Zealand - West Bond - Bond - Hale
A couple of months ago Amy suggested it would be fun to spend New Years Eve at the
AMC Zealand Hut. Sounded like
a fun idea at the time, so we jumped on board. Well - that meant a 7 mile ski/hike
into the hut with food and
gear for 3 days. The hut operates on a self service basis during the Winter, so
while guests can use the full
kitchen for meal prep, they must carry all food and supplies with them. The hut
has a small wood stove to heat
the dining area, but the bunk rooms are not heated.
Over the next two months we purchased -20 degree sleeping bags, a sled, down booties, plastic boots for Geri. and asked a lot of questions in preparation for our first Winter overnight trip. We planned our food and clothes, put together the sled, and prayed for warm weather.
Our goal of the weekend was to hike in on Sat morning, hike Mt Hale Sat afternoon, hike Zealand, West Bond, and Bond on Sunday, and hike/ski out on Monday. Sat morning we drove to the end of Zealand road on Route 302 while watching the sunrise over Crawford Notch. Arriving at the road we found as expected the bridge barricaded - knowing there was a trail that had been cut to bypass this we drove 1/4 mile up the road and unloaded our gear. Taking the bypass was a huge mistake! it took us the next hour to make our way to the other side of the bridge with our sleds in tow.
Finally on Zealand Road we put on our skis and started up the road, sleds in tow. Going up hill in skis when you are not a good XC skier is work! For the steeper sections we removed our skis and walked. Eventually we reached the Summer parking area and decided to switch to our Winter hiking boots for the last 3 miles to the hut. We had to cross several small streams, traverse around larger rocks and cross several bridges, but we finally arrived at the bottom of the steep climb to the hut.
After unpacking our sleds we shouldered our packs (load #1) and climbed to the hut, arriving around 12:15 PM. The hut was empty with the exception of the caretaker, Adam. Zealand Hut has two large bunkrooms with 3 high bunks, each with a smaller room off of them that hold 4 bunks. We decided on 2 bunks in the smaller room, stowed our gear and went back down to the sleds (100 foot vertical distance) for our remaining gear and food.
After having some hot soup for lunch we decided that perhaps we would be better off taking a nap and warming up instead of hiking Mt Hale as planned. An hour after falling asleep we were awakened as others started to arrive at the hut, a group of 3 friends from southern NH. Slowly more people trickled in as the afternoon wore on. Finally another member our group, MichaelJ arrived along with a giant pan of Lasagna which was for dinner. As others arrived we queried them about the location of Amy, her husband Dave, and HikerBob. We were told by one group that they passed 2 guys and a child pulling sleds that should be arriving in the next 30 minutes. Sure enough, the child they referred to was Amy - who was pulling a sled with her and Dave's gear on it (Dave is not a hiker, so big credit to him for going along with this weekend!)
The other large group that was at the hut was a group of 20 who were celebrating their 4th New Years eve together. They rolled in groups of 2 or 3 with very large packs. As they unpacked and started cooking dinner it was clear that they had enough food for twice as many people. Appetizers, beer, wine, liquor, dinner, desert, and even party favors - all of which they shared with us and the others in the hut. We all enjoyed Michaels lasagna, along with other treats for dinner.
Part of staying at the hut during the Winter is sharing in the chores from pumping water from the well (300 feet up hill), to dumping the grey water from doing dishes. Geri and I volunteered for a water run which actually warmed us up quite a bit, as the temp in the dining area managed to get to about 40 degrees from a combination of body heat and the small wood stove.
After dinner Amy and Michael squared off for a couple of games of cribbage while others watched or enjoyed pleasant conversation. By 10 we were all headed to dreamland in preparation for a long hike in the morning.
Sunday morning after a quick breakfast, and discussion on who was the loud snorer, we headed out to summit Mt Zealand. With HikerBob leading the way, Amy, Geri, Michael, and I made our way to Zealand Mountain. We find that the trail has been broken out and snow shoes are not needed, although some don crampons as part of the trail is hard packed snow with some icy spots. The hike has some steep sections to it, as well as some spots for great veiws. Arriving at the Summit we enjoy snacks, take a few photos, we way our goodbyes to Amy and HikerBob who head back to the hut while Michael, Geri and I head over to West Bond. The summit of Guyot is barren with a few shrubs and rock sticking up above the snow with 30 mph winds blowing. Quickly we pass over the summit and continue on to the shelter of the trail leading to the Bonds.
At the spur to West Bond we drop our packs, grabbing water and a camera for the 1/2 mile trek to the summit. Geri leads the way through the unbroken snow as we first drop to the col before climbing steeply to the summit. West Bond has an exposed summit, but today we have no views as we are in the clouds. Heading back to our packs, we say our good byes to Michael who is not doing Bond. As he heads back to the hut, we continue on for another 1/2 mile to the summit of Bond. As we arrive we have a glimpse of blue sky to celebrate!
Removing our crampons we make good time arriving back at the summit of Zealand 16 minutes after Michael, who had arrived 10 minutes after HikerFast had arrived at Zealand to complete his Winter 48 list. Congrats Bob! We put on our headlamps as darkness falls and make our way back to the hut where we find there are only 6 people staying overnight. After dinner and toasting to HikerFast's accomplishment with 15 year old scotch we head to bed.
Monday morning we gear up and head out to climb Mt Hale. The trail is gentle most of the way with a only a couple of steep sections along the 2.8 mile route. Two hours later we arrive at the summit to find a snowman waiting for us. Heading back to the hut we are pleased to find the sun breaking through the clouds and views of Mt Carrigan from the porch of the hut. We heat up leftovers for lunch before packing up and heeding gout for our 7 mile trip back to the cars. For the first half of the trip we all hike carrying our skis or pulling them in our sleds. Going downhill is much easy! Back at the parking lot we switch over to our skis for the final push. Surprisingly, skiing down the road pulling a sled is fairly easy. Geri and I make it without falling and are soon at the barricade at the bridge. Learning our lesson from the previous experience, we push our sleds though the barricade rather than taking the bypass. Soon we are back in our car headed home.
We had a great time! Fun friends, new experiences, more summits. If you have never stayed at a hut in winter, try it sometime. Our next such excursion will be in February for a 3 day, 2 night trip to Carter Hut - come join us!
Directions to the trailhead: Rte 93 north to Exit 35. Follow Route 3 East to the intersection with Route 302 in Twin Mountain. Take a right onto Route 302 adn follow it Sotuh for @ 2 miles. Zealand Road will be on your right.
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