This was a very tough day for me, as I was still recovering from a bad case of Whooping Cough that had kept me sidelined most of the winter. I was beginning to get better but my wind was still bad, so I was apprehensive about the long day. This was Bob and Geri's final winter 48 so we were going to make it; it was just a question of when. The plan was to ski into the Bondcliff trail then change into hiking gear for the climb up and down, then back to skis. Bob and Geri had sleds that they'd used in the past and we were going to use it to haul our hiking boots and packs while skiing. Because of my cough Christine wouldn't allow me to pull the sled, and although I put up a bit of a protest I can't say that I was looking forward to it anyways. Our group consisted of Bob and Geri, Christine, Amy, Mark, Charles and myself.
The big snow that we'd gotten north of the notch didn't really amount to much south of it. There was a little fresh snow on the Wilderness trail that made for pretty good skiing but it was just a thin layer over solid ground. We quickly made it to the bridge across Franconia Brook where we had a little fun skiing down bank on one side and up the bank to the other. The sledding worked quite well and we ate up ground pretty quickly. We decided to ski as far up the Bondcliff Trail as we could, but we quickly gave up on that and switched to hiking boots.
Things slowed down from here as there was more snow with ice underneath. The higher we went the more we had to break trail, and our pace slowed down. Eventually we switched to snowshoes for the traction rather then for floatation. Amy wasn't carrying snowshoes so she drifted back a bit. The rest of us chugged on with the strong hikers up front, and me, coughing, in the back. Eventually we got up to the small cliff that signals we're close to the top and once I scrambled up I headed for the summit rather then wait on the others. My energy levels were pretty low, and just moving was best for me. I reached the top right around 3:10 and got to watch the rest of the group arrive, including the happy couple. They smooched at the summit cairn, then went over to the cliffs for the obligatory photo. I was getting cold so I started down soon after that, meeting up with Amy who was fast approaching the top.
After making it past the cliff I stopped and rested for a bit, but I soon got cold. Charles had reached the top of the cliff so I told him I was headed down, I was pretty sure they'd catch up soon. Travel and food (I learned the joy of Gu on this trip) perked me up a bit and I was soon making pretty good time. It took a while for the group to catch up, I was down by the 3rd stream crossing before I heard them behind me. We kept up fun conversation on the way down but my energy was waning again. We reached our gear stash right at sunset and it took us a long time to swap from hiking boots to ski boots and repack the sleds. Things really do move slower when you are exhausted.
Once we got back on the Wilderness Trail my spirits perked up again; being on skis tends to do that for me. Christine still wouldn't let me haul the sled so, unencumbered, I finally lead the group. With the ski conditions hard and fast, I could skate pretty well and glide well ahead of the others who didn't know how to do so. We hit the parking lot around 8:00 PM, roughly 12 hours from the start, a very long day. But it was worth it to be up there for Bob and Geri and to get my first views from the Bonds in winter. It is quite an undertaking and quite and experience.
Here is Bob and Geri's trip report.
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