Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Bonds and Back


Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Hike: Bondcliff, Bond, West Bond
Out and Back from Lincoln Woods - 22 Miles
Time: 11 Hours
Who: Sherpa and Drew
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For the past two winters, I have made it a small goal of mine to get out to the Bonds during the season. These mountains are the most remote mountains in the entire White Mountain National Forest. There are a few ways of getting here, all of them are tough hikes over 20 miles long. Many try each year to get here, many never make it. I know a few folks who have tried more than 5 times, failing on each trip. There is a trick to hiking in winter here in New Hampshire.. and the trick is all about picking your days. Today, Drew and I had a gorgeous day. Temps in the single digits in Lincoln, NH along the Kancamagus Highway, beautiful blue sky as we watched the glow of the rising sun. We knew we had a winner.

I woke up at 4:30am and drove 2 hours to the trailhead where I was late as usual. We were supposed to start at 7 but we ended up starting at 7:30. Drew gives me crap for it every time but I don't think he cares much.. so long as he gets the peak. Drew needed only West Bond for the Month of January as he works on hiking all 48 peaks in NH in each of the 12 months of the year, a goal which takes many years to complete. I needed all three peaks for January, as I slowly work on the list myself. We enjoyed hiking down the 5 mile's worth of old railroad bed from logging days of legend here in NH. On the way out the 5 miles of railroad bed isn't bad, but on the way back to the car its nothing less than torture.

We ran into a group of 5 coming out off the Bondcliff trail, they had sent 5 days winter backpacking in the area and looked not only refreshed with life but ready to be done as well. Only one other young hiker the rest of the day, he passed us on the way up and we saw him again on his return. The trails were all hard pack with a light dusting of snow on top. Footing was amazing as we bare booted the entire way to Bondcliff before needing to strap on traction to make our way across the ice. The views from Bondcliff, in any season, are simply amazing. If the mountains are your church, than this is the alter.. the cathedral, for sure.

Me on Bondcliff

From here we bundled up in single digit temps with a howling wind. No talking for awhile until a spot where things were a bit calmer. We reached the top of Bond, the summit I perched on during the September Flags on the 48 event. Things are much different up here today. The sun played with the clouds, giving us many different aura's of light. Snow flew all around in the wind, clouds submersed the other peaks. Mount Washington struggled to rise above to the North East. IT was simply amazing. It was cold, frigid, lonely... and beautiful. This is what its all about. We continued on, walked on top of some 5 to 6 feet of frozen hard packed snow, shaped by the weather. We dropped our packs on Bond and hiked the half out and back 1.2 miles to West Bond without them. West Bond... 11 Miles from the nearest Road. Just drew and I on the signature triangular peak... simply amazing.

The view of Bondcliff from West Bond

West Bond (R) and Bond (L) from Bondcliff

From here it was all down hill... back UP over Bond, Over Bondcliff, back to the railroad grade.. and the long 11 Mile walk back to the car. We started just after sunrise and returned after dark. Our last 3 miles of walking the railroad bed was done so under the moon. The snow around us glowed from the moons illumination and helped lead the way. Drew had his headlamp on, but turned it off to enjoy the beauty of it all. It was just us, the moon, the snow.. and the flowing Pemigewassett River, it was magical and well worth it. We were the last cars in the lot.. but thats ok.. we knew we had accomplished one of the hardest hikes in NH Winter. The Bonds.

The Bonds (The Ultimate Cathedral)

(Note: The pictures I have provided here are from our Bond hike in February 2007. I did not lug my camera this time (thank god) but the views from 2007 and the views from this hike... are almost entirely the same. The only difference is cloud cover and lighting. Please enjoy)

I cannot wait for summer again, so I can return to the Pemi, and run the traditional Pemi Loop. I always like to end on the Bonds and say a little prayer of thanks. Without my camera today, what I saw out there, what I saw in church... belongs to myself and Drew. I love sharing photos of my adventures, and I hope you get the idea from photos of my last journey here in Winter (2007), trust me... yesterday was no different... it was amazing. Three winters in a row now I have journeyed here.

Happy Trails!