sun_on_bondcliff

Bondcliff (4265')
Bond (4698')


2003 October 30 - November 01

The Short Version

Absolutely awesome. We could have sat on Bondcliff for hours. Our first backpack couldn't have gone any better. Two perfect nights followed by two perfect days. The weather was great. We slept well. We ate well. And, we were in good company. We're already looking into buying our own gear and doing it more often.

End of hike!

The Long Version

We've wanted to try backpacking for a long time, so when our friends Gerry and Caleb invited us on a trip up Bondcliff, we jumped at the chance. Gerry is an experienced backpacker and he equipped us with everything we needed, except my backpack which was provided by our friend Mike. Backpacking requires a lot more gear than we bring on our day hikes. We don't own much of the additional gear, but between Gerry and Mike we were provided the backpacks, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, tent, ground cloth, cook ware, stove, and stuff sacks we needed. (At least we have our own headlamps.) We met earlier in the week to get the gear together, discuss the trip, make a list of food we would need, fit the packs, and confirm our route. After a quick pasta dinner at Gerry's on Thursday night, the four of us left for the weekend in Gerry's van.

When we arrived at the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center, it was too dark to see what we were doing. We got our gear on using headlamps for illumination and set out for the Bondcliff trail at about 8:10pm. It was a bit cold at first, but with roughly 30% of our body weight strapped to our backs, it warmed up quickly. It had rained a lot lately and we could feel the dampness of the forest. (We also stepped right into the forest's dampness a lot, since the trails were very wet. After 10 minutes of hiking I was glad I had purchased hiking boots for the trip. My feet would have been soaked had I not.) Stopping a few times to make adjustments to the packs, we otherwise made good progress.

In short time, muscles that normally go unused or underworked began to tighten up. Nonetheless, we pressed on with our headlamps blazing beneath a sky filled with thousands of stars unseen near the city lights. Caleb would surge ahead from time to time while we talked with Gerry about the endless considerations and stories related to backpacking and hiking. Not long after we crossed the Franconia Brook bridge Caleb and Gerry went ahead on the Wilderness Trail while Elleing and I crept along at a more comfortable pace. We met up with them at the junction with the Bondcliff trail and stopped for our last opportunity to eat before setting up camp. The intent being to keep the food smell away from where we slept and avoid any late night encounters with nocturnal beasties.

We found a place to camp not very far up the trail at about 11:00pm. This was only after occasionally peering into the trees for possible sites then turning off the trail to confirm an acceptable location to set up for the night. After a few attempts, we found the perfect area that was more than the requisite 200 feet from the trail. Gerry set up a two man North Face tent for Elleing and I while we inflated our sleeping pads. Our food, double-bagged to avoid detection from the late-night critters, was kept in our backpacks and left in the vestibule. Some suggest hanging food to be safe and perhaps they're right. We opted to skip the inconvenience since we were camped in an untrodden section of the forest and had last opened food elsewhere. All this took considerably longer than Caleb and Gerry who simply slipped their sleeping bags into their bivy sacks and called it a night.

It took us a while to settle in, but once we did, the night went fairly well. A headlamp suspended from the top of the tent made it easier to move about and we slowly positioned everything as needed. Boots came off as we sat in one side of the tent then rolled over, boots in hand, to place them in the vestibule on the other side of the tent. Trekking poles were left outside near the opening, so they could be quickly accessed to fend off any malicious squirrels and such from my stash of cashews. Everything else came in the tent.

It was a little cold that night, but not cold enough to affect our sleep. The importance of finding someplace flat to set up the tent became apparent after sliding with the contour of the ground all night. We awoke at sunrise but we were a bit slow getting ready. Gerry was ready to go before we had even eaten, so he went on ahead, keeping in touch via radio. Meanwhile, the three of us cooked a breakfast of oatmeal with powdered, Brazilian milk. We refilled our water bottles from a nearby stream and treated it with iodine. (After 30 minutes I treated our water with Vitamin C to remove the iodine taste.) By 8:30am we were on our way.

Caleb still sleeping in his bivy.

It was slow going to the summit of Bondcliff. Elleing and I aren't accustomed to lugging 30% of our body weight up a mountain and as it got steeper, we got slower. At least the Bondcliff trail is relatively easy compared to most trails up the 4's. The urge to hike at our typical, less-encumbered pace was already reset by a recent day-hike at Monadnock. At Gerry's suggestion, we loaded our packs with 2 gallons of water to get a feel for how much additional effort was required. This definitely helped me set a reasonable pace going up the Bondcliff trail. Weight is a major factor, but the temps didn't help either. It was quite warm, perhaps in the 50's. In T-shirts and shorts, I was still sweating. Still, it went by quick, due in part to hiking half way in the night before.

The trail itself is beautiful. The first 5 miles or so are relatively flat. The remaining trip to the summit of Bondcliff is never very steep for long. With the leaves blanketing the ground we could see through the forest to the summits of the Hancocks and Carrigain, a type of view normally obscured for warm-weather hikers like Elleing and I. The character of the trails continually changes and the footing is always good. There was an interesting section where the trail seemed to end at a brook, but the trail was the brook. The summit of Bondcliff was in sight when we stopped to water up. A minor misunderstanding sent Caleb and I scurrying down a steep embankment to fill up only to realize later that there was a stream crossing only 20 yards up the trail. Elleing and I enjoyed the view while Caleb radioed to Gerry who was already on the summit on Bondcliff and on his way to Bond.

bad_water_break

Near the summit there is a steep ledge. This vertical scramble required some care climbing up with a pack on. There may be easier ways up but the we liked the direct route. Gerry told us there are times when he hiked this ledge in winter and only had to step up one foot to get over the ledge because so much snow fills the trail. Once over the ledge the views open up and a short while later, at 12:30pm, we had a 360 degree view from the summit of Bondcliff. It immediately became a favorite.

bc_ledge_shawn1 bc_ledge_shawn2 bc_ledge_shawn3 bc_ledge_shawn4 bc_ledge_caleb bc_ledge_elleing1 bc_ledge_elleing2

On the summit, there was barely any wind and the temps were very comfortable even when we weren't moving. There were no other people to be seen and we hadn't seen anyone else since the parking lot at Lincoln Woods the night before. The only man-made object we could see clearly were the buildings on Washington. Mountains wrapped around us and the cliffs were spectacular. Rocks filled our immediate area in a block arrangement that seemed intentional. The vastness of the Pemi spread out towards the surrounding mountains. We sat down for a well-deserved and needed break.

on_bondcliff_elleing_caleb

The views are superb and we could see clearly in all directions. The Bonds sit in the middle of the Pemigewasset Wilderness and are about as remote as you can get. The closest road is more than 9 miles by trail and 6 miles by air from the summit of Bondcliff. The only man-made object in sight are on Mounts Washington, Loon, and Carrigain. They're diminutive presence is hardly noticed while taking in the beauty of nature and spying on other notable summits. I took a moment to recognize peaks that a year ago would have meant nothing to me as individual places.

Looking west from Bondcliff, Owl's Head is in front of Franconia Ridge (Lafayette, Lincoln, Liberty, Flume) with Moosilauke and Kinsman sticking up behind the ridge, and Garfield sits by itself just north of Lafayette. To the east, Carrigain and the scarred face of Mt. Lowell are easily spotted and we could see the summit platform on Carrigain that day. Hancock is present on the right and the profile of the Giant Stairs of Stairs Mountain were clearly seen from where we were. West Bond, with the famous cliff of Bond in the foreground are close by, as is Bond, the high point on the ridge. Washington's unmistakable hulk lurks past the summits of Field and Willey. Carter Dome sticks up just behind Willey since Isolation would be to small to see with Willey standing in front of it. And to the south, the Tripyramids (branded by the North Slide scars) and the Osceolas.

Looking west from Bondcliff.  Owl's Head in front of Franconia Ridge.  Lafayette, Lincoln, Liberty, and Flume visible.  Moosilauke and Kinsman sticking up behind the ridge. West Bond, with the famous cliff of Bond in the foreground and Garfield in the distance. Bond with Washington in the background and the summits of Field and Willey in between.  That should Carter Dome sticking up just behind Willey since Isolation would be to small to see with Willey standing in front of it. Carrigain and the scarred face of Mt. Lowell.  Hancock to the right.

Bondcliff gets its name from a combination of it's larger neighbor's name and the cliffs. The cliffs are magnificent. The entire west side of the summit is a crag that drops straight down for several hundred feet. One section of the cliff juts out into space to form a narrow platform on top of a massive stone column. A popular place for photos, we wasted no time taking pictures sitting on the edge of a precipice intimidating enough to give the bravest hikers pause. This fact didn't dissuade Elleing from running over and taking a seat on the edge of this fearsome formation before Caleb even turned the camera on.

Elleing and Shawn on Bondcliff (far) Elleing and Shawn on Bondcliff (close) Caleb on Bondcliff (far) Caleb on Bondcliff (close)

We checked our progress and decided to change plans. Gerry would continue on the planned loop, but we would turn back after the summit of Bond. We decided that we didn't want to risk running into Sunday, mostly because we wanted to take a friend out for her birthday. At the rate we were going, it would be late Saturday at best. Rather than chance running late, we dropped our packs and hiked over to Bond with only what we needed to enjoy the view from the highest point in the area. Gerry had seen a black bear here earlier, but by the time we got here it was gone. On the way over I twisted the wrong way and tweaked my back. This irritated me for the rest of the day, but never impeded our progress. Still, these moment always remind me to be careful when out that far. Gerry spotted us on the summit of Bond while he was on Guyot and radioed one last time. He would continue with a complete loop and we would meet him at the car at noon the next day.

We took a moment on Bond to look around, but didn't stay longer because it was getting colder and windier by the moment, plus we wanted to get most of the wat down that day. Facing Mt. Washington from the summit of Bond, Zealand notch sits in front of Tom and Field with Zeacliff at the left of the notch. To the right of Washington is Boott Spur. To the left is what my map calls Clay and some have started to call Reagan. And, to the far left is Jefferson. Guyot, South Twin, North Twin, and Zealand are close by to the north and to the west. We scurried off after a quick picture of the three of us at the turn-around and high point of our journey and began looking for a mitten Elleing dropped on the way over from Bondcliff.

on_bond Facing Mt Washington from the summit of Bond, it looks like Zealand notch sits in front of Tom and Field with Zeacliff at the left of the notch.  To the right of Washington is Boott Spur.  To the left is what my map calls Clay and some have started to call Reagan.  And, to the far left is Jefferson. Caleb on Bondcliff trail

We left the ridge around 4:00pm. The trip down went much quicker. After carefully lowering ourselves over the ledge, we hustled down the mountain to where we had filled up with water earlier. It was about 5:00pm and starting to get dark. We stopped here and made dinner while the clear sky was rapidly filled with clouds rushing over the top of Bondcliff. (Our dinner was larger than planned since we wouldn't be ending on Sunday with the route we had taken.) Gerry had suggested angle hair pasta since it cooks quickly and can be mixed with cheese for something the tastes decent. We added sun-dried tomatoes and peppered beef jerky to make a meal that was actually very good. We sat and enjoyed our dinner with headlamps on for the last half of it. At 6:00pm, we packed everything up and continued hiking.

stove_flame I make fire.  Fire good. stove

An hour later, we found a place near a large brook and I set up the tent. This was good timing since we were all pretty tired by the time we finished setting up. We walked downwind for about a quarter mile and ate some more of the trail snacks that were now in abundance. I didn't sleep well and we were all up pretty early. After another oatmeal breakfast we stuffed the gear back in our packs and got going.

tent_shawn tent_elleing caleb_chillin

We made tracks heading out that morning about 8:00am. It was all downhill or flat and we knew the car awaited us. I was pushing a little and my feet really felt it. Elleing's back and shoulders were taking a beating, so we made adjustments that really should have been made much earlier in the trip. Near Franconia Brook, Caleb radioed Gerry. He was still on track for noon. Since we were running ahead of noon by about an hour, we took a side trip to Franconia falls. We rested for about an hour and snack on our remaining food. The falls are nice. There's so much water gushing down the massive slabs of rock that we could actually feel the cooling effect. We left with enough time to get to the car before noon.

falls_caleb_1 franconia_falls

When we reached the suspension bridge and the end of our trip at 11:50, Gerry was sitting there, already changed and ready to go. He was on target for noon, but he had forgot to reset his watch to standard time. After our 21 mile trek (about 25.2 for Gerry) we cleaned up and headed over to Truant's for dinner. The whole trip only took about 40 hours with about 15 hours of actual hiking.


Looking Back

Food was kept simple and Gerry set the guidelines. Everything was dehydrated or close to it. Two oatmeal packets for breakfast, 4 energy bars per day (2 PowerBars, 1 protein bar, and a Balance bar), angel pasta (1/4 lb. pp/night) with grated cheese for dinner, and beef jerky and cheese before stopping for the night. (The target is about a 50/25/25 mix of carbs, protein, and fat.) The oatmeal is hot and helps get you going. The energy bars are easy to eat while you are moving and the pasta cooks fast, just bring it to a boil and by the time it cools off its ready to eat. The high-protein / high-fat snack before dinner provides some slow digesting food to keep you fed through the night. We added some additional food like beef jerky and candy-coated and chocolate-covered peanuts for day-snacking and it seemed to work well. We'll continue to experiment, but it was a good menu to start with.

The forecasted temps were warm, so we cut back on clothing. My list was, waterproof/windproff (w/w) boots, synthetic socks, w/w shell pants, long-underwear, running shorts, syn T-shirt, syn long-sleeve shirt, w/w fleece jacket, extra fleece jacket, w/w shell coat, w/w mittens, hat, balaclava, and goggles. The last two are for storms and went unused as did the extra fleece, but in nasty conditions they could make all the difference and they're very light. Colder weather may have added a fleece liner for the sleeping bags.

I injured my heel coming out on the last day. It was a combination of not stretching in the morning and moving too fast, too soon. I didn't even realize it was truly injured until much later. At least my back wasn't any worse than normal. Elleing finally got her pack fitted correctly, just before we finished the hike. We never found the mitten. Oh well, they didn't work well when wet anyway.

This was my first time wearing hiking boots. For warm-weather day-hikes, I'll probably stick with trail shoes, but I was really glad I got boots for this trip. I was mostly happy because they kept my feet dry when my other shoes would be soaked. They're also warmer and provide extra support and protection which comes in handy when handling extra weight.

I'd say we did well overall and learned a lot on our first overnight hike. The type and amount of food was good. The gear worked well for the conditions, and we were prepared in case the weather got worse. The distance wasn't bad and we could have gone further. It was a great trail to hike in both directions but we'll aim for loops in the future. We love hiking at night. Especially the flat sections that can drag on during the day. Vitamin C works great in iodized water. We learned as much on this trip as we did on our trip up Flume 2 years ago.


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