealand. Only 2 people here, with a third coming along shortly. Maybe 15-20 minutes later the gang showed up, and time for another rest. Lunch in Bob's case. A forty pound turkey sub.

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I had been thinking on the way over, and having expected a short day when I got up, thought it would be good to get out kinda early, so I asked if it was OK to just do the rest on my own. I only got smart-assed answers from the usual suspects, so I guess it was OK. I felt bad about bailing on them, and not spending more time shooting the breeze, but I also enjoy my solo time, so away I went.

I made fine time at this point, still feeling great. Up and over the bumps of Guyot, stopping at each and having them all to myself. Damn, these are some fine summits.

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Now off to West Bond. Or not. This is another great summit, but I went there 2 years ago, and I figured another mile and 30-45 minutes would not help at this point. So off to Bond. Or not. I was down to half a liter of water, and I knew there no water to be had for many miles. So off to Guyot Shelter. I had forgotten how flipping far DOWN this was. Argh. Why do they always build these damned things so far down. “Staying for the night?” “Nope, just getting water.” “Awesome!” Yeah, I knew they had to be packed this weekend. Filled up two liters and then chugged my way back up, up, up. Argh. Then I saw the most demoralizing sign in the world.

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Say, what? 8.1 just to the Lincoln Woods Trail??? There's miles after that! I knew Bond was the halfway point, but geesh, this made it seem like there was no way that was true. Sigh. OK, off to Bond, now on ground untramped by yours truly in 28 years. Damn, that makes me feel old. Pretty easy climb despite how it looks from afar, and I just kept on moving, adjusting speed to avoid having to stop. The skies started opening up, as I could see they would from Guyot. All the dark stuff hung around the Twins. Once one top, someone said “Salty!” Huh, wha? It took me a few seconds, but there was Tim who I haven't seen in some time. We chatted, finding out it was Roberta's 48 finish coming up on Bondcliff. Oh yeah, this peak is a gem. I could see the lovely open walk ahead of me. This rocks.

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I looked back, amazed at how small Zeacliff now looked. I left ahead of them, wishing them well if I didn't see them. I was anxious to trod across this splendid ridge. I headed into the scrub, breaking out quick enough, and I kept marveling at the slides on W. Bond. Yeah, they definitely look do-able.

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The breeze came and went. Much appreciated when it came, much desired when it didn't. I remember Bob describing the last climb up Bondcliff as demoralizing, but I didn't think it as such. To be sure, I was definitely slower at this point, but it came and went quick enough for my tastes. And then, there it was. Vertigo Rock. That rock that everyone gets their picture on. I have an old picture looking straight down from somewhere up here. I sure as hell don't have one of me on it, and today would be no exception. My vertigo's gotten worse, I took one step across the crack, and that's as far as I got. The large gap to the left was enough for my tastes.

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I did manage to get on all fours and hold my camera out for this dizzying shot.

I hung around the summit, taking it all in, when Tim and gang came along, and I offered to take some shots. I was honestly flinching anytime someone walked out there, fearful of a slip. Here's Roberta on the rock, and I'm surprised I didn't poop myself when Mike jumped down to that little ledge.

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Roberta ran the gauntlet of hiking poles, or as I put it, the Gauntlet of Very Smelly Traversers. I don't know if anyone else smelled. I was too overpowered by my smell. 4 years of sweat in my shirt seemed to release itself en masse. I bade adieu for the last time, and headed on down. I hit the ledge everyone seems to talk about and found it not bad at all. Unfortunately, the breeze was now gone, and I knew the further down I went, the hotter it'd get. Ah well, I just want to get outta here. The going was slower than I'd have liked due to steepness and footing, and I was looking forward to about 2300' where the slope would lessen. Regardless, I found some sections where I could move fast like a wild man, probably looking like I was skiing the way the poles were helping so much.

I arrived at the flatter section quite happily. For a minute or so. I then realized my legs were tired. Really tired. Crap. Many miles left. Worse, there was still quite a distance to the old railroad grade by the river. Sigh. Oh well, want to get out, chug on ahead, now without the help of gravity. As always, time slowed way down as it does on the way out, and it seemed to take hours to reach the Lincoln Woods Trail (I think, I've seen differing mentions of it starting at the railway or at the Franconia Brook Trail). I saw one of the camp clearings and kept on walking. Now was not the time to explore. I'm here, it's all wide and easy now, right? Wrong.

I forgot about the railroad ties. Pain in the butt to walk over. And why is this going up? The river goes down! It isn't much of an up, but my legs know it! Geez Louise. Then my feet started hurting. Badly. I dug out some debris out of my left foot and all was fine for a mile or so until I realized it was more blisters than anything else. Great. All the happy memories of today were fading into misery. The Franconia Brook Trail junction just would not come, either. I'd spot something, hoping it was a sign, but nope, just another illusion. Just keep walking. Just keep walking. I started to wonder if I was in trouble at this point. I hadn't really prepared for this mileage. Never mind that, steady diet of cigarettes and water (filling up yet again, hoping sufficient quantities of giardia were not present).

About 30 years later, I came to the junction. Hallelujah, familiar ground, having been here last year. The Falls and Black Pond junctions ticked off quickly (the latter startling me having come up so quick). My feet were in serious pain by then. I had overdone it. Just keep walking. Repeat. Ad nauseum.

I kept watching anxiously for the Camp 8 clearing to no avail. I knew from there, a measly 1.6 miles awaited me. Just keep walking. A large dose of sunlight came into view, but there was no joy at that point. I could feel the entire balls of my feet sliding around. Cursed wet socks. Cursed me for not bringing a spare pair. Just keep walking. After that, it was excruciating. Every step was misery, every pebble on the trail was torture. I was gritting my teeth in pain, swearing under my breath on the last mile, willing the bridge to come into view. When it did, it was less relief and more “it's about damned time you showed up.” I cannot tell you how thankful I was when for once, those stairs were not gated, saving me maybe 50 extra feet of walking. It was 7 o'clock. I hobbled to the car, just wanting to get those damned boots off.

Yeah, my feet were a painful mess. I had sandals with me, glad for that choice to let my feet air out. My boots were rank. I thoughtlessly (perhaps more lazily) threw them in the backseat and paid for that all the way home. It took 3 days for my feet to recover, and finally on Wednesday, my calves were reasonably free from pain and stiffness anytime I sat still for a while.

Was it worth it? Hell, yeah! That hike is a classic for good reason. I have been wanting to get back to Bondcliff for the longest time, and it was such a nice preview of what's in store for me post-list. Sure, there's things I would've done differently, but this is how one learns. And I'm a strong believer that no one is so smart they can't learn something in their so-called expertise.

As it turns out, it was wise of me to bail on my friends, despite some guilt at that. I had flippantly told my wife she would hear from me by 8:00, no later than 9:00, not really taking reality into account. It turns out the crew got out at 10:15. She would've been flipping out at that point. I had forgotten about that until around Bond. Things happen for a reason, things turn out for a reason. It's never failed me, though sometimes it takes a long time to realize that.

Date Climbed: 05/25/2011

Distance: 16.6 miles

Low Elevation: 2000 feet
High Elevation: 4580 feet
Elevation Gain: 4371 feet
Elevation Loss: 4371 feet

Start Location: Zealand TH
Finish Location: Zealand TH
Route: Zealand Trail, Twinway, Zeacliff loop, Twinway, Zealand spur and back, Twinway, Bondcliff Trail, West Bond spur and back, Bondcliff Trail, Twinway, east part of Zeacliff loop and back, Twinway, Zealand Trail

Weather: Partly sunny to clear later in the day. 70's with a breeze
Companions: (none)


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.

Another view of the falls

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 nice set. Bemis, Nancy, Anderson, Lowell, Vose Spur and Carrigain

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.

Whitewall with still annoying clouds

A rather brazen White Throated Sparrow was hopping by me within a couple of feet. What, do you think you're a Grey Jay?

A brazen white throated sparrow

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.

One of the most interesting trail junctions I have 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. Yay...

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.

Enjoying the views

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. They like hermit cookies

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!

Looking to S Twin

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.

South Twin

A wider shot to Franconia Ridge and Garfield

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.