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 Almost Zealand 
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Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2004 8:13 pm
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Location: Mt Lafayette Winter 2009
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 Almost Zealand
In October 2006 Quint and I hiked Mt Cabot. There was about 1 foot of fresh snow on the ground and by the time we made it to the Boy Scout cabin the temps had dropped to the low 20’s. Once inside I said “I can’t imagine sleeping in here with temps like this, I’d never be able to do a winter night in the Whites”

Here it is only a few months later and I find myself putting on my GoreTex jacket and checking my 0 degree bag at the Zealand Trailhead getting ready for my first winter overnight with the starting temp a balmy 3 degrees and winds whipping to 25 MPH.

WildPeaks (Tom) has been on a quest to finish his winter 48 this year and while I’m not working a list right now, find myself having more fun helping him. With only 7 peaks left we had devised a plan to get them in 3 trips. 1. A Day hike to Adams and Madison 2. An overnight at Zealand Hut to bag Zealand and 3. A marathon dayhike to hit the Twins and Bonds together.
An admirable plan and we now found ourselves on our way to Zealand Hut to drop gear, bag the mountain, and then back to the hut for dinner and to sleep.
Unfortunately there was a snowstorm just 2 days earlier and a couple of feet of fresh powder had taken up residence on the trail.

We got a late start from the Zealand winter lot but we had 7 miles of fairly level hiking along the closed Zealand Rd and then the Zealand Trail to the hut so we were not too concerned about the time. We did get to meet MEB again and finally met the famous Drewski in the lot, but they were on their way to Cabot so after a quick hello, it was a quick good bye & good luck.
After about 1 mile along the plowed road we hit a huge pile of snow. The snow plows had stopped here as this was the end of logging along the road.
We continued bare-booting it for a while until Tom thought better of it. And we put on the snow shoes. What a difference…we now moved right along…plus it was nice to break out the shoes after doing nothing more than carrying them on several trips.
We soon passed the unbroken trail to Hale and continued into the summer parking lot for Zealand (why do they close the outhouses?). It was still very cold and windy but the company was great and the only other person we met was the hut caretaker (JoAnne?) on her way out.
We trudged along the Zealand Trail and saw that despite the fact we had just passed the caretaker, her tracks were filling in from the wind blown snow. The trail was easily visible and soon we were near the last beaver pond before the hut. This is where the broken trail stopped so we decided to take a short cut across the pond. WOW was it windy and we were soon experiencing what it must be like in the arctic….or something along those lines.
We made it to the hut and had it all to ourselves but didn’t stay long as we just wanted to drop some gear and grab a bunk (11 people had reserved a space for the night). Before we left, 2 other hikers (Tom and Kevin) came in. They had been breaking the trail to Zeacliff but turned around. This was bad news for us as it meant the trail was not broken above tree line. We put on the snow shoes and left Tom and Kevin to warm up while we made our attempt for Zealand. We found their turn around spot below Zeacliff so we finished what they started and made it to the ridge. It was very difficult breaking 2-3 feet of snow with only 2 people especially since the temp at the hut showed 14 degrees outside in mid-afternoon and we were now seeing some incredible gusts of wind as we approached the ridge (we heard the next morning that the Rockpile had seen a max wind of 137 the previous day).
We did the best we could but by the time we were near the Zeapond area both of us were spent and decided to turn around. A hot cup of tea was more favorable than the summit at this point so despite our best intentions of bagging Zealand, we gave up our quest.
Back at the hut we met 3 more people that were spending the night. It turned out to be HikerBob, Poison Ivy, and Jim L. Bob and I had emailed each other over the past few months and I had always ready Ivy’s trip reports with envy as she has quite a resume, so it was fantastic to meet them in person. We also met Jim L, a long time board member that offered us pizza when we got back. Pizza? Yes! And Bob had made Ceasar salad while Amy (PI) had made pasta. Tom and I had gone very light so I only brought a Mountain House dinner and some Ramen noodles….how embarrassing.
The temp in the hut was in the low 20’s and that was with the wood stove going. This means eating dinner with a down jacket, hat, and gloves!
The 7 of us plus Sean the caretaker (who arrived sometime after we left for Zealand) spent the rest of the night drinking tea, trading trail tales and enjoying each others company but seeing as it was pretty darn cold and how tired we were, 9:30 was a welcome time to hit the sack.
I never sleep well and this was no exceptions as I watched my breath frost the top of my bag, but did manage a cat nap or two before the sun poked through the window to announce the new day. Temps in the bunkhouse were 7 degrees so getting out of the bag was a serious decision! Eventually we made our way out, started breakfast, and filled up on some more hot tea.
Outside was gorgeous! The sun was poking through the clouds and since the hut faces east, it was a magnificent morning despite the temps.
We soon packed up and help Sean finish some of the hut chores in preparation for a scout troop that had booked the hut for the night before we were on our way. We said goodbye to Kevin & Tom, and the 5 of us took off to hit the trail that needed to be broken again due to the wind blown snow. Across the open pond again and we were soon on our way out.
We did meet up with the scout troop on their way in and told them how cool Zealand Mountain was in hopes that they might make the attempt to break the trail. We also met several skiers, snow shoers, hikers, and snow mobiles (very courteous I might add…they even gave right-of-way to us along the road!) so it was a busy winter day in the Whites.
3 degrees (the lowest temp we saw at the hut) is certainly cold but thanks to Wildpeaks, JimL, Poison Ivy, HikerBob, Tom, Kevin, and Sean, I was warm with company on my first winter night in the Whites.

Pictures below just click the link and give it a couple of seconds to load.

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"My feet is my only carriage..." Bob Marley


Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:22 pm
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Leg Burner
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Joined: Sun Sep 03, 2006 4:22 pm
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Location: seacoast NH
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Quote:
I said “I can’t imagine sleeping in here with temps like this, I’d never be able to do a winter night in the Whites”

AH, the crazy things we say and do for fun and memories!
Nice read Bill.
Ain't it a terrible thing -- having to go up north to hike it again :wink:


Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:35 pm
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I Spend All My Time on This Forum
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Joined: Tue Mar 01, 2005 8:52 pm
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Its good to see you and Tom have been having fun! Sure can't beat good friends and a mountain retreat, can ya!? :lol:

Ill be cheering for Tom. Hope he gets number W48 so we can see him at the awards ceremony this year!!!!!

B.


Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:33 pm
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Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2006 10:51 am
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There were -lots- of failed attempts last weekend. I suspect there will be less of those now that we've had a week for suckers like us to break/partially break trail :)


Wed Feb 21, 2007 9:37 pm
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