North and Middle Tripyramids: A Perfect Loop

Submitted by Pat

Mountains: North (4,180) and Middle Tripyramid (4,140)
Date: September 26, 2006
Time: 9 hours
Weather: Mostly sunny, breezy, temps ranging in 40's and 50's
Miles: 11
Elevation Gain: 2,766
Steps: 30, 612
Trails: Livermore Trail - North Slide - Mt Tripyramid Loop Trail - South Slide
Holy Shit Factor: Absolutely incredible on the slides!

Picture Gallery

Short Video Clips
Nancy on the north slide
You can't really hear it, but Nancy farts as I'm taking the movie...
Try # 2

Nancy and I originally plan to hike Mt. Washington via Tuckerman's Ravine, but predictions of high winds and frozen fog do not bode for a safe hike so we decide to hike somewhere else. That is a wise decision. Our choice: North and Middle Tripyramid via the Mt Tripyramid loop. Steven Smith and Mike Dickerman's book, The 4000-Footers of the White Mountains describes the loop over the Tripyramid slides as "one of the most exciting and challenging hikes in the Whites." They are right.

The drive up is uneventful, except when we start to get close to the mountains and see lots of clouds. I am thinking, "Here we go again," dreading another cloudy, viewless, raw, rainy day. But by the time we start up the Livermore Trail at 8:34 a.m., the sun comes out and our spirits soar. The Livermore Trail is part of a gentle cross country ski trail that's part of Snow's ski area. It is wide and smooth with a gentle grade and a great way to get warmed up for the climb ahead.

At 9:37 a.m., we come to a sign that shows all trails leading to the right, but there are gouges in the sign where someone has added arrows encouraging hikers to go straight to reach North Tripyramid. After consulting with the map, we decide to go straight and continue walking on a woods road, not as perfectly maintained as the cross country trail, but still wide and wonderful. Tree color is vibrant and the sun pouring through the leaves makes it look like we are walking in a kaleidoscope. We cross a stream and start climbing. Luckily two hours of fast walking has us primed and ready.

Shortly after we start climbing, we come to the bottom of the North Slide. Now, I really like slides. I really enjoy hiking that is more technical and challenging than a tramp in the woods. I love the physicality of it. I love looking at several pitches and choosing one I know is a) doable and b) challenging. It's like a puzzle and I like scanning and deciding without second-guessing myself. Only once do I get myself into a situation where I can't go forward and have to go back and choose a different route. The slide starts out fairly narrow and shaded; the rocks are greasy with moss. Traction is a challenge so good handholds are essential and footholds have to be tested before putting full body weight onto them. As we climb, the slide grows wider and more exposed. When we finally stop to catch our breath, we turn around and see a wonderful view of Tecumseh and the Osceolas, all the way to Mt. Washington, which as predicted, is crowned in a wreath of clouds.

Nancy and I help each other over the harder sections, both of us getting better at asking for and accepting help. The higher we climb the more spectacular the views. I look down with awe at what and how far we climb, and then I look up and my heart sings because there is still so much more to go. It is a great slide - I am a very happy girl. At the top of the slide, there is a surreal moment when I look down the slide and out across the expansive view and then look into the dark woods where the path is cut. It is a narrow, dark opening in the woods. One step into the woods and the slide and the view are gone. Very soon after entering the woods, we reach what we think is the North Tripyramid summit (elevation 4,180) - no cairn or sign to mark it, just a sense that this is the height of land.

We haven't had the weather or the timing to have lunch on a summit on our last few hikes, so when we reach the top at 12:28 p.m. and find a log in the sun with a view, we are in heaven. We eat lunch amid a chorus of noisy Chickadees who can't wait for us to leave so they can see if we have left any crumbs behind. We take a couple of summit pictures, do a high five in celebration of #30, and start toward Middle Tripyramid at 1 p.m. The ridge trail is very pleasant - we don't lose much elevation - and arrive at the summit of Middle Tripyramid (elevation 4,140) at 1:32 p.m. More summit pictures, a high five celebrating #31, and off we go to South Tripyramid and our descent on the South Slide.

We meet our first hikers on the ridge - two gentlemen who are bagging the three peaks via the Pine Bend River Trail. Both of them are experienced hikers and wear the patches to prove it. They give their trail names as Wolfgang and Downhill Bunky. I hope to see their trip report on VFTT. Onward and then down the South Slide. Unlike the North Slide, the South Slide is more loose rock and not quite as long or as steep. Definitely the side for the descent. Footing is treacherous and walking on loose rock on a downhill slope is a constant process of trying to keep from doing a face plant. I lead the pace and we reach the bottom of the slide at 3:30 p.m. Both of us are in good spirits, having passed through an hour of feeling really punchy and laughing at everything. Our endorphins are flying. The rest of the South Slide trail is absolutely gorgeous - mainly because of the afternoon alpenglow and the brook it parallels is a hot summer day's dream.

We reach the Livermore Trail at around 4:30 p.m. and begin the tramp back to the parking lot. I have to say that my feet are really sore. My toes hurt and I can tell the numbness I often feel after a long hike is setting in on the bottom of my big toes. Both Nancy and I bought new hiking boots at the beginning of the hiking season, and we have put on around 150 miles of hard hiking. Could these boots have lost their ability to cushion our feet? I can see the wrinkle lines that indicate compression of the sole, but I don't know what the life of a hiking boot is supposed to be. Is it my feet or the boot? Anyone have an idea?

We arrive at the parking lot at 5:30 and change into warm, dry clothes and sneakers. That feels good. One of those bliss moments. Then to Biederman's Deli in Plymouth for a large bowl of turkey and vegetable soup. Perfect!

What a great hike, a perfect loop, excellent weather, wonderful company! We are so blessed.

29 of NH 48
31 of 67 in NE
32 of the NE 100 Highest