At 6 am in the Lincoln Woods parking lot the car’s thermometer read 1 degree. The moonlight was still bright so we left our headlamps in our backpacks and we put on our snowshoes. I followed Jeremy across the suspension bridge and down the Lincoln Woods Trail.
Our snowshoes loudly crunched each step as our snowshoes crampons bit into the hard uneven and rough snow. Footprints, post-holes and ski tracks were frozen in place and our snowshoes kept us from turning our ankles.
We didn’t talk since the crunching noise made it impossible to hear the other speak. The moon lit the way well but it was black when we passed through shadows.
I just kept following the silent dark figure in front of me.
Just before reaching the wilderness boundary Jeremy stopped to point out that our shadows had switched sides. Our faint shadows were no longer produced by the waning moon but now from the rising sun.
Once we reached the Bondcliff Trail the snow track was smoother due to the fact that most travelers out this far used snowshoes when the snow was soft and wet. Sometimes we could see fresh tracks made by micro-spikes and we guessed there might be a few people ahead of us.
Just before the trail gets steep we caught up to a small group with State Senator Jeb Bradley in the lead. We said quick hellos to our friends and shook a few hands as we continued on our way.
I love the long switch back up to Bondcliff, the gradual grade makes for comfortable climbing and I try not to act surprised to reach its end at the big step. After scrambling up and over the near vertical rock ledge the short way to the top is all above tree line.
Bondcliff’s windblown summit and ridge was mostly bare rock and ice. Our snowshoes really made a clatter on the rocks. The sky was free of clouds, the sun was shining and only a breath of wind was in the cold air. We slowed our pace and soaked up the grand vista and took a few photos. Loon Mountain’s ski trails were the only prominent evidence of man we could see over all the mountaintops for all the hundreds of miles around us. I felt like I could see forever. The stark winter beauty of the mountains was in full glory, Mount Washington shined big and bright way out there over the east side of Bond.
I don’t know if Jeremy thought about him because we didn’t speak of it. I know I was sad to think of the young man that had perished here alone on Christmas Eve.
We continued across, tagging the highest point and making our way down towards Bond. There was more snow and a hard cornice had formed on the ridge. (The wind blows harder between the peaks.) As we began to climb up Bond we joked that this was like climbing up Pats Peak. I have a habit of measuring mountains by figuring out how many Pats Peaks there are to climb.
On top of Bond we spun around and continued to soak up the wintery scene. I scampered up a higher ridge of snow between some stubby spruce trees. I looked down far into the valley. After I had moved away Jeremy climbed up too and on his return—WHOOSH! He had disappeared deep into the snow, falling down into a spruce trap and only his head and shoulders were sticking out of the snow. I couldn’t help myself from laughing as I watched him untangle his snowshoes and climb out. I was lucky it wasn’t me because I had walked right over that very same spot.
I started down first, I was feeling a little chilly from our brief summit break, but it wasn’t long before Jeremy caught up and I let him by. We heard the crunch of snowshoes before we met a gal who was staying at the Zealand Hut making her way to Bond.
At the spur trail to West Bond we dumped our packs and I tied my down coat around my waist and we scooted the half mile to the summit. From the summit we could see our friends making their way towards Bond. After a couple minutes we scooted back.
We’d been on the trail just over five hours. We agreed not wearing our packs felt like taking a vacation. Our winter packs are much heavier than our summer packs. We both carry a lot of extra warm clothing and more” just in case” items. Before shouldering our packs again we decided to eat.
Jeremy pulled out a single serving size apple pie and proved he could easily win a pie eating contest. I munched up some yummy oatmeal cookies that my mother had made for me. I put my orange inside my coat to warm it up so I could eat it on the way up Guyot. Jeremy is a Gatorade fan and I drink Powerade.
I slowed to peel my orange and I should have stopped since I walked into a tree limb and scratched my face. You’d think I’d learn.
Guyot is a windswept open peak that reminds me of Moosilauke. Again we kept our snowshoes on and clattered over rocks and ice as we went up and over its bumps. The trail back in the trees on Guyot’s north slope was covered with deep snow where a previous snowshoer’s deep tracks were now frozen solid in place and then other places the trail was covered with deep drifts.
When we reached the spur to Zealand’s summit we again dumped our packs. I grabbed my thermos and drank its hot contents as I strolled along the nearly flat path to the flat wooded summit. How delicious my mixture of hot milk, hot chocolate and coffee warmed me. Jeremy wrestled with a blowdown and successfully removed it from the path.
As we popped out we heard the crunching of her snowshoes before we saw her again. As we finished up our snacks we chatted with her about whether she was going to bother to visit the viewless Zealand summit. I said at least there is a nice sign when you get to the end of the path. She went.
The descent to Zealand Hut feels long and steep because it is. The ladder above Zeacliff Pond was icy and difficult but the snow around made it possible to get down. The trail from there was all hard pack snow. The water crossings were easy to cross on ice and snow bridges.
We didn’t stop at the hut, we were on a roll. A man smoking a cigarette on the deck did ask us where we came from and Jeremy replied, “Lincoln”.
Oh bother, from the hut to the parking lot at the end of Zealand Road on Route 302 is over 5 miles and there was maybe four or five hard packed inches of snow and ice. The snow was beat up rough from lots of hiker traffic to the hut.
We passed a couple of cross country skiers who had struggled their way up the road and had given up trying to ski up the trail. When we reached the road we took off our snowshoes and walked the road.
Our boots were quiet on the thin snow and ice and for the first time all day we were able to speak to one another as we went along. Chatting about the day and our future skiing plans made the dreaded road walk time fly by.
My car was right where Charlie and I dropped it off the night before at the Zealand winter lot, parked near the sign that read “Don’t walk in ski tracks”. That’s good advice.
Ten hours, a fast Bond Traverse in my book and my feet were only a little sore and I was really hungry.