HELLGATE BROOK & WEST BOND SLIDE: 10/2/15
On a cool fall day with high clouds and occasional sun, I joined Chris "NeoAkela" Whiton for a bushwhack adventure into the Hellgate Brook valley in the western Pemigewasset Wilderness. Our objective was a large slide on the steep south slope of the remote West Bond. In the view seen from Bondcliff below, it is the wide slide farthest to the left, sometimes called the "V-Guitar Slide" for its resemblance to a stylish rock guitar.
Starting a little after 7:30 am, we strolled up the familiar Lincoln Woods Trail, pausing for a peek at Bondcliff rising far off in the Wilderness beyond the wide East Branch of the Pemigewasset.
I always admire the view of Mount Flume from the bridge over Franconia Brook.
Our route is that-a-way, to the left.
A closer look at the sharp south peak and wild SE cliffs of Owl's Head. Chris, John "1HappyHiker" Compton and I visited those cliffs back in the winter of 2009.
The railroad grade built by J.E. Henry's loggers in the early 1900s provides smooth, easy walking through the valley.
A scenic beaver pond just north of the Lincoln Brook Trail junction. The west spur of Bondcliff is seen on the right. The remote peak of Southwest Twin peeks over the trees on the left.
The old nourishing the young.
A needle-carpeted stretch of the old railroad grade.
A glimpse of West Bond through the trees.
In this late-in-coming foliage season, we found some nice color at the base of Bondcliff's west spur.
Hellgate Brook at the crossing on Franconia Brook Trail, 5.5 miles from the trailhead.
A USGS benchmark adorns a rock on the north side. We left the trail here and started bushwhacking along the brook, starting on the north side through some scrappy woods, switching to the south side for better going, then hopping back to the north side.
About a half-mile upstream, we came to this neat cascade and rock wall. Chris, one of the finest photographers working in the Whites, gets the shot. We wondered if this was the feature for which the brook was named.
In the next section we followed the remains of an old tote road, grown up in places to face-slapping small conifers. Overall the woods in this valley seemed a fair bit peskier than when I last came through here 20 years ago.
Hellgate Brook, deep in the valley.
After crossing a northern tributary, we climbed higher up the slope and came into some ferny birch glades.
An old sled road well up on the slope.
Birch glade whackin'!
First glimpse of Bondcliff, through the trees.
Eventually we came to the western of the slide's two lower tracks and followed it up.
Approaching the slide.
Lots of loose stuff, requiring attention to footing.
Chris climbs under the baleful gaze of Bondcliff.
Looking up the slide over some exfoliating slabs.
When climbing a slide, it's best to stay off the slime.
A closer view of Flume and Liberty.
Chris takes in the view.
A spot of sun illuminates the crags of Bondcliff. I first visited this slide in 1995 after gazing at it from up there, then making a gnarly bushwhack down Bondcliff's upper west ridge and dropping steeply into the Hellgate valley. I had time for only a brief visit on that October day before undertaking the long whack down the valley to Franconia Brook Trail. Today we spent a long time soaking in the scenery from the slide.
We spotted a couple of hikers on the famous jutting crag up there.
Looking down from the upper end of the wide part of the slide. The Osceolas and Scar Ridge are seen in the distance over the west ridge of Bondcliff.
The Osceolas, displaying several of their slides.
Chris surveys the scene at the uppermost end of the lower part of the slide, at 3600 ft. We had discussed the possibility of continuing up the upper part of the slide and on through the scrub to the ridge and the summit of West Bond, followed by an 11.5 mile exit hike over Bond and Bondcliff. But it was now 3:00 pm and we would have had a tough climb above and many miles out by headlamp, with a midnight exit a possibility. So we made the sensible decision to hang at the slide a while longer and return the way we came. Were it July, with those precious extra hours of daylight (and were I twenty years younger), we might have decided differently.
We each found a perch and just sat, and looked.
Pearly everlasting was blooming abundantly at the base of the slide.
Our route back down the valley followed the brook more closely, with many pretty vignettes.
Chris spotted this artifact across the brook. Though there were no known logging camps in this valley, it was cut hard by J.E. Henry's crews. We did the last 4 1/2 miles along the trails by headlamp, encountering a cow moose on the Lincoln Woods Trail at the Osseo Trail junction, then stopping to chat with a pair of inbound backpackers. It was a fine outing in the western Pemi!