April 16, 2016
Today Conan and I decided to make a trip to the Pemigewasset Wilderness and visit my favorite place in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The Bonds! Three peaks: Bondcliff (4,265′), Mt. Bond (4,698′), and West Bond (4,540′) all are recognized as New Hampshire 4000 footers.
I have been up here twice before. However, it would be a first for Conan. It would also be my first time visiting the bonds by approaching in and out via Lincoln Woods.
The Bonds are incredible peaks that are as isolated as it gets in the White Mountains. From the summit of Bondcliff you cannot see another man made structure (unless you squint and see the fire tower on Mt. Carrigain.).
Bondcliff is known for it’s exposed rocky ledges and cliffs. It is an amazing sight to see in person and I was excited to get back there!
The weather forecast was WARM! with mid 60’s at the lower elevations and 40-50’s higher up. Sunny with low winds. It was the perfect forecast for a long day.
The Bonds always make for a high mileage, high elevation challenging day.
Lincoln Woods Trail
This trip is notoriously long at nearly 23 miles total. Mainly because of the 5 mile approach by the Lincoln Woods Trail. This trail is an old railroad bed so it’s not particularly challenging or steep. Recreational mountain biking is allowed here… So watch your back on busy holiday weekends!
The Lincoln Woods Trail was bone dry and a nice change from the past few hikes which have been incredibly Icy. It’s starting to finally feel like spring around here.
Conan and I opted to run most of the Lincoln Woods Trail to try to save some time. We kept a moderate 5MPH pace and alternated between a brisk walk and a steady jog to keep our legs fresh for the steeper stuff ahead. We passed by many backpackers and hikers on Lincoln Woods Trail. This trail is like the interstate on a busy day as it leads to many popular trail heads.
About 55 minutes later we reached the junction of Bondcliff Trail. This is where things get a little more interesting.
The Bondcliff Trail is much more of a “single track” trail and winds around thick forest at lower elevations. It’s still pretty gradual at this point. Today it was a bit muddy in spots due to the recent warm weather thawing the snow and ice. Still… trail conditions here were pretty optimal!
There are a series of small river crossings, the last of which is a bit larger. Today it was flowing decently but wasn’t too challenging to cross. A few stranded logs helped bridge some gaps between rock hops.
At about 2,500′ the ice started to appear. Luckily it was still warm and the ice was soft. I didn’t even bother to put on my MicroSpikes yet as my trail shoes were biting into the soft ice enough to give me decent traction.
At around 3000 feet the trail steepens considerably and becomes sort of a stair master climb. The ice here was spotty. I found myself putting my MicroSpikes on for a few hundred feet… then taking them off as the trail became rocky and dry. A little frustrating, but I didn’t want to ruin my spikes by walking along bare rock.
Just before the final stretch, the trail crosses over the upper section of Black Brook, a rock covered water flow flowing down the south east side of Bondcliff. From here we were granted a decent view through the valley. The brook is easy to cross thanks to some gigantic boulders. There was a steep icy patch that leads down to the brook bed that required some butt sliding technique.
After crossing Black Brook it’s the home stretch. The trail is gradual and today was covered in spring mushy snow. I wore my MicroSpikes but they weren’t totally necessary here. The trail steepens briefly before the final hurdle to the top.
Just before popping out of treeline there’s a small rock scramble. Some hikers consider this a “rock climb” but it’s really not that intimidating. It’s almost perfectly formed steps that lead up a 10 foot wall with plenty of hand and foot holds.
Problem is… My dog is a little scared of it!
After trying to will him up for about 5 minutes I decided to give him a boost and pushed him to the top.
Here Come The Views!
Once over the final rock scramble we were immediately rewarded with views! Today was incredibly clear, sunny, and no wind. Perfect day for the Bonds!
The approach to the summit of bondcliff is all rocky shale and slabs. Typical White Mountain exposed summit fare here.
I hope you like pictures… Because I took a lot! This place never gets old.
A few short moments later we were standing at the top. This would make #28 for Conans New Hampshire’s 48 4000 footers list! This would be my Third time on bondcliff. I’ll be back again and again, I love it up here.
The Buttress of Bondcliff is an icon of the White Mountains. found on many book covers and advertisements. It’s an incredible rock feature that juts up from a talus covered slide. Standing out on the buttress is a great way to test your fear of heights.
On To Mt. Bond
After taking about 2000 pictures on bondcliff we headed off towards Mt. Bond. The distance between Bondcliff and Bond is deceiving as it looks so close… but it’s actually a pretty decent stretch to get up there. Most of the trail between Bond and Bondcliff is exposed and offers 360 degree views. It’s an amazing walk.
Several slides can be seen on the east face of West Bond within Hellgate Ravine. These would be incredible to bushwhack and climb… Someday!
Mt Bond Summit
We made it! Summit of Mt. Bond. This makes #29 for Conan’s New Hampshire 4000 Footers!
The summit of Mt Bond is all exposed rock offering 360 degree views. Today the views were spectacular.
On to West Bond
We took a moment to enjoy the view and trucked on towards west bond.
The trail immediately dips down into the trees. Here there was more snow and before and I found myself even post holing on occasion.
The stretch to West Bond is short and pretty tame. We reached the West Bond Junction quickly.
Today the West Bond Spur trail was a little tricky to follow. A blow down caused the trail to meander a little bit. The trail was mainly snow covered and easy with Microspikes. The final stretch to the top is the hardest, steepest part.
West Bond Summit!
Our final peak for the day. West Bond, we made it! This makes #30 for Conan’s 4000 Footers of New Hampshire. A milestone for him. I couldn’t be prouder.
Water At Guyot Shelter
At the summit of West Bond Conan and I ran out of water. With all the snow/ice around it would be difficult to find a place to refill and filter at high elevation. I decided that we’d make a detour and hike down to the Guyot Shelter to resupply. There is a reliable spring here. This would add mileage and elevation loss to our trip, but we had to do it!
The hike down to Guyot is frustrating. Knowing we’d have to hike ALL THE WAY back up to where we were. The trail was all rotten snow here. It was slippery enough for me to wear my MicroSpikes. The spur to Guyot Shelter is only 1/4 of a mile, but it feels longer due to its elevation loss of several hundred feet.
We had lunch and refilled our water here. After, we explored the shelter and surrounding area a bit. The tent sites were all empty and covered with mounds of snow. No one was around. In the summer months it’s nearly impossible to get a tent site here as it’s a common spot for people to camp and break up big hikes into multi-day adventures.
Unfortunately this isn’t a loop trip. After resupplying at Guyot Shelter we turned around and started heading back in the direction we came. Climbing back up from Guyot Shelter was a chore.
This is about the time I noticed drips of blood in Conan’s paw prints in the snow. After looking closer it appeared that he had cracked a nail. I can only assume this happened earlier while we were climbing up the boulder field between Bondcliff and Bond. He was still wagging his tail, but did had a slight limp. I decided to leave it alone and keep an eye on him. I had some first aid for him, but I didn’t want to hinder his traction by covering his paw just yet.
Luckily he toughed it out and the bleeding subsided. The limp continued, but he didn’t seem terribly bothered by it. We crossed over Mt Bond and started our descent towards Bondcliff. I tried to dial our pace back a bit to be sure Conan wouldn’t slip and injure himself further.
Approaching Bondcliff it was obvious that a lot of the people I passed on the way in on Lincoln Woods trail where now on Bondcliff.
Now back on Bondcliffs Summit there were a couple of groups of hikers eating lunch and enjoying the view. Conan and I stopped for a couple of pictures and conversation and continued on towards the treeline.
Surprisingly Conan hopped down the rock scramble he was hesitant about earlier in the day without batting and eye. I was happy to see that, because I didn’t feel like carrying his mud covered paws down!
The Final Stretch
After a long day the final 5 mile flat stretch of the Lincoln Woods trail is a real burden! Luckily Conan’s paw injury didn’t seem to bother him much so we picked the pace back up and began to run. We alternated between jogging/walking for the remaining 5 miles.
Once you start seeing obvious signs of family day trip tourists and their kids you know you’re getting close to the finish line. It was a welcome sight.
The Bonds are hands down my favorite peaks in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I’ll never get sick of the beauty, the huge exposed rocky features of Bondcliff, the feeling of being so secluded and the challenge of a long day.
Our trip was 22.3 miles with 5302 feet in elevation gain. We completed it in 8 hours 44 minutes including breaks and the detour to Guyot Campsite for water. Not a bad pace considering book time is around 14 hours (without the spur to Guyot Shelter). I’m proud of Conan for completing his 30th 4000 footer and cannot wait to get back out there with him. Another awesome day!