Have you ever had a perfect day in the mountains? I had one of those days yesterday, on an epic 23 mile day hike to Bondcliff (4265′), Mount Bond (4698′), and West Bond (4540′). The weather was so fine, with bright sunshine and clear skies, and the views were simply spectacular.
This was hard hike with 4,800 feet of elevation gain, on top of the distance. I’ve got an even bigger hike coming up over the weekend, a Presidential Traverse with over 9,000 feet of elevation gain, and I wanted to gauge my level of conditioning. I haven’t been doing much backpacking yet this year and I wanted to see if I had a big hike in me.
My wife, bless her, didn’t flinch when I told her I was going to try to do this route in one day. Just in case, I worked up a complete trip plan factoring in an overnight, if needed, and carried a full pack in case I decided to stop part way for the night. All of my previous trips to the Bonds have been backpacking trips because these peaks are about as remote as you can get in the Whites.
I didn’t sleep terribly well the night before this trip and got out of bed an hour earlier than planned to drive up to New Hampshire, arriving at the Lincoln Woods trail head at 6:00 am. Ten minutes later I was on my way.
Of the 23 miles in this out and back hike, the first 4.5 miles are relatively flat walk along an old railroad grade. I made excellent time, hiking this section at a 3 mph pace. If you want to walk fast, you have to try Pacer Poles. They easily add 0.5 miles to my pace per hour.
From there, I started climbing the Bondcliff Trail which is a far more rugged trail. Although I’ve hiked this route before, I didn’t remember a thing about this section from my previous hike in 2010, except the last stream to resupply my water before popping above treeline on Bondcliff Mountain. The trail was in pretty bad shape: Hurricane Irene clearly did a number on it, tearing out the foundation rocks underneath the treadway. It looked like flash flood damage.
Bondcliff Mountain was magnificent as always, towering over the Hellgate Brook watershed below. I’d made it up to the ridge (mile 9) in just 4 hours, so I stopped and had a bite to eat and drink. The bugs were viscous though and they soon drove me of the cliffs onward toward Mount Bond, one of the best view points in the entire White Mountains.
The climb up Mount Bond was hard. I was bonking and switched to Cliff Bars – complex carbohydrates – which helped boost my energy level quickly. From Bond, I hiked down and out to West Bond, my true goal for the day, and the last Bond that I need to hike for the Trailwrights 72 list.
West Bond is quite an easy hike – it’s the 6 hour hike getting there that’s hard since it’s really in the middle of nowhere. But oh, what a beautiful nowhere! From its summit I had a great view of Mount Garfield and all the peaks on Franconia Ridge, South Twin and its impressive slides, and and of course Bondcliff, shown above.
After another snack, I about faced and hiked back the way I came, back up Mount Bond, and back over BondCliff dropping back down to the East Pemigewasset River below. From there, I had a fast hike back to Lincoln Woods and a contented drive home.