bondcliff

Winter Bonds Traverse

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bondcliff

A traverse over the Bonds requires 23 miles of hiking, 5550 feet of elevation gain. I have done this hike a few times before as it is a personal favorite, but never roundtrip from Lincoln Woods.

The Bonds are great for those looking for a two day hike. You can combine it with the Twins, Zealand, or Hale (or all of them) depending on the difficulty you’d like. In winter the fire roads that lead to Zealand, Hale, and North Twin are closed, which creates more mileage. I also do not have the right gear for winter camping so that was out of the question. Hiking the Bonds no matter the time of year is a big undertaking. Hiking it in winter can seem nearly impossible.

I decide to take a slightly odd route up. Instead of taking a left at the trailhead and taking the Lincoln Woods Trail, I take a right and head down the East Side Trail, a path I have yet to explore.

east side trail

I’ve always wanted to check out the Franconia Brook tentsites and knew the Pemigewasset River would be frozen so I could cross it to get back to the traditional route.

cross country ski

I’ve always wanted to try my hand at skiing the flats as well. I haven’t been cross country skiing in forever and I now remember why! It’s slow. At least if you’re not that great at it. I use the skis for about 1.5 miles and then went back to hiking, noting to pick up the skis on my hike out. I thought I must have been doing something wrong as it was so slow going (and a lot of work!) but then I pass another person skiing a mile down the trail while I’m on foot.

pemi
Crossing the Pemi

I am glad I took this alternative route to start out this hike because it is gorgeous! It adds about a half mile but the scenery is so pretty, it goes by quick!

ice balls

One of the coolest parts is seeing these huge natural ice formations.  They are everywhere! The Pemi crossing is quite a bit of fun as well. I read that the step stones have been swept away and the crossing is dangerous in warmer weather because of the lack of crossing options when the river is flowing.

bonds

The temperature was just below zero degrees so I keep a quick pace to stay warm. Eventually I am able to take off my down jacket and a layer.

trail breaking

Right before I connect back to the Lincoln Woods Trail, a giant hole forms beneath me! I’m not sure what this section looks like when it’s not covered in snow and ice, but it would be interesting to see. The hole pictured above was solid ground before I stepped on it.

bondcliff trail

Eventually the trail connects to the Bondcliff Trail. It starts of gradually, but soon enough it gets real steep.

bondcliff trailSome fellow hikers drop off their skis on the lower portion of the Bondcliff Trail. It was great running into you, Dan and Dana!

bondcliff trail

The trail does start out moderately, but eventually has to gain elevation. Like many trails in the Whites, you climb straight up! After some steep climbing in the woods, the trail comes to a hanging ridge where careful footing is key. I ascend only wearing microspikes as the trail is well packed. However, as the temperatures warm throughout March, snowshoes will be needed to avoid postholing.

bondcliff trail

After the third time you thought you’d be at the summit, you’ll end up at the crest of Bondcliff’s south ridge. There is a short and fun scramble on this ledge. In winter it’s all about kick stepping and pulling yourself up!

bondcliff

I love being above treeline in the Pemigewasset Wilderness. You can see for miles and there’s nothing man made in sight. I feel fortunate to have a bright blue sky and low winds greet me as I walk toward the cliff. Typically a hike to Bondcliff involves convincing others to go “just a little further” to grab a few great shots. It’s always been a more social hike for me, but this time I am solo. I walk out onto the cliff and take in the views, but I feel rushed. I know I must get moving to bag Bond and West Bond.

bondcliff

mt bond

The wind gusts are mild, but it’s bitterly cold! The air is dry and raw. My nose is runny so I have to breathe through my mouth, alternating wearing my balaclava and going without it. The balaclava helps to warm up the air, but does not help my running nose. I eventually burn the roof of my mouth from breathing in the cold air, but it heals the following day.

bondcliff summit
Bright sun, cold smile.

view of mt washington

I love how many prominent peaks you can see from the Bonds. The Franconia Ridge, Presidentials (Washington peaks out above), Zealand Notch, and Crawford Notch (just to name a few!) can be seen.

view of franconia ridge
View of Franconia Ridge
bond summit cairn
Mt Bond

The hike over to Mount Bond involves ducking my head and pushing myself there. I hike quickly across the 1.2 mile ridge to the summit of Mt Bond. Though I have ideal weather I have little time to waste as I know I’ll be hiking out in the dark already. I plan to be back on the Wilderness Trail before sunset.

bond summit

West Bond involves a side route down the West Bond Spur. It is a quick one mile hike, but of course some scrambling is involved. I’ve only had views from this peak once before. My first time here, I was hailed on!

west bond ascent
Heading to West Bond

west bond

West Bond does not disappoint! I have to drag myself down the col of West Bond instead of soaking in the views. Being solo in winter does give you some time constraints. I want to be below treeline while it’s still light as I’ll have miles of hiking once I am there.

west bond

view of mt bond
Looking back at Mt. Bond

I follow the trail back over Bond and Boncliff to descend back to my car. Because of the foul weather we’ve had, I hadn’t done a big hike in weeks. I begin to feel it on my descent.

While I feel fortunate to be out here with low winds and blue skies, I can’t help to be disappointed. I’ve always explored these summits more. I feel as if I’ve been cheated out of my mountain experience. Once I’m back at the trailhead, I will have hiked roughly 18 miles below treeline to rush through the ridge. My body aches more as I continue down the trail. I force myself to continue at the same pace though my legs, especially my inner hip, is sore. I tell myself that I will hike frequently to avoid this. After all, the only way to get (and stay) in hiking shape is to hike!

I count my steps, making dozens of rounds of 100 in my head to know I’m making progress. The Wilderness Trail is long and flat. It’s like a perspective drawing where you look straight down and it never ends. The trail continues for miles and hours. Eventually I come to the Black Pond Trail Junction. 2.6 miles and I’m done. I promise myself I will not hike out this way again if I can avoid it! An overnight at Guyot and including other peaks (and avoiding Lincoln Woods altogether) is the way to do it!

DSC01565
Lincoln Woods Trail before sunset

 

Quick Facts:
Approach from: Lincoln Woods Trail
Elevation: Bondcliff (4,265′), Bond (4,698′), West Bond (4,540′)                                                                                                                                                 Elevation Gain: 5,550′                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Distance: 23 miles
Book time: 14 hours; my hike time- 11.5 hours

bonds traverse map
Map made with wmgonline.org

 

 

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