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Thread: The Bonds Traverse that Wasn't: Zealand and the Spruce Trap of Death

  1. #1
    Senior Member Cumulus's Avatar
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    The Bonds Traverse that Wasn't: Zealand and the Spruce Trap of Death

    I decided sometime in February that the next time a Saturday looked good I'd try to organize a Bonds Traverse. Last week Saturday the 28th was looking good, so I asked a bunch of people. TJ not only accepted, but brought along his friends Ben, Sarah, and Aaron. (Nobody in this group has a proper trail name.) I had met all of them before, actually, during last year's Flags on the 48 when they were on the North Tripyramid crew and I was on the Middle crew. This was Aaron's first winter hike ever.

    I had a minor problem right from the start when I couldn't get one of my poles to expand. It probably had some ice in it; when I got home today it opened right up. Luckily TJ had some poles with him he wasn't using so he let me use one. This provided an unplanned experiment in the usefulness of snow baskets, since his only had a small summer basket. The result: snow baskets make a big difference.

    It was very cold at first, in the minus teens, but we knew that as soon as we got moving and the sun cleared the horizon it would warm up, which it did. It was already starting to get light when we started out, and we quickly made it up Zealand Road and Zealand Trail, passing a bunch of skiers headed out. By that time it was daylight. The trail was well packed down from the start, and would be to past Zealand.

    We took a break at the hut, where we met the caretaker Beowulf (who has an excellent beard) and then proceeded up to Zeacliff. There were no clouds at all that day, and the air was winter crisp, so we had all the views Zeacliff is famous for. After enjoying the views there for a while we proceeded on to Zealand. At the junction with the Zealand Spur we met some guys who had left before us to also do a Bonds Traverse. They had turned around at the Zealand / Guyot col after spending 45 minutes unsuccessfully trying to find the trail. We went out and back the spur to Zealand, where the sign is about a foot above the snowpack, and then dropped into the col to check it out for ourselves. Going down to the col was fine, but then we found a maze of paths were those other guys had tried to find the trail. We were checking out the various tracks and other likely paths when I stepped into a spruce trap up to my waist. It took about half an hour to get me out.

    My right foot came out alright, but my left foot felt like the snowshoe was nailed into the ground. I couldn't even wiggle it. The trouble, as we eventually figured out when we had removed enough snow, was that the front of the snowshoe was wedged under a blowdown (about 5" diameter) buried under the snow. We used snowshoes as shovels to try to get enough snow out of the hole to work (in spite of more snow constantly falling in) and then Sarah lay on the snow and reached into it with her hands to find and loosen the straps on my snowshoe. I then had some movement and was able to work my boot out of the snowshoe. Then Sarah managed to finally extract the snowshoe from the blowdown. Sarah is now my hero.

    I was thinking during this that if it had happened while I was hiking solo I probably would have died there. That's not actually true; I probably would have freed myself eventually, but it would have taken even longer, since was not in a position to easily reach down that far.

    When this was accomplished Ben and TJ found a blaze and the (unbroken out) trail, but it was decided to turn back. If I hadn't just gone through that experience I probably would have voted to continue, but I was pretty shaken up and was ready to head back to safety.

    The walk back was the reverse of the walk out. There were a lot of guest in the hut by the time we got there, and it got dark while we were on Zealand Trail. The only person we saw after the hut was a guy on a fat bike who was going out and back on Zealand Trail and passed up both ways.

    So we didn't accomplish our original goal, but as TJ said, "I like to think of it as a successful hike of Zealand".

    Zealand was 36 out of 48 for the Winter NH4Ks for me.

    I first did the Northeast 111 while in my 50s. I've decided to redo that list while in my 60s. Zealand was 11 out of 115 for that.

    Here are the pictures.

    --

    Cumulus

    NE111 in my 50s: 115/115 (67/67, 46/46, 2/2)
    NE111 in my 60s: 11/115 (9/67, 2/46, 0/2)
    NEFF: 43/50; Cat35: 33/39; WNH4K: 36/48; NEHH 81/100
    LT NB 2009

  2. #2
    Senior Member TJsName's Avatar
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    Definitely a nasty spruce trap! Digging out solo would have been a pain. I think turning around was the right choice given the time. Thanks for the invite - we all had a blast. And for what it's worth, Ben has a trail name: 10 o'clock.

    Also, for those interested, we did find the trail. Keep left (south) and follow the well beaten path. You'll see a blaze on a slightly bend over tree, with a slightly less broken trail leading up past it. That's the right way.
    Last edited by TJsName; 03-02-2015 at 02:18 PM.
    | 63.0% W48: 19/48
    Trail Adopter of the Guinea Pond Trail

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