I got my buddies D. Mak and “Gus Longtrail” to join me on a backpacking trip this past weekend. We cruised up to Hancock Campground Friday after work and organized our packs over some IPAs and a fire in surprising cold 35 degree temps. The low forecasted for Lincoln was high 40s but Hancock is ridiculously cold from its low altitude and proximity to the river.
We got on the North Twin Trail at 9am after I confused the entry road. Follow the AMC book on this and NOT Google Maps. The North Twin Trail starts out going up the Little River which was raging from rain. The first two river crossings are avoidable by taking a trail that some call a bushwack. There is a boot trail the whole way until the third crossing, which if the water is high, is a shimmy or a short balance over a fallen tree. After this crossing is a large amount of vert until the North Twin summit (4761 feet). There is a nice view point before and just past the summit.
We chowed lunch just past the summit and continued to South Twin. The South Twin summit (4902 feet & 9th highest in New England) was much more impressive as were the views. As it turned out, this was the last peak of the weekend we had to share with anyone else. We snapped a few pics and should have lingered longer to enjoy it but we beat feet towards Guyot to try to grab a tent platform before they filled up. As the weather was gorgeous, I was guessing it would be crowded and my last trek to Guyot ended in the 10-12 man shelter with about 17 people and two dogs in it…
The hike along the AT to Bondcliff trail was snowy and anything remotely flat is enjoyable after 3000 feet of vert. Breaching above treeline on the Bondcliff Trail, wind gusts picked up to around 50mph blowing me off balance every ten seconds or so. Definitely dangerous and scary getting kicked off balance hiking down a pile of boulders. Trekking poles save my ass once again… Shortly after descending below treeline we entered the Guyot Campsite spur trail and raced down to find a platform. We graciously jumped on #4, a spacious one and set up our tents.
After relaxing and having a snack, we made the .7 mile walk to West Bond (4540 feet), our third and final peak of the day. We had this remote peak all to ourselves (I convincingly suggested the other campers in the site head to Mt.Bond for the sunset) as we snapped photos, sipped Jack Daniels and waited for the sun to set. This is my second summit of West Bond and its unique Pemi views and absolute solitude still rank it as my favorite peak thus far. I was stoked to share it with my friends who definitely enjoyed it as much as me. After an hour and a half wait in strong winds, the sun breached below a thick line of clouds and the sunset exploded across the White Mountains. Definitely worth the wait and my camera battery died taking so many pics. We headed back and cooked dinner and made some Crystal light Lemonade whiskey sours before passing out.
Day Two: 12.7 Miles & 3031 Feet vert
In the AM we packed after breakfast and decided that Bondcliff needed to be skipped in lieu of a late start, forecasted thunderstorms, and an already difficult day. We dropped packs at the top of the camp spur trail and bagged Mt. Bond (4698 feet). At some point in the night, the white snow cap on Mt.Washington was completely melted or blown off by heavy winds. A prime example of how erratic weather is up here.
Grabbing packs on the way down, we headed to Zealand Mountain (4260 feet) which was an anti-climatic tree-covered summit which looks like a secret camp site. A mile or so further however Zeacliff’s Views more than made up for this. We chilled here enjoying the views for far too long before heading to Upper Zealand Falls and the Zealand Hut for lunch. The falls are better than I expected although we skipped the lower section due to some light rain.
Onward to our final peak Mt. Hale (4054 feet) with full stomachs, the final 5+ miles turned into a beer motivated grind. The Lend-A-Hand trail was a nice subtle way to end this trip as the 1300 foot ascent was thankfully subtle and spread out over 2.7 miles with the exception of two short steep parts. Lots of great bog bridges and small streams made this probably the nicest trail of the trip which also helped make up for the poor summit view. At the top of Hale the sense of relief of no more vert was soon replaced by some thunderstorms and rain.
With a mere print out of the unofficial Fire Warden Trail, we found the trail head on the west side of the Hale clearing and followed it downhill in the rain. This is a unique trail in that its not a real maintained WMNF trail so instead of rocks and hard pack dirt, you walk on grass, mud, and plants which after climbing almost 6,000 feet of vert with heavy packs was a blessing. Halfway down the rain let up and the sun came out turning the rain drops hanging from the budding branches into bright little prisms. Making it to the bottom, we washed off quickly in the Little River before heading off to Woodstock Inn & Brewery for some “4000 Footer Double IPAs” and burgers which couldn’t have tested any better. All in all a successful weekend bagging peaks. Props to Gus for bagging his first 6 peaks like a boss! Pretty hardcore introduction for someone who’s never hiked a 4k.
Things I Did Right:
– Went with my boys who can hike like pros. Good times!
– Got to Guyot early
– Skipped Bondcliff, second day on sore legs was brutal enough without it.
– Waited for the sunset.
– Double IPAs on Friday night. Less beers consumed, less chance of needing a piss in the middle of the night.
– Left my water filter in the car. Finding that I don’t need one in the whites.
– Didn’t bring excess clothing or food.
Things I Did Wrong:
– Fucked up the entry road. Should have listened to Gus!
– Assumed my camera battery was fully charged.
– Rushed off South Twin.
– Got my wisdom teeth out 7 days before this trip and missed a week in the gym. Could definitely tell the difference and it was really difficult eating normal trail food like Clifbars.
Total Peaks Bagged: 6 this trip. 4 new ones for me #14-17.
Total Miles: 22.9 (10.2 Day 1 & 12.7 Day 2)
Total Elevation Gain: 7231 ft (4216 on day one)
Total 4ks: 17/48
Per Peak Average: 983.3 feet of vert and 3.63 miles
– Sea to Summit Reactor Thermolite Mummy Bag Liner: This thing is super cozy and helps keep your bag clean. LOVE IT. Wish i bought one years ago.
Soundtrack: Colly C, Slightly Stoopid, Bob, Jimi, Sublime