Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Bonding Backpack

Fresh off a fabulous week in Baxter we were quickly going into mountain withdrawal.  What better fix than to spend a couple of days backpacking the Bonds!  We'd been planning this trip for sometime this summer and after passing it up during Seek the Peak week it was basically down to the first opportunity with a couple of good days in a row that I could get out of work.  The forecast for Thursday and Friday were pretty much perfect, and my calendar was clear.  Done!  Thursday night would also be a perfect night to stay at Guyot and avoid the crazy summer weekends.

It was up at 3:30 on Thursday morning and on the road by 5:00.  The traffic was easy and with our few stops and time to gear up we were on the trail at Zealand a bit after 9:00.  We met another couple in the parking lot, Chris and Jim, that had the same itinerary as us.  We started out together and met up on the trail numerous times during the day.  The walk out through Zealand Valley to the hut was beautiful as always.

Ready to seek some peaks

Building a new bridge in Zealand


Zealand morning reflections


Zealand Hut

Zealand Notch

The hut forecast says - BEAUTIFUL!

After a quick break at the hut we started up the Twinway.  The climb is always worth it as the reward is Zeacliff!

Up the Twinway

The most understated sign in the Whites

Hazy morning on Zeacliff.  Still stunning

Presis in the distance

Nat heading for her favorite spot

Whitewall over Zealand Notch

After having our lunch on Zeacliff we headed on.  Shortly after getting back on the trail we passed a man heading down rather quickly and not wearing a pack.  He just breezed by me and as he passed Nat he mumbled "have to get down to the hut, my wife is back there with a broken leg".  Damn!  We continued on for about another 1/2 mile and found the man's wife by the side of the trail covered in a bivy with another hiker watching over her.  She had apparently slipped coming down the ladder and broken her leg.  The other hiker (who was apparently a NoBo through hiker) had been able to reach the Forest Service on his prepaid flip phone while none of our smartphones could get a signal.  It was going to take a few hours for the first rescuers to arrive.  The woman was in surprisingly good spirits and was very calm.  It was going to be a very long day for her and we left her thinking about how easily this could happen to any of us.  We hope everything worked out OK for her.

Nice of them to install a sidewalk

Careful on that ladder!

Up the ledges

When Nat and I did the Franconia to Crawford Notch hut hike 4 years ago we had been here for the first time.  For some complicated reasons we had split before we got to the Zealand summit spur and Nat had gone past it.  I went out and tagged the summit and by the time I caught up with her she had no interest in going back.  This was the only summit in our first 43 that we hadn't been on together.  Today Nat would get to go back and make it official.

The unbounded joy of conquering Zealand!!!

Slightly more subdued

With the formality of the Zealand summit out of the way we headed off and over Guyot.  Along the way we passed a group of about a dozen Harvard students that were also headed to Guyot for the night. So much for the un-busy Thursday night.  We now were moving with a new sense of purpose - securing our campsite!

On the approach to Guyot

Pretty path

Mt Guyot

Slides along the Twinway

Like walking across a pasture

Garfield peeking over

Franconia Ridge over Owl's Head

We arrived at Guyot campsite around 3:00 and shortly behind Jim and Chris who were the first of the day to arrive.  We told the caretaker about the group of students behind us and he brought us around and gave us the top tent platform above the shelter.  He figured that would be the quietest site.  He told us to keep our tent as close to the edge as possible so that he could squeeze in someone else if necessary.  As it turned out, the campsite was filled past capacity and not only did every platform (except ours) have multiple tents, he also had several groups set up tents in the shelter and one in the woods on the trail down.  Not sure how we kept our private site, but it sure was nice!  He also showed us the nice new bear boxes that were brought in by helicopter this year.  They've already had multiple tests, including having a bear roll one of them off the platform!

Getting set up at Guyot

Don't exit this end of the tent!

Looking cozy

Guyot spring.  Delicious!

Shiny new bear boxes

Somebody has already taken a shot at them

Dinner on the stove.  Pad Thai

After getting settled in and cooking a nice dinner of spicy Pad Thai we headed back out for the Bonds.  We didn't really have a specific plan.  We'd done Bondcliff three years ago, so we didn't need to do it again, but we both would have liked to get over there.  We figured we'd head to Bond first and make a decision from there.

Heading up Bond after dinner

Approaching Mt Bond summit

Beautiful evening views to the Presis


Carrigain and the Hancocks.  See you soon

Interesting "lawn" below Mt Bond summit

Cloud shadows

Mt Bond

Nat and I on Mt Bond - #44

Friendly clouds - a good omen

Washington, Clay, Jefferson

Late rays over Franconia Ridge and West Bond.  Beautiful sunset ahead

We considered going over to Bondcliff, but figured that would leave us out of time to go to West Bond that evening.  We could certainly do it in the morning, but with West Bond having the reputation for some of the best sunsets (and best views in general) in the Whites we opted to head there instead.  Bondcliff will wait for another day.

Fading light on West Bond ascent

Garfield and cloudrays

Sunset on West Bond - #45

Bondcliff with pale alpenglow

Moon rising over a pastel sky

Last light

As the pictures clearly show, the rumors of sunsets from West Bond are not exaggerated!  We had met Jim and Chris heading down from the summit as we were headed up.  They said they were leaving since the sun was behind the clouds and blocking the sunset.  You should have stayed guys...

We left the summit before the sun dropped all the way behind the mountains, wanting to make it back to the campsite before it was completely dark.  It was an easy walk in the fading light.  We tucked ourselves in and slept well that night.  Shortly after getting in the tent there were a few passing showers.  The patter of the rain on the tent just helped to lull us to sleep.  During the night we emerged for a "break" and found the sky bathed in a million stars.  What a beautiful spot for star gazing!

We had considered an early morning trek to one of the peaks, but slept in instead.  We decided that last night had been good and that we'd just head out today.  A breakfast of oatmeal and hot cocoa had us ready for the day and we were packed up and on the trail a bit after 8:00.  It was a beautiful bluebird day and we were happy for the others at the campsite that had saved their day on the Bonds for today.  The walk back was nice and we were at the car by 1:30.  The timing was perfect for a stop at the Woodstock station for a late lunch on the way home.  The perfect way to end a perfect trip!


Headin' home

Crystal skies over Guyot

West Bond

Mt Bond

Franconia Ridge over Owl's Head

Back up to Zealand

Timid grouse.  Clearly not related to the one from Isolation

Mucky path to a beautiful view

Zeacliff - part deux

The beautiful walk out

What better way to celebrate two more 4000 footers than with a 
couple of 4000 Footer IPAs at the Woodstock Station


  1. Great report and lots of nice pics, Mark. Thanks once again. So what's left now, Carrigain last. Anything before that?


  2. Oops, just read the rest of the report - I always look at the pics first. :) The Hancocks and Carrigain and that's all, folks. Exciting!

    1. Thanks Chris. Hopefully the Hancocks happen this week. Carrigain the end of September. Hard to believe we're almost there...


  3. Nice trip report and great pictures. This report convinces me I'm overdue in getting back to the Whites. It's been awhile since I've been over to Zealand Notch.

    1. Thanks! Zealand Notch is one of our favorite places. Not sure how long it's been since you've been in the Whites, but for us it's definitely and addiction. Sure hope to live closer someday...


    2. I get to the Whites every 2-3 years. I live in the Adirondack Park now so I hike there most of the time. Still need to get back to the Whites though for a change of scenery.

    3. Perhaps you and I need to trade venues for a while. We haven't done any hiking in the DAKs yet and are really looking forward to it (along with ME, VT, CA, UT, etc, etc...). So many mountains, so little time.

  4. Wow, you've had quite the month, Baxter and now another great trip! You're right to take advantage of the nice weather, especially since it wasn't a weekend. Your spot at Guyot was really nice! Interesting pics of the new Zealand bridge, and although it is nice, I'll miss quirky old z-bridge.

    1. Thanks Summerset. We've had quite the month (and for that matter quite the spring and summer) indeed! We hadn't planned this one but just couldn't pass it up. The trend is continuing too - tomorrow we're heading up and meeting Kevin Talbot and Emma to do the Hancocks. Sunny, 71, 0% chance of rain. Can't let that go!

      I was really surprised by the new bridge in Zealand (and the sound of power tools), I agree with you that we'll miss the old one. Lots of great memories walking through that spot.


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  6. Looks like a beautiful area! Thanks for sharing your wonderful pictures and trip report. What great views. I really loved the morning reflection picture as well!