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Zealand Mountain 4260’, West Bond 4540’, Mount Bond 4698’ and Bondcliff 4265’

19.8 Miles 4100’ Elevation gain

This was it. This was the trip which would conclude the quest for the Holy Grail of White Mountain hiking for Jude and Emma. With luck and determination all the hiking of the last two years would finally pay off with the completion of each of their four thousand footer lists by crossing Mount Zealand and the Bonds on a hike that would carry them across nearly twenty miles of White Mountain wilderness. It’s a grueling trip, just the thought psyches some people out and they never attempt it. By starting in Zealand Notch and hiking the trails north to south one can spend the last five miles of the trip walking on the Wilderness Trail, which is an old railroad bed. This seems the easiest way to me and I have done it twice this way and once the other way, but only went to Bondcliff on the reverse trip. There are links to those trip reports below. The weather on our chosen day was terrible. When it wasn’t drizzle it was damp fog. The thought of being ten miles out in the wilderness on a twenty mile hike, crossing mountain tops where there was likely to be strong winds and maybe pouring rain, being cold and exhausted, these were weighing on my mind. I believe I made some short argument about not going in this weather, but Jude was driven at this point to finish this fall and not have to wait all winter and probably spring to get she and Emma another chance. Off we went along the Zealand Trail. In my mind were visions of hunters finding our bleached bones next fall, but I had to get a grip and set about the task of making sure we all got to the other side safely. The first few miles going in aren’t bad, there’s a little rise to the trail when you get near the AMC Zealand Falls Hut, but you knock it off in pretty good time and think, “That wasn’t bad, we’re a quarter of the way there.” Of course we don’t want to stop for long at the hut because we might decide “Gee, it’s nice and dry here, I think I’ve come to my senses. Let’s forgo this mad quest and get a room.” Oh no, it,s onward and upward, “to infinity and beyond!” as the saying goes. This course of action eventually leads us to the summit of Mount Zealand. The summit is viewless just as I remembered it and on this day we can see even less. So the weather matters little on a treed summit and with rugged yankee determination we brush aside the less than perfect conditions by grunting “Weren’t gonna see nuthin’ ennaway” and continue back down to the main trail. We return to the Twinway after the stop at Mount Zealand to knock off Jude and Emmas 45th mountain. If you have to hike in the rain , go to viewless summits. Unfortunately there were three more summits to climb (four if you count Mount Guyot, which although you still have to climb over it dosn’t count as a four thousand footer.) We have followed the Twinway from Zealand Falls Hut with a short spur to Mount Zealand. After Mount Zealand we continued southwest and soon began to rise above the treeline to the summit of Mount Guyot. Just southwest of Guyot’s summit is the trail junction where the Twinway turns to the northwest towards South Twin Mountain and the Bondcliff Trail turns south towards Mount Bond. The Bondcliff Trail leads down through krummholtz, stone and lichen to the col between Mount Guyot and Mount Bond. As we pass Guyot Campsite the trees are taller and we soon start to climb again. Another spur trail breaks off to the southwest. This trail leads down for a while , then up to West Bond, and we have to reverse the process to return to the Bondcliff Trail. Although West Bond has excellent views, there were none this day. Now and then we could see a little this way or that, but never much and never for long. Now back to Bondcliff Trail we still have most of Mount Bond yet to climb. Eventually the trees shrink back down to nothing and we are once again in the krummholz and lichens. Alpine Bilberry is ripe and literally covers the mountains. I say a prayer we don’t walk into some bear, unseen in the fog, who feels we’re intruding on her favorite patch. West Bond and Mount Bond Jude and Emma’s 46th and 47th are now behind us. Below us we can see the trail stretching away south and rising again to the summit of Bondcliff, invisible in the low dense clouds. Here Jude and Emma get a good lead on me as I am tiring. This works out as I am able to snap some shots of their arrival at the final summit. I sort of stay back and let them share the moment. It is a moment of joy and peace and the realization of great accomplishment. A moment no one thinks they will ever see. Words can describe what it is, but not what it feels like. One must reach this coveted goal on their own to feel the reward. In reflection on my adult life, I would say I became a man on the day I completed my 4000 footer list, (I was forty four, it might be the only thing I’ve ever finished in my life). For most it is a spiritual transition from the old self to the new. Then comes the down side. “We’re only half way through the hike. Let’s keep moving before we get chilled.” Except for one spot where there is a little scramble over a steep drop the climb down from Bondcliff is unremarkable, slowly descending into the forest, first evergreen then hardwood. Soon we are back down to the valley floor and the railroad bed which is now the Wilderness Trail. It is now a matter of endurance as it is a level (by mountain standards) walk out. You think this would be nice but I find it very monotonous and want for it to be over long before it is. The last five miles seem like a hundred after the fifteen you’ve already done, and even though they’re flat they are long and difficult to push your exhausted body through. We had prearranged for Dan to meet us and bring us back to Zealand Road to get our car. He was waiting at the bridge over Franconia Brook , and hiked the last three miles out through Lincoln Woods with us. Jude and Emma perked right up when we met up with Dan, sorry Dan, you could have been Ghandi, I was too tired to care. Crossing the suspension bridge over the Pemigewasset River in Lincoln Woods we realized we were through, safely. For Emma to complete her list, Jude had to repeat 17 mountains she already had, I had to repeat 22. Emma repeated the Middle Carter, South Carter and Carter Dome, Mount Monroe, Mount Carrigain, Owl’s Head and the Wildcats. We climbed Saddleback Mountain in Maine and Mount Mitchell in North Carolina during the dates of 6/19/00 and 10/12/02 .
K(84 total) J(48)(65 total) E(48)(56 total)

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