Trip Report: Hale, Zealand, and Guyot

Josh Ain and I were eager for one last trip before the winter set into the Whites.  We were also hoping to get that magical snowfall that doesn’t really accumulate but makes a hike so beautiful in the shoulder season between winter and fall.  So we scheduled a hike a month in advance to take off of work from our busy schedules.

There aren’t many mountains left on Josh’s 4000 footer list (he’s ahead of me right now) so we were either doing a hike to Hale and Zealand or we were doing a pemi loop.  And we both had reasons to not want to attempt anything too ambitious on this particular day so we just went for the easy course.

Trip stats
Distance: 16.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 5200 ft
Total time: 8.5 hours
Weight: 15 pounds (3L water, dried food, Jetboil, down + rain, phone, headlamp, water filter, kit, gloves, microspikes)
Peaks: Hale, Zealand, Guyot

Josh posing near the start of the hike
We started out the hike at around 8am after an uneventful drive up from the city.  The lot was pretty easy to find and was empty when we got there.  About 2 minutes after arriving, another car pulled up.  This happens a lot…temporal convergences of hikers.  I don’t think there was another car coming into that lot all day long and within 5 minutes there were two cars.  Sort of like how you always manage to pick the locker next to the one person who comes in after working out a minute later.  Anyway, we paid our deposit and were on our way.  The temperature when we left the lot was around 29 degrees so it wasn’t too cold but cold enough that we didn’t want to dawdle.
This stuff was all over the trail
We very quickly ran into some of this really cool ice hair along the trail.  I still don’t know what the actual name of it is, but it was strands of ice that looked like ice grass or something.  Most likely formed by wind and water I guess?
Closeup of the ice hair stuff

We made really good time up the trail to the top of Hale.  The trail was really easy going for almost all of the way there.  Even when it got steep it was still straightforward terrain and it was much easier than the Long Trail where I had gotten off on my last real hike.  On fresh legs and still with fresh stories to tell each other on our lips, we didn’t even notice the time pass.

The top of Hale was not too impressive but the weather was awesome, crisp and clear.

The top was pretty unimpressive, just a mound of rocks in a small clearing.  The other hikers were close behind us and we weren’t really hungry yet so we left them the summit and moved on down the mountain toward Zealand.

Some snowy crust near the high points

The descent toward Zealand hut was also very straightforward with no difficult terrain.  We reached the turnoff at Zealand Falls quickly.  I had wanted to press on toward the hut for a snack but Josh wanted to move onward, I think because he was hoping we’d throw some extra mountains into the hike.  So I heated up my freeze-dried lunch quickly with my Jetboil and threw it in my pack to rehydrate while I walked.  I knew I had only about a half an hour before the meal started to cool down and we were trying to make Zeacliff which was a tough 1.3 mile climb from the turnoff so I led and pushed us up the mountain.  We made some great time on that climb though we were working.  That was definitely the toughest section of climbing all day. Near the top, there were some really iced over rocks and I took a tumble, regretting that I hadn’t slipped on my microspikes.

The view at Zeacliff, where I ate my lunch, made up for my bruised pride.  The sky was brilliant blue and we could see for miles.  The southern view let us see the backs of Tom, Field, and Willey to the left and Carrigain to the right.  The sun had started warming up so it was really nice just sitting on the rocks.

Josh standing on Zeacliff
View from Zeacliff
From there we moved on to Zealand proper and after an embarassing mistake when we thought that a small rise was the summit, we made good time.  We passed one other hiker, an older gentleman, who was returning from the Zealand summit.  The summit itself was pretty unimpressive, not even an open clearing like on Hale.
Woohoo, what a summit
Josh had talked me into going to Guyot before we even reached the summit of Zealand.  I think he wanted to peek a look at the inside of the pemi loop from this side.  He had never been to that side where the Bonds and the Twins are and since,  IMO, the pemi loop is the most beautiful area in the Whites, it was only natural he was curious.  I wasn’t super-pumped honestly, but when we got over to Guyot (only a couple hundred foot climb past Zealand) I admitted it had been a really good idea.  The clear skies continued and we could see clear over to Lafayette and around the whole side of the pemi bowl.  It was a gorgeous view that made up for the weak Zealand showing.
Thanks for making me go to Guyot Josh

On the way back down we stopped off the the Zealand Falls Hut.  I think it may be one of my favorites, at least of the ones at lower elevations.  The nearby sound of the falls and the open floor plan of the hut both gave me warm fuzzy feelings.  Plus it was open year round! Both Josh and I were surprised to find a caretaker at the hut, we had assumed they were all at least just self-service at this point.  It was a nice place to stop and have our last snack of the day before wandering down the practically flat rail trail that was the walk back to our car at the base of Hale.

Reminder: Three of the huts stay open year round

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