Member Trip report

Bushwhacking the Bonds (NH)


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Saturday, December 2nd, was forecast to be mostly sunny and mild (in the 30's), so I headed up to Lincoln to bushwhack the Bonds via the western ridge of West Bond (instead of attempting the icy slides).  Upon arriving at the Lincoln Woods Trailhead at just before 7AM, I was surprised that the parking lot was virtually empty and the entire lot was a sheet of ice.  I quickly got ready and set off.  With all the ice I immediately put on microspikes.  

Hiking up the flat Lincoln Woods Trail was easy and I arrived at the edge of the Pemigewasset Wilderness at 8AM.  Just a little way into the wilderness, I turned onto the Franconia Brook Trail.  As this trail also coincided with an old railroad grade, this was equally easy and by 8:40 I passed the trail junction with the Lincoln Brook Trail.  It wasn't long after this point that I was getting views of the Bonds across a pond.  At 9AM I reached the Hellgate Brook.  I crossed the brook and headed into the woods in a northeast direction.  The woods were fairly open and at times I could see the ridgeline in the distance.  As I climbed toward the ridge, I ran across alot of bear prints.  I guess with the mild temperatures, they were still active.  Further along I came to areas with alot of blowdown.  It seemed to be a mixture of new and existing broken trees, but for the most part they were easy to walk over or around.  As I gained elevation the snow depth increased...from a few inches to a half-foot.  I also was getting views of Owl's Head through the trees at times.  By around 11, I stumbled upon some rock ledges with bear prints leading to what appeared to be small dens under overhanging rocks.  From a distance I tried to peer in, but could not see anything.  By about 11:45, I emerged from the woods out onto an open talus field.  Even though it turned out to be mostly overcast, there were decent views across the northern and western wilderness...the Franconia Ridge, Garfield and the Twins were all in view.  After climbing the open talus, I headed back into the woods.  Here the woods were tighter, but still not a particularly difficult bushwhack.  I was soaked though with all the snow falling from the trees.  At 12:45PM, I popped out onto the summit of one of the sub peaks.  I could now see the actual summit and it was just a bit more bushwhacking to get to it.  Just before reaching the top, there was a great view of Bondcliff.  The clouds were beginning to obscure the higher peaks and when I reached the summit cairn on West Bond (4540'), there were somewhat limited views.

I didn't stay very long on West Bond as it was already 1PM and I still had a long way to go.  At least it was nice to see other hiker's footprints.  It appeared that there had been a couple of people on the peak earlier in the day.  I descended the mountain and took the West Bond Spur to the Bondcliff Trail.  In the col, there was alot of blowdown.  It was relatively easy to hike over, under or around and at 1:30, I was on the main trail.  I turned south and headed for Mount Bond.  The trail was covered in over 6-8 inches of snow, but with some recent travel, I was no longer sinking into all that.  On the way over to Mt. Bond, I ran across a hiker still going out to West Bond.  He was the first person I had seen all day!  We chatted briefly and I continued on...reaching the summit of Mount Bond (4698') by 1:55PM.  The top was totally in the clouds with no views!  After getting a quick snack I started down towards Bondcliff.  Luckily, as I descended, it wasn't long before I dropped below the clouds with a nice view of "the cliffs".  As I emerged out onto the open, rocky ridgeline, there was not very much snow here and I made good time.  As I climbed Bondcliff, I met up with another hiker, who was waiting for his friend, who I had met going out to West Bond.  We chatted briefly and I pressed on.  I reached the summit of Bondcliff (4265') at 2:40.  The clouds were still covering over the higher peaks, but Garfield, the Hancocks and the Osceolas were finally clear.  As time was ticking, I started down.  I had initially thought of trying to bushwhack the ridgeline off of Bondcliff, but with darkness quickly approaching I figured it would be faster, but longer to use the trail.  I made good time on the descent and at 4:30 I made it to the old railroad grade (previously known at the Wilderness Trail, but now still part of the Bondcliff Trail).  The rest of the way back was a fairly straight and flat walk through the woods (approximately 4.8 miles).  Although the sun had set, I could still see without a headlamp.  I finally turned my headlamp on by around 5PM and it wasn't long after this that I reached the edge of the Pemigewasset Wilderness.  I crossed the bridge and finished up with the 3 miles back along the Lincoln Woods Trail...reaching my car again by 6:15PM.

It was another great day out in the Pemigewasset Wilderness and as the Bonds are one of my favorite set of peaks, this was well-worth the extra effort despite the overcast skies most of the day.  These peaks are remote and typically hikers do them as a traverse (19-20 miles) or as an out-and-back (24.8 miles).  The bushwhack up the ridgeline was not terribly difficult, but it was long.  Doing the bushwhacks (this one or the slides from the Hellgate Brook Ravine) hasn't shortened the hike, but it has reduced the total elevation gain required to do them in a day.  I still want to try finding an off-trail route off of Bondcliff, but that's a trip for the future.

Total mileage and elevation gain:  Approximately 19.5 miles and 4990 feet in cumulative elevation gain.

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