Mountain climbing a Bonds-Z Traverse in February

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The Bonds is a bunch of three adjoining 4000+ foot mountains – Bondcliff, Mt Bond, and West Bond in the midst of the Pemigewasset Wilderness. They’re normally hiked together with Zealand Mountain as a 23-mile traverse when the forest service highway resulting in their northern trailhead is gated closed. Mountain climbing them in winter (normally finished as a single day hike) is especially difficult as a result of there aren’t any bailout factors alongside the way in which as there are on a Presidential Traverse or a Pemi Loop. Once you think about chilly temperatures and excessive winds, the variety of good days to do a winter traverse is few and much between.

You may hike the 4 peaks from the north-to-the-south, as I did in December 2022, ranging from the Zealand Lot on Rt 302 exterior of Twin Mountain, NH, or from the south-to-the-north which I did this time, ranging from the Lincoln Woods Trailhead exterior of Lincoln, NH.  I used to be accompanied on this hike by two outdated mates, Lynn and Hilde, who like me are engaged on The Grid, which entails mountain climbing every of the 48 of the White Mountain 4 thousand footers at the very least as soon as in every calendar month of the yr for a complete of 576 summits (48 x 12). We have been additionally joined on the final minute by a pal of Lynn’s named Wendy, who hikes with the native velocity demons often called The Wednesday Group.

This was my eleventh calendar month out to the Bonds group, with solely the month of April remaining. I additionally accomplished my twelfth and final calendar month hike to Mt Zealand, an achievement often called “gridding out a peak.”

BondsZ Traverse South to North

The size of this hike, which may take wherever from 12 to 18 hours to finish requires good bodily conditioning. However the stakes get rather a lot increased in winter once you want to have the ability to make choices about secure and unsafe climate circumstances to time a secure and fulfilling hike. For instance, we’d initially scheduled this hike for Saturday, however moved it to Sunday to keep away from excessive winds.

You additionally need above treeline winter expertise, since this route has a number of miles of open publicity, as well as, to expertise

  • layering and delayering your clothes so that you don’t perspire and turn into chilled
  • fueling an arduous winter hike with huge quantities of meals and water
  • utilizing traction aids and flotation like full crampons and snowshoes

Final, however not least, you need reliable and skilled companions who will stand by you selflessly in the event you falter and also you for them. That’s the manner.

Philip climbs Mt Bond after climbing Bondcliff (rear)
Philip climbs Mt Bond after climbing Bondcliff (rear) – Photograph courtesy Lynn Ok.


A Bonds-Zealand Traverse is an extended hike that begins earlier than you begin mountain climbing and continues even after you end. Right here’s a chronology of the entire expertise.

  • Go to Mattress: 9:00 PM (day earlier than)
  • Get up: 3:00 AM
  • Breakfast and Boiling Water: 3:15-4:15 AM
  • Depart Dwelling: 4:30 AM
  • Meet shuttle automotive at Zealand Lot off Rt 302: 5:00 AM (northern terminus)
  • Shuttle arrives at Lincoln Woods Trailhead (southern begin)
  • Begin hike: 6:00 AM
  • Bondcliff Mtn: 10:15 AM (starting of peak sequence)
  • Zealand Mtn: 2:00 PM (finish of peak sequence)
  • Zealand Hut: 4:00 PM
  • Zealand summer time trailhead (closed): 5:00 PM
  • Zealand Lot off Rt 302: 6:30 PM
  • Drive again to Lincoln Woods Trailhead to retrieve shuttle automobiles: 7:30 PM
  • Drive Dwelling: 8:30 PM
  • Go to Mattress: 9:00 PM

Journey Transient

Lynn, Hilde, and Wendy on Bondcliff
Lynn, Hilde, and Wendy on Bondcliff

Our whole hike time for the 23-mile route was 12:30 which is sort of quick for a hike of this magnitude, however one solely made attainable by the truth that a number of different events had damaged path within the days main as much as our traverse. With out their efforts, path breaking would have added hours to the hike.

We began at nighttime, mountain climbing by headlamp down the Lincoln Woods Path, passing the Pemigewasset Wilderness signal, and persevering with to the underside of the lengthy gradual climb that brings you to Bondcliff Mountain. We began out naked booting, earlier than switching to Hillsounds. I’d switched to snowshoes to reap the benefits of the televators at 2700′, however my mates had stayed in Hillsounds though it was more durable work to climb within the unconsolidated snow. Scrambling up the “Hillary Step” on the southernmost level of the Bondcliff Mtn ridge, because it’s identified, was difficult with out carrying full crampons. I needed I’d introduced an ice axe for a 3rd level of contact with the bottom and to tug myself up.

Heading toward Mt Bond from Bondcliff
Heading towards Mt Bond from Bondcliff

The wind was blowing about 25 mpg on prime of Bondcliff, which is an extended open ridge. A lot of the snow on prime had a shiny rain crust on prime that will have been harmful in the event you’d slipped. We crossed the ridge and began the climb as much as Mt Bond. We have been way more uncovered to the wind throughout this climb and hunkered down with the hoods up on our winter shells. I ended on the summit of Bond and ate a bunch of energy as a result of I might really feel myself beginning to bonk. I’d introduced a variety of meals on this journey and had been snacking usually, however apparently not sufficient.

West Bond Mtn is scarred by many avalanches
West Bond Mtn is scarred by many avalanches

We headed down Bond to the West Bond Spur, dropped our packs, and hiked out to the summit. West Bond has a shocking view of Bondcliff, Franconia Ridge, and all of the peaks within the Pemigewasset Wilderness. This was Wendy’s first day out to the Bonds in winter and she or he was clearly in awe of the expertise.

We hiked again to the Bondcliff Path, donned our snowshoes, and headed towards Mt Guyot, a bald dome that’s not on the White Mountain 4000-footer listing (there are various lists) though it’s increased than 4000 ft. It was additionally coated in shiny rain crust.

The Zealand Mountain Summit Sign
The Zealand Mountain Summit Signal

We turned onto the Twinway Tr and headed towards Zealand Mountain, our final peak of the day. This part of path is an actual chore to snowshoe in the event you hike the route from north-to-south, because it fills up with snow and have to be damaged out as you hike uphill. However we flew down it, even in snowshoes, heading from south-to-north this time. Gravity is sweet when it’s in your facet.

We snacked at the top of Zeacliff before descending to the hut.
We snacked on the prime of Zeacliff earlier than descending to the hut.

We hiked out to the Zealand summit after we arrived on the spur path after which continued down the Twinway towards Zealand Hut. After a meals break on the prime of Zeacliff, the towering 1000′ cliff above Zealand Hut, we descended steeply to the hut, refilling our bottles with the new water which is heated on the hut range in winter.

We hiked down a forest road, gated for winter, to our cars at the northern terminus.
We hiked down a forest highway, gated for winter, to our automobiles on the northern terminus. Photograph: Lynn Ok. 

From there it was one other 3 miles out the Zealand Path to the summer time trailhead after which 3 extra down a closely post-holed Zealand Rd to achieve our parked automobiles on Rt 302. We began by headlamp and that’s how we completed.

Wrap Up

This was a terrific hike, however a really tiring one. I’m fortunate in that I used to be capable of do it with good mates and that we had such incredible climate. I’ve two extra Grid peaks to complete this February, Mt Adams, and Mt Madison, and hope the climate cooperates so I can get them finished and grid out the month.

Really useful Guidebooks and Maps:

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