46/2 West Bond
Date(s) Hiked: June 10, 2016
Elevation(s): 4,504′ and 4,698′
Trail(s) Taken: Zealand Trail, The Twinway, Bondcliff Trail, West Bond Spur and back, Bondcliff to Bond, Bondcliff to The Twinway and the Zealand Trail.
Weather: Early morning rain, mid morning rain, sleet and ICE, partly cloudy the rest of the day
Total Miles: 17.6 Miles
Total Time: 11 hours and 45 minutes.
Subtitled: In Your Face Bond and West Bond
Climbing the Bonds was simple – I only had to hike West Bond and Bond as I had done Bondcliff earlier. These two Bonds may be the easiest hikes to the summits of any 4,000 footers so far. Especially Mt. Bond. Getting there is another story though… I will not lie to you – this hike was a bitch. The distance was bad enough, but the elevation gain on the return trip was tough for me.
Since I just did the death walk of the Lincoln Woods trail when I hiked Owl’s Head recently, I did not want to do it again and opted to go in from Zealand Road, which was tougher, but roughly three miles shorter. That meant hiking to Zealand Mountain, then to Mt. Guyot – two peaks that I already hiked on August 06, 2010. From Guyot, I went on to West Bond, came back down and hiked Mt. Bond. Then I had to go over Mt. Guyot and Zealand Mountain again to get back out.
First off, the weather was supposed to be mild and in the 70’s. Mostly clear, with showers possible in the late afternoon and early evening. Instead it was cold for a June day and it started raining just before I got to the trailhead. The rain stopped about an hour into the hike but it remained wet and gloomy throughout the day. I would later find that a couple hiking on Mt. Lafayette, which was about 5-6 miles to the east of my hike had to be rescued from the wintry conditions that they they encountered.
I started on Zealand Rd. and took the Zealand Trail which is a fairly easy and flat 2.8 mile hike with some elevation gain as you approach the Zealand Falls Hut. There are many stream crossings, but unlike the Owl’s Head hike where you have to wade through some difficult stream crossings, these were mostly simple with bridges and boardwalks to get you to the other side. The few areas where you have to do some rock-hopping were very easy. As you approach Zealand Falls, you get a nice glimpse of the falls from the bottom and there are excellent photo opportunities. The falls are beautiful and soon you make the short climb to the Zealand Falls Hut. I took a quick picture of the hut and kept moving because I had a lot of ground to cover.
The trail continues around the hut to the left. After hiking a little while, you come to a junction of the trail where you see a simple sign that says “view”. This is an understatement and is one of the most amazing views I have seen from any of hikes to the 4,000 footers and you should definitely take this short spur trail to take in the view! I took The Twinway to Mt. Zealand. Watch for grouse that will wait until you nearly step on them before making an ungodly loud squawk and flying away. I befriended one and he led me down the path for a while.
This time I passed the Zealand summit as time is everything. The hike is hard enough without the rain, and as you get into the higher elevations, the temperature drop was making it rougher still. For some reason, I remembered breaking through the treeline and getting into the exposed hiking that leads to South Twin and Mt. Guyot a lot earlier. It is about 1.3 miles in actuality and there is some rough terrain. Not too big a deal on the way to the Bonds, but coming back I was tired and having to retrace these steps was tough.
Once I left Mt. Zealand, the rain turned to sleet, and the sleet coated the trees with 1/2 inch of ice. As it warmed, the ever-present wind blew the ice onto the ground making the trails a bit more challenging, to say the least. But the combination of the ice with the pine trees and bright green moss made a beautiful background. It also slowed me down considerably as most of the time you are walking on a rocky path. In the rain, it is like walking in a shallow stream as the water uses the trail as a runoff. Once you combine ice, the footing was a bit tricky.
Finally, I broke through the treeline and the vegetation changes to waist-high bushes and scrub trees. The ever-present fog was not helping the view but I did get a quick glimpse of South Twin mountain looming to the right. The Bondcliff Trail heads over Guyot and the Twinway takes a right and leads to South Twin Mountain. The trail to Guyot is frustratingly rocky but a fairly fast, easy hike from here. As it was last time, the summit of Guyot was windy as hell and it made setting the camera on a rock to use the self-timer risky as a gust of wind would easily blow it over and break it. I placed the camera on a low spot sheltered by some rocks, took a picture and moved on. It was 11:05am…
Since I left at 6:30am and wanted to be back out by 6:30pm, I wanted to be at the halfway point by 12:30pm. If I was not close by then, I would have to turn back – and I do not like doing that after all the effort it took to get here. I reached the junction of the Bondcliff trail and the West Bond spur trail at 11:30. Hiking West Bond and getting back to the junction in an hour would put me barely on schedule. The hike to West Bond is pretty easy although the trail starts by going down, down, down. At one point, I thought I had missed a turnoff and was headed down the mountain, but the trail levels and makes a sharp right hand turn and starts to gain some elevation. The grades were never anything very difficult and I made the 1/2 mile hike to the summit by 11:50am and was back at the junction of the West Bond spur and Bondcliff by 12:15pm – 15 minutes ahead of schedule.
I headed up the Bondcliff Trail towards Bond and again kept waiting for some wicked elevation gain, but there was none. The trail to the summit was the easiest grade of all the 4,000 footers. At least from this side, though I hear the hike from Bondcliff is a little more difficult. I made it to the summit by 12:45pm and then it started to get crowded as hikers were coming up from the Bondcliff side. One group had hiked for a cause and asked me to take their picture at the cairn. I briefly spoke to one gentleman about my upcoming Mt. Isolation hike for a minute or two, but quickly headed back. As expected, the descent of Mt. Bond was simple and I made good time. In fact, the hike all the way back to Mt. Guyot was pretty good and I started passing a few hikers who were on their way up.
I was getting tired now and the ascent from Mt. Guyot to Mt. Zealand was a little slower than I wanted. Since I was a bit ahead of schedule though, I decided to take the short spur trail and revisit Mt. Zealand again. The trail was muddy but getting to the summit was simple. It may be the most unassuming summits of all the 4,000 footers. Strangely, it was almost claustrophobic after being in such wide open spaces for so long. I took a picture or two and headed toward the Zealand hut.
When I approached the hut I knew the worst of the hike was over after a short descent. I spent some time looking around and saw something that really caught my eye. There were dozens of propane tanks up there behind the hut. I found out that these are delivered by helicopter and most huts that have helicopter deliveries of propane also have helicopter pickups of barrels containing human waste. That was more then I needed to know and I threw up in my mouth a little, then started to move on. The views on the way back had started to clear a little and were beautiful to look at, but the main focus at this point was to get back. The trip from Zealand Falls Hut back to the trailhead felt similar to the return trip from Bondcliff or Owl’s Head. It is long and flat and seems to go on forever. Eventually, I reached the parking lot and as of today, I have one 4,000-footer to hike. Mt. Isolation. One and done.