Hike to Bondcliff
17.6 Miles
9 Hours 30 Minutes

I posted on a hiking forum to see if anyone would like to join me on a hike today. However, people were more interested in correcting the date I posted for Tuesday than actually considering hiking. Then I messaged my classmate Alex about the idea and he accepted the challenge. Alex arrived just after 5am. I was pretty much ready to go and was eager to make the drive up north. I needed to hike, especially to this place.. Bondcliff. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times, “If the mountains are your church, Bondcliff is the Altar.” It is indeed a powerful place, at least to me, one of few spiritual places in my life. A place I know I can go to to dive deeply into my soul and try to figure things out. We arrived at the trailhead at 7am and we were on the trail for 7:20. Local thermometers ready -2, another great day in New Hampshire. The sun is still rising from the valley to the west as we took off down the gray and white colored trail. We step onto the bridge (see above) that ushers us and welcomes us into what I call “The Holy Land” better known as the Pemigawassett Wilderness. As we crossed the frozen river, chills ran up and down my spine from more than just the temp, I was once again home.

The Lincoln Woods and Wilderness Trails are very similar. Old railroad logging beds built in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s to drag countless amounts of timber from these woods. We walked briskly in just our boots through the endless tunnel of evergreens covered in white pillows of snow. It’s always nice to have a good hiking partner. A good hiking partner is someone who knows when to talk and someone who knows when not to talk. Alex was one of those people as we moved briskly towards the Bondcliff trail. The river weaves too and fro from our vantage point on the trail. At times we hear its rushing sounds as it weaves its way through the frozen and unfrozen sections of itself.

We finally had to stop to throw our snowshoes on. While most of the trail up till now has been broken out for us, it is still powdery snow, slick and hard to manage. I had to wait for Alex to figure his snowshoes out, adjust them and strap them on. I ate and cold pretty chilly but he didn’t take too too long. It gave me an opportunity to stop and pose for a picture.

From here we made our way onto the Bondcliff Trail. The 4.4 miles to the summit is home to a relentless climb, in fact.. almost all climbing. We followed a neatly packed out single track trail which was marked up by the snowshoes of the last passerby. For a time we observed the tracks of a wayward moose, whose tracks were huge and whom we hoped to not run into given the enormous size of the hoof marks. It was great to see the moose weave in and out from the trail to the deep powdery woods. The snow is 2-3 feet deep and getting deeper the higher we climb. The moose prints disappear and we monitor prints of either a bobcat or coyote. We climb higher and higher and begin to feel the temperature drop. The winds pick up from the south and snow begins to lightly fall from above. My plans of bagging 3 peaks today are beginning to dissipate, but thats fine. I’ve been here before. We continue on, cautiously negotiating a snow slope.

As we climbed ever higher towards the summit of our 4,000 foot friend, the winds continued to pick up and gust. Snow began falling a bit heavier now and the wind was knocking the large plumes of snow caught in the trees towards the earth. It was becoming hard to stay both dry and warm but we pressed on. We arrived at the Hillary Step and I motioned to Alex that it’s a good time to stop and eat. So we stopped and added some extra layers of clothing and got ready for the wicked weather that was awaiting us on the summit and in this summits small Alpine Zone. Alex sat comfortably on a rock and ate hummus, crackers, cheese and who knows what else. He brought enough food and supplies for a small army. Me? I just ate from a bag of pepperoni and a small bag of trailmix. Stonyfield Farms yogurt smoothies are great energy as well.

After stashing our food back away, we loaded our packs back on and we made our way onto the summit area. We climbed the Hillary step and entered a world known only here, and the arctic regions of our world. Rime ice encased itself on the small trees known as krumholz. Views? There were no views, the summit was socked in and the clouds brought visibility down to about 50 feet. Winds whipped across the summit. What I remember vividly as warm summer winds the brush across my skin, are now frigid winter winds that chill me to the bone. The temp was around 0 with the windchill at around -15. It was cold, nasty and violent. We walked across the summit cliffs, following each cairn carefully from one to the next and then.. finally.. there it was…


Bondcliff, a place where all the world seems lost and all that matters in the next few moments.. are you. The altar, the place where mind over matter doesn’t matter because you’re all ready there. As we walked towards the precipice, I fell into the snow and rested my back against the rime covered rocks. The wind gusted briskly and soon rime ice began to form on my pack, my poles, and even my frigid face. As I stared across the void the clouds rushed by and as we sat in silence my eyes played tricks. The powerful draw of the rocks almost appeared to be apart of a tv set, where static fills the screen. I handed Alex the camera, and I walked around the the cliff itself. I’ve been here many times in winter, never having stepped to the edge for fear of falling off, fear from slipping on the ice. Today, I had no fear, nothing else mattered to me but the chance to get on the cliff and do what I had yet to do over these last few months. As I walked out to the cliff face, I dropped to my knees in a drift of powdery snow, I reached my hands out to the ground and I crawled across and onto the cliff. I stopped and stayed there kneeling, the wind and ice crystals sandblasting my face, my eyes squinting, I closed them and stayed there, in one moment, the whole world seemed to drop from existence. There are no views here today, yet then again there is. When the winds and clouds shroud the views of afar, you are forced to view within. So as I kneeled on the cliff, I finally did it I asked god himself for forgiveness and to provide me with the courage and strength to continue on my journey. I told my grandfather I missed him and I spent a few moments looking within, the only view that was afforded on this day of arduous journey.


5 thoughts

  1. Sherpa John, I found your blog from the eco-xsports blog and having been following your various postings. This by far was the best! The details of your hike was so detailed at times I felt like I was there too. I’ve never been to a place like Bondcliff, but hope in my lifestime am afforded such an experience. All the best, Brenda


  2. John,so I read your posts all the way down the page and feel a lot, although my fingers are not fast enough, and my English is not sophisticated enough. One day I’d like to sit down with you. Many (if not all) go through struggles you go through, many can’t cope with them, but yet many find a way. Some ways are temporary, some – good long term (nothing is forever). While in general nobody can help you but you, a good friend (either gender) without judgment is best remedy. Or few. And – you WANT to be helped and work together. Part of active listening is not to give an advice (I am taking classes:)). And what you want is a good listener – and that’s why you blog. Keep doing it. Better yet – journal. Because with blogging you expect (either recognizing it or not) a comment, a support (I know I do), and if not get enough of it, you go back in your vicious circle. May be find that person (a friend) who you can email your daily thoughts, scares, insecurities. None of us (to my knowledge) are as arrogant and self-assured as we often seem to others. Seek help. You may burn a time or few, but you will find a Friend.Best to you in your search.


  3. Superb winter escape SJ, nice photos as well. I can't wait for the end on Jan when I’m heading up to the whites for an overnight hut hike in Carter Notch. Do you think I'll need crampons for Cater Dome & Mt. Hight?


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