It’s always difficult to decide which peaks to bag as I have a large amount left. With this hike however, I picked peaks that have been very highly recommended to me, the three peaks that make up the “Bonds”. This also let me stay within the Pemigewasset Wilderness, my go-to White Mountains area and a place I plan on redlining. One of the things I love about the Pemi is the remoteness of some of it yet it is still close to 93 and a quick hop back to civilization when you get out. It also has some great camping options if you backpack. On Friday night, I got the last walk-in spot at Hancock Campground, and posted up for the night. I knew that the area would be busy due to “Flags on the 48”; a tribute to those lost on 9/11 where hikers sign up to climb each of the 48 4,000 footers with a flag and raise it from 12-2pm.
Day One: 11.5 Miles & 4248 Feet of Vert
Starting off in Lincoln Center the next morning on the Pemi East Side Trail, the destruction from Hurricane Irene was instantly visible on the Pemi River and the nearby trails. The suspension bridge was closed and trees and limbs littered the entire river with eroded banks falling in. The trails were largely washed out and by that I mean at some parts they were completely destroyed, with large drainage pipes actually washing down the streams.
The Franconia Brook Campground survived Irene unscathed but the river East Branch Pemi River nearby where I normally cross was raging and dangerous. I decided to head further upstream to attempt crossing above some bigger tributaries on the map. The Pemi East Side Trail was also badly washed out and a one point even has a stream rerouted over it. Walking around it, I spooked three small fingerling Brook Trout that quickly shot up the trail; crazy to see fish on a trail! I walked all the way to the Cedar Brook junction and met a couple that was also trying to cross the river to get to Bondcliff where I was headed. We decided to backtrack and then bushwacked 100 yards to get to the water. I picked a super wide line to cross and we got it done in about 15 minutes. The couple started freaking out halfway through but they succeeded. Afterward they pulled out a two liter bottle of homemade wine to celebrate “not drowning”. We said farewell and I began the 4.4 mile Bondcliff Trail to my first summit.
This trail ascends steadily for most of the way with 4 stream crossings which allow you to easily track your progress on the map. There are a few views of the east side of Bondcliff at the final water crossing. Just above here, I walked into a crew of small birds that I later identified as Worm Eating Warblers. I’m not a “birder” but I try to identify a few new species every time I go out. Before the summit the trees open up and you start getting your first glimpse at the views which got better as I walked a few more minutes to the summit. This was compounded by the fact it was a perfect sunny day.
After a brief photo stop at Bondcliffs summit (4265 ft.), I continued along toward Mt.Bond (4698 ft.) on the alpine ridge between the two peaks. I stopped multiple times to grab handfuls of the shrub blueberries that were perfectly ripe. After climbing Bondcliff with my ridiculously heavy pack (35+ lbs), I really started sucking wind. Turning a corner near the summit, I came within 25 feet of a gorgeous male Spruce Grouse who seemed to think I should pay a toll as he refused to move off the trail. I watched him try to hike uptrail for a bit, told him I wasn’t paying, and pushed forward as he faded into the brush. Trail fish and now trail chickens…
I didn’t spend much time on the summit of Mt.Bond as my ankle was starting to hurt pretty bad. Heading down to Guyot Campsite, I started limping and then began freaking out as I realized I would be “proper fucked” if I couldn’t walk out in the morning. Guyot is the most remote campsite in the White Mountains and the nearest road is about 11 miles away. I also needed to ensure I had somewhere to sleep. As I hiked past about twenty illegal & overflow campsites set up along the trail, I realized that Guyot would be at max capacity. I did need to refill my water though and Guyot’s spring is the only place nearby to do this. I started chatting with a woman by the Guyot spring who mentioned there was a spot left in the shelter. Thankfully, I hobbled up and dropped my things off, cooked, refilled my water and chatted with some hikers. A large group of annoying Dartmouth students soon swarmed the campsite and somehow were invited into the shelter at the last minute due to them bringing almost no gear whatsoever. Packed in like sardines, we fit 16 people and two dogs in a 12 person shelter. I didn’t sleep much that night thanks to Dartmouth Outdoors Club. Thanks losers.
Day Two: 12.2 Miles & 1597 Feet of Vert
The morning greeted me with a sunrise through the trees and a crucially rested ankle. My MSR Pocket Rocket‘s fuel tank had died the night before so I donated my Oatmeal and extra Clif Bars to a Thru Hiker named “Flapjack” , and set off for West Bond. The day was overcast but I had West Bond all to myself and the hike out and back was easy without much vertical change. Sadly, someone had freshly scraped the painted blazes off the trees with a knife and there was a fair amount of people camping out here.
West Bond is an extremely remote peak and I spent as much time here as I could and ate some dehydrated mangos before I cruised back up Bond and off to Bondcliff having a guy snap this pic on the way.
Near the last water crossing, I bumped into the woman that told me about the spot in the shelter and was able to repay the “trail magic” by giving her and her friend a ride to Woodstock Inn where they had to get picked up by her husband. They had forgotten their keys on their car drop to do a Bonds Traverse. We took the Wilderness Trail out which follows an old railroad the entire way back. It’s quite a long and straight trail with beautiful woodland scenery and occasional glimpses of the river which parallels it. They both hiked extremely fast and we blasted out of the woods passing about twenty hikers visiting Franconia Falls. The guy had thru hiked the AT and told me some stories about his experience. He estimated our pace at over 3.5 mph for the final 5 miles which was great considering I was limping the night before but with beer and nachos close enough to taste, I’d probably go that fast with a broken leg.
RECAP & Lessons Learned:
– Ounces equal Pounds and Pounds DO equal PAIN… I learned a lot about pack weight on this hike. The Bonds are the first 4ks that I backpacked and my Osprey Aether 60 @ 5lbs 2 ozs is entirely too heavy and much too big for a one night trip. My 2-man tent also weighs 5lbs 12 ozs and didn’t even get used on this trip. Between these two things I can easily drop some serious pounds. (I ended up exchanging the Osprey)
– Don’t bring an empty fuel tank stupid…
– I also overpacked food by about two pounds. Food and meals are challenging to plan as a beginner.
– Definitely want to avoid the Guyot campsite during this weekend and any other high traffic weekend to have any shot of getting a platform. The shelter is a nice fall back option if you can get in but it does get really crowded according to the caretaker. The remoteness was really wasted due to the crowds.
– Keep your eyes and ears peeled for wildlife and learn a few new plants and animals every time you go out.
– September is Blueberry and Black Raspberry season.
– This was my first true Solo overnight but I ended up sheltering with way too many people and hiking out with two fellow hikers and getting lunch with them.
– Dartmouth students are the worst. (Confirmed & verified by multiple sources on this hike.)
– The Guyot caretaker had all of his gear and clothes in his tent ripped to shreds by a Black Bear a few days prior.
Total length: 23.7 miles in two days
Total Vert: 5845 feet (My original calculations were 4198… WAY OFF!)
Pack Weight: Over 35 pounds
New Gear: Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Pad: Love it.
Sound Track: Born of Osiris – The Discovery, J-Dilla, Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest