Tuesday, March 26, 2013

W48-in-1: Sunrise Winter 48 Finish on The Bonds - 3/10/13

Since December 22nd, every single weekend and countless hours were spent working towards this goal - the 48 White Mountain 4000 footers in a single winter season. It meant every single Friday, whether a storm was coming or not, I was rushing home to get to bed so that many of those weekends, I could start my hikes early on Saturday. Many of those mornings I remember it being 5 degrees and snowing hard as I walked up a dark trail. It would be no different on the morning of March 10, 2013, except it was about 32 degrees and not snowing, a sign that winter's end was indeed drawing near. At about 1:00am, I was fully prepared and ready to go after resting at Lincoln Woods. I had hiked 15 miles in the Presidentials just less than 8 hours earlier. I would start in a half hour. I sat still feeling a throb in the top of my foot from my misstep the day before. As I got out of the car and turned on the Spot Tracker, and started to head across the Pemi bridge, the pain went away. Not only would my finish a single winter season, these would also be the last three peaks I've never climbed in winter. This is my Sunrise Winter 48 Finish on the Bonds - a very special and spectacular solo hike, and one that I'm happy to share with you all of you. 
Pemigewasset River footbridge
The Lincoln Woods Trail was nicely packed out for me. I was aware that a couple of groups had done some Zealand-Bonds Traverses in each direction that Saturday, therefore I expected the trails to be nicely broken out. I continued onto the Wilderness Trail, still bare booting and taking advantage of easy trail conditions. At one of the crossings before the sharp hairpin turn in the ravine, I threw on the micro spikes in advance of the ascent to treeline. I could faintly see the sky beginning to lighten as I was rounding the mountainside up to Bondcliff. I found myself at the steep pitch right before treeline with about an hour to spare until actual sunrise.
Bondcliff Trail from the Wilderness Trail
I spent about about 15 minutes here. I texted my Dad, who I was sure was up tracking me, to tell him the sunrise I was about to experience was going to be beyond this world. I readied my GoPros and cameras. A deep, deep orange glow was teasing as I climbed through the last of the scrub. With every second, it was getting better and better, and brighter and brighter, and at the same time my adrenaline and excitement become more and more escalated.

Adding to the sunrise on my right, on my left, was the incredibly still and silent Pemi Wilderness, Owl's Head, and the entire Franconia Ridge blanketed with a purplish sky from the reflections of the sun against the clouds. It was as if I could reach out and touch Mt. Lafayette. It must have taken me a half hour to get from treeline to the summit of Bondcliff because I was in such amazement. I was even more stunned when I stepped foot out onto the cliff of Bondcliff, peak number 46 on the winter. 
Sunrise behind the Presi's
Bondcliff summit and Franconia Ridge (Flume, Liberty, Lincoln, Lafayette)
Bondcliff summit photo
Just after hitting the Bondcliff summit, I slowly started to meander towards Bond as the sun finally crested the horizon. It started to reflect off the ice on the rocky ridge, beginning a new phase to this adventure, which would be even better than the first. 
Sunrise from the Bonds
Alpenglow on Franconia Ridge
It was hard to keep moving forward with such impressive surroundings. The sun, now almost fully above the rugged mountains to the east, was shining brightly orange, with rays extending straight to my face. Already completely overwhelmed, as I continued across the ridge with little effort because of the euphoria, I observed a jet bolting across the sky leaving a trail of exhaust that appeared it was coming straight out of the sun. To experience that little extra, and to capture it on video behind me as I filmed myself coming across the ridge was just, once again beyond anything I could describe. 
Sunrise from Bondcliff Trail on the Bonds ridge
If I wanted to relive 30 minutes of any past hike - you're looking at the moment
A plane seemingly shoots out of the sunrise behind me
Continuing on, I arrived to the summit of Mt. Bond, my second-to-last peak on this journey through winter. The sun was now fully above the horizon, and above Mt. Bond. The day had arrived, and the view was the best ever. I did a few circles on the summit for sure, looking at the summits of over 40 other 4000-footers that I visited this winter. 
Reaching the summit of Mt. Bond
View from Mt. Bond
Bondcliff as seen from Mt. Bond
Bondcliff and Bond were amazing, so what was West Bond going to be like, my last peak? West Bond is one of the most remote of all 48 besides Isolation and Owl's Head, and was one of the last few 4000 footers to be included on the list, mostly because of its difficulty to get to in the early years of hiking in the White Mountains. I love remote, I love a challenge, and I also love an incredible view. West Bond, here I come. 
Alpine Zone living up to its name
I descended Mt. Bond on my way to the West Bond Spur. It didn't really feel like I was going down. Wow, the snow was so deep on this ridge line, I was shocked to see the alpine zone sign nearly gone. I had not seen such deep snow anywhere all winter than right here. After all, the Bonds in winter were the last 3 completely new winter peaks to me. Today though, the deep snow (5 feet +) rose me up above the trees, providing me with longer views than normal as I made my way from the Bond summit to the junction.
West Bond Spur (.5mi)
After hiking all night in the dark since 1:30am, I was finally here, .5 mi and about 10 minutes to go. You may be thinking how was I not dead tired after all that, and hiking 15 miles in the Presidential's the day before. I don't know, but that's what happens when your dedicated to something meaningful, and the views I had for every minute on the trail this weekend was all the fuel I needed to keep a wide grin and energized muscles going all weekend. After gearing up the cameras, I was headed into the col where I could easily see the summit through the trees as I approached. The exposed and rocky summit was waiting for my arrival.
West Bond from the spur trail
Last push to the summit of West Bond
At approximately 8:15am, I reached the summit of West Bond (4,698'), my 48th and final winter peak. It was about an hour after sunrise, and the weather was picture perfect, giving me the good fortune of incredible views far better than I could have ever imagined for West Bond in winter. Being here, surrounded by all those peaks I've climbed (in winter) was an incredible feeling. I can't describe it in detail, but can share that it was emotional and filled me with great pride to finish this personal challenge of hiking all 48 in a single winter season.
Bondcliff as seen from West Bond
South Twin and its slides as seen from West Bond
Closer view of Bondcliff and its rocky ridge which I traversed
West Bond summit photo
Making it official! Thank you to all who have followed me this winter.
Cheers to the 48 in winter ! Glenlivet 18 is the scotch of choice
Although I shared the summit for a few minutes with another pair of hikers, West Bond was mine to enjoy for nearly an hour. I took it all in before preparing myself for the long journey out. Along the way out, I took many more photos. The Presidentials were jaw-dropping. In the Pemi Wilderness, I snapped a variety of photos of the ravines and gullies on South Twin, West Bond, and Owls Head, which are locations that I would like to take time and bushwhack across this summer.
Close view of the Presidentials from near Mt. Bond
Presidentials as seen from Bondcliff Trail near Mt. Bond
Obligatory photo of the Bonds ridge line
On the way back, I set-up a self timed shot of myself on Bondcliff. It took me a few tries....

Yes I am nuts
Me on Bondcliff in winter
I descended into the trees, and at a very quick pace made my way down to the valley floor. From here, the rest of the 5 or so miles along the Wilderness and Lincoln Woods Trail was simply beautiful and peaceful. 
Bondcliff Trail near the start of Black Brook
Pemigewasset River thawing
The End
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post with some additional thoughts on completing these lists, including a bunch fun facts from my winter. CLICK HERE to read that. To check out my finisher's page on the single season website, CLICK HERE.

Hike Stats
Trails: Lincoln Woods Trail, Wilderness Trail, Bondcliff Trail, West Bond Spur
Distance: 23 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,500 ft.
Actual Book Time: 11:06

Monday, March 25, 2013

W48-in-1: Monroe & Eisenhower (Washington too) - 3/9/13

Saturday, March 9th was one of the best winter days on the Presidential Range. My goal for the day was Mt. Monroe and Eisenhower for #44 and #45 on the winter season. As I readied in the parking lot just below the cog, it was rapidly filling up with cars. I started off up the road to the start to the trail, ahead of a large group preparing to start. The trail was very nicely broken out, and it was a beautiful morning to be heading towards the top of New England. All along the way up, I had clear shots of the summit of Washington. This was just an awesome day to hike the Ammo Trail for the first time in winter. Loved it!
Mt. Washington from the lower cog lot 
Mt. Washington from the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail 
As I neared tree-line, I noticed I had gone off the actual trail, and was left of it. The actual trail stays mostly in the trees until the hut, but I was following some previous days tracks. Although it added some difficulty, I got some unique views of the slopes, and had some wind because I was exposed. After that, I was happy to get to the hut for a quick break from the wind. Here, I put on snowshoes, which I had on for just about the rest of the time. The snow was awesome above treeline! The wind was making some blow across the slopes, which provided a really unique experience on such a crisp and clear day.

I elected to climb Washington as the out and back and take advantage of the momentum (decreasing elevation) all of the way to Eisenhower and down the Edmands Path. I was mesmerized by the views as I was climbing up Washington. The perfect looking slopes made me wishing I brought my sled. On the way, near the summit, I had some fun with my GoPro's, setting up a couple of shots of me heading up to the summit. I walked across the top marveling at the views I was seeing. I approached the vacant summit sign, and enjoyed my 5th winter summit of Mt. Washington in less than a year and a half. A nice fellow took my picture on the summit. We had a short chat about the mountains, and I was off.
Mt. Washington from near Lake of the Clouds - 1 mile to go
I wanted to go sledding! This looked awesome
Reaching the summit of Mt. Washington 
A cool shot of the guy snapping my summit photo - Thanks!

The Northern Presidentials from the MWO observation deck
But wait! I had walked out onto the observation deck to take some photos with my brother's Canon camera. I had left my pack near the summit, and returned. I don't know how I forgot, but I had left my Olympus camera sitting in the snow right in front of the sign. I made it part way down the cone (maybe .1 or .2mi from summit sign?) before realizing I was missing one of my few cameras I had that day. I couldn't believe it. I decided to leave my pack where I was and run pretty quickly up the steep last pitch to the summit, where it was still sitting there about 30 minutes later after more than a dozen people visiting the summit. If not, someone would have picked it up. Feeling ecstatic about the fact that I did not lose another expensive camera (lost one in 2011), I quickly headed back to my bag. As I was trying to find it, I hiked about 100 feet down further than it was and off to the right of it, which was frustrating, but no big deal. All of this provided me with some challenging decision making, increased heart rate, and it made me re-think ever leaving my pack somewhere for any distance above treeline.

Now back to the good stuff, I was on my way to Monroe. Whenever I look at Monroe from the Crawford Path, it always reminds of that morning on the back end of a Moonlight Presidential Traverse, when I was on my way to finishing the 48 for the first time. What struck me most about this view on this day was being able to see almost all of the Pemi peaks in the background, particularly Lafayette and Franconia Ridge. They looked so small compared to the elevation which I was standing at. Utterly impressive to say the least.

As I neared Lake of the Clouds, I went in a direct line to the Monroe Loop junction, crossing the other Lake of the Clouds, which was pretty sweet. I delayered at the junction as it was much warmer 1,000 feet lower than the summit cone. Because of the incredible forecast, which had the Presi's calling, and active Facebook groups, I was aware that there would be opportunities to run into a few other fellow hikers and bloggers, which I did. Here, I had the pleasure of running into Allison coming down from Mt. Monroe. She keeps her blog, One, Woman, 48 4000-footers which is certainly worth a look for more great reports and photos from the 4000 footers, especially from this same day. It was very nice to meet you.

After the chat, it was a nice climb up to Mt. Monroe. It's always fun, as the cairns wind up the steep summit cone, making you look in every direction on the way up. From the summit, one of my favorites, I continued to enjoy the incredible views in the warm sun. I had the good fortune of meeting another solo hiker on Monroe, John, who lives a few towns over from me, and we hiked most of the way to Eisenhower together. He completed an out-and-back to Monroe from the Highland Center that day, covering 3 Presidential peaks, just as I had.
Mt. Washington summit cone from Mt. Monroe
View southwest from the trail just before the actual summit 
Summit of Eisenhower, peak #45 on the winter 
Arriving at Eisenhower, there were more people enjoying another Presidential Peak. Eisenhower is like Moosilauke with a broad summit (and huge cairn). The Northern Presidentials loomed, but looked so great. After exchanging summit photos, and drinking some water, we parted, and I was off to a new trail for my descent, the Edmands Path. The views from the path below the summit were pulling me to a halt, but as I got into the trees, I was looking forward to getting this done so I could get the most rest for tomorrow. It was such a great day, I already spent way more time above treeline than I had planned for this hike.
Descending the Edmands Path in winter 
Edmands Path had some faint tracks on my descent. It appeared to be packed at times, but it was drifted over very well with a few inches of snow, covering all tracks at times. This proved to be difficult for me right at treeline. In the photo above you will see the ridge on the right. The trail goes over that bump before winding down to the Mt. Clinton Road. I found myself coming short of that. There are lots of spots that look like the trail. I was heading down one of them, and slipped. I let loose a bunch of snow, which covered my left leg up to almost my waist. I started to feel the pressure of the heavy snow tightening a tendon in my foot, which prompted an immediate reaction to the pain to dig myself out. You've got to be kidding me, I still have miles to walk out and my ankle (or the area on the top of the foot, near the ankle) felt like it had been torn by the pressure of the snow.
Lower Edmands Path 
Mt. Clinton Road with Mt. Washington in the background 
Base Station Road walk back to the winter parking at the cog
I babied the foot with light pressure for the rest of the way down to the closed Mt. Clinton Road, and all of the way for the 2+ mile walk back up to the Cog parking lot. It was killing - sharp shooting pain, and my relatively new mountaineering boots were not helping. I was wondering how it was going to be possible for me to hike 23 miles to the Bonds for my single season finish and begin the hike in less than 7 hours at about 1:30am. I took some Advil, picked up a nice chicken parm sub, and went to Lincoln Woods to eat, adjust my pack, change clothes, and get a little rest, especially for the foot.

Hike Stats
Trails: Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, Crawford Path, Monroe Loop, Eisenhower Loop, Edmands Path, Mt. Clinton Road
Distance: 14.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,650 ft.
Actual Book Time: 11:25

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