Revisited Bondcliff over the weekend on a gift of a day. Fitting, since it was a friend’s birthday hike.
Bondcliff has been my big-dream mountain since I started hiking the Whites. I would rather hike in the Pemi Wilderness than pretty much anywhere else; Redwoods in California is the only other place I’ve ever loved so fiercely and immediately. I fell for Bondcliff’s remoteness and drama before I ever saw it in pictures. I spent all last spring and summer and early fall trying to develop the fitness and nerve to attempt a Bonds traverse: Bondcliff, Bond, West Bond, plus the much-maligned (and my beloved!) Zealand. I lucked into one invite that I ultimately had to turn down — stacking Owl’s Head and the traverse back-to-back seemed like Too Much and I had a preexisting invite for Flume and Liberty that took precedence — and then into another that turned into a truly epic day, from a dreamlike start down the highway of the Lincoln Woods trail in the dark and a fine October snow, to moody fog on the Bonds that turned the entire world into a black-and-white photograph, to a taste of 70+mph winds crossing Guyot ridge, to grey jays and clearing skies for a classic on-top-of-the-world Zeacliff view.
This hike had a lot to live up to, is what I mean.
The forecast had promised an overcast morning and reasonably strong winds on top and instead we had this. Vibrantly blue skies. Enough clouds to cast interesting shadows and, to the right of these photos, sprinkle snow on other peaks. And a true rarity: a nearly windless day. We lingered on the summit. Enjoyed a leisurely lunch. I didn’t bother snagging any of the wider-angle photos; incredible as they are, you really, truly had to be there. I went out onto the cliff a second time; I never wanted to leave.
One of the crew asked if I thought I’d ever bring Lilo here and I told the truth at the time: I didn’t think so. It’s an 18.2 mile out and back (plus a couple of steps as we did it, with a short side jaunt to an old train trestle). Add a mile or two (and three or four figures, depending on which way you go, of elevation gain) for the traverse. If she gets close to finishing, I said, I’d look into taking her on some overnights to get the remote peaks. But I had no idea if she’d ever be an 18-mile dog.
But in the 24 hours since (and not just because I got home exhausted and she wanted to plaaay!), I keep catching myself thinking about how I could get her up on Bondcliff. It would have to be overnight and I haven’t backpacked in years. But my partner and I, we’ve talked a little about maybe doing some camping this summer. Some of my favorite hiking buddies are in our group chat right now talking about their own overnight Bonds dreams. So let me amend that answer to: maybe. Maybe.
I still don’t know if I’ll ever take her to, say, Owl’s Head unless she’s in the 40-something. That one twice in three months was probably enough of that one for me, for now! But Bondcliff? Maybe. I just can’t think of anything much better than sharing one of my favorite places with one of my favorite people.