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


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Whoops deleted instead of replied...!

      Mark: "What an absolutely perfect way to finish an amazing journey! Beautiful pics, great story. Nothing more to say. Just keep doing it..."

      Mark, I agree...just keep doing it, which I hope to do THANKS! Nice to see you get to Maine this winter!. I think VT and ME in winter are in order for me for next winter. :-)

  2. Congratulations! What an amazing way to finish and certainly well-deserved after all the hard work. Pics and vids, gorgeous as always.

    1. Thank you, Summerset - and also thanks for following my adventures and taking the time to check it all out and share your comments, much appreciated. Hope you have a wonderful spring!