Another Thursday in the White Mountains and moving towards 48 peaks with Caitlin (and now Geoffrey). This week had Geoffrey in NJ with his grandparents leaving Catie and I to hike by ourselves. We picked the Tripyramids for this hike as the distance was a bit longer than we had hiked before and the North Tripyramid slide was supposed to be quite challenging.
An early exit from south of Boston and into the heavy traffic of the morning we headed north. We again stopped at the Two Hiker approved Common Man rest stop in Hooksett for gas and a rest break. Catie had left her bagel in the kitchen at home, so she picked up a warm cinnamon bun from the cafe. I had a bite and it was fantastic. We took off back north on 93 and took the Campton/Waterville Valley exit to the Livermore Road parking lot off of Tripoli Road.
The parking lot is the standard $3 WMNF charge if you don’t have the season parking pass. At 8:30 there was only 2 other cars in the lot. Unlike the Osceola trailhead which could hold maybe 10ish cars, this lot was huge and could easily park 50+ cars (which was not needed today). Bathrooms are conveniently located in the lot as well.
The plan was a walk down the Livermore trail/road then clockwise summit traverse on the Mt. Tripyramid trail hitting all 3 Tripyramids with North Tripyramid first. The AMC WMG highly recommends this as the south slide is mostly gravel and easier to descend and the north side is mostly granite and easier to ascend.
It was a chilly to start the day for mid August and we both started off with long sleeve shirts. We set a pretty good pace out on the Livermore trail. The trail is a gravel logging road which makes for a great pace. We hit the first 3 miles in an hour exactly. There are a ton of side trails and spurs here. We came back and explored them later in the day. The downside to the gravel road is that the scenery leaves something to be desired. The road does follow the East Branch of the Mad River for a good chunk of the time, so at least you have the sound of rushing water. There are some herd paths to different areas of the stream and are worth exploring (see later in the post). In no time we were at the Mt. Tripyramid trailhead.
We chose the northern route as described above. Again it was easy walking for another mile as Livermore Trail and the Mt. Tripyramid Trail are together here. Livermore Trail turns sharply left and the Mt. Tripyramid Trail turns sharply right and over Avalanche Brook (which combines with Slide Brook to form the East Branch of the Mad River right around the loop sign pictured above) at this sign below. The crossing was easy with very low water levels of the summer.
Knowing what I know now, I might have chosen the Scaur Ridge Trail. While it is longer than the direct Mt. Tripyramid Trail, it is decidedly less steep and you are not scrambling up a slide. My money would be on that trail actually taking less time. Maybe I’ll use this route with Geoffrey later down the line.
After the brook crossing the trail is very woodsy with some nice scenery walking alongside the brook. The trail has easy grades for the first .7 miles of this 1.2 mile loop. There is little in the way of faint yellow blazes on this trail, but fortunately, no side trails to lose your way easily.
Well, the easy grades and woodsy feel rapidly disappeared and we were now heading straight up the mostly dry brook. Little did I realize this was the bottom of the north slide path.
We started to peek up out of the trees and it was on for real. The grade was beyond steep with occasional loose rocks and occasional wet rocks that made for treacherous footing. This was by far the most precarious place we had been in our adventures to date and I started to wonder if this was similar to the Flume Slide Trail that we avoided on our first hike.
The climb was slow and footing suspect at times. I kept closely behind Caitlin for her safety. This put my safety in question as she would dislodge loose rocks down towards me. I dodged all but one of these and the one that got me was small and caught me on the boot. Despite the slope the view was incredible at every point of the rock slide. The panorama above does it some justice, but it was breathtaking. Good thing as we were resting every couple hundred feet. The pitch of this slide was aggressive and energy sapping.
There was an interesting spot which looked like a mineral pocket exposed on the granite. Too bad we didn’t have Geoffrey with us. He’s always stopping at all of the rocks looking for gems.
The .5 miles from the start of the slide to the top took over an hour. To say it was slow going was an understatement. The trail here is very poorly marked with infrequent cairns and occasional faint yellow blazes painted on rocks. When in doubt, just go up I guess? I’ll know for the future, but it was a bit disconcerning at times when I was wondering if we missed a trail turn off somewhere. There is a very large cairn at the top of the slide marking just about where the trail returns to the trees.
If you missed the cairn for some reason, and I don’t know how that’s possible short of heavy fog, there are Tibetan prayer flags where the trail re-enters the trees.
Good placement of the flags, but absolutely no yellow blazes here to mark it. See my trip tips below, but I would stop for lunch/water/snack before going back into the trees. This is the last real view you are going to have until the Middle Tripyramid, so please do enjoy it after the hard work of climbing the slide. It is only .1 miles to the summit from here. Just below the summit, the Pine Bend Brook Trail enters from the north. You can take this from the Kancamagus 4 miles away for a much shorter ascent route. Total trip from the Kanc to North & Middle Tripyramid would be 9.6 miles and a re-summit of the north peak. I would also consider this next time out with G or in the winter I would not want to be on the north slide.
Another 25′ and you are at this spectacular summit…
There were obstructed views to both the east and west. We walked around a bit on the top, but there was a teenage couple that I think we had “interrupted” on the summit, so we really didn’t stay long. Fortunately, C really didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. I believe the true summit is pictured above, but who really knows without the USGS button. I’m fairly certain we walked over it at some point if it wasn’t this particular area.
We headed down into the col between north and middle peaks and soon hit the Sabbaday Brook Trail junction at this sign:
Sabbaday Brook Trail is just a shade under 5 miles to here from the Kanc and gives you another option besides the north slide or Pine Bend. It comes in a little bit more than halfway between the two peaks. The ridge trail is fairly nice and well defined. Moderate slopes down the north peak and up the middle peak. Unfortunately, little in the way of yellow blazes.
In less than 30 minutes we were on the middle peak and our 4000′ footers that count were complete for the day. We met a very nice group of ladies at the top who had hiked up the south slide and were turning back to go down the same way. They took our pics at the top.
We retraced our steps about 25′ back down the path and had lunch at this overlook to the west:
Lunch was nice here with at least a partial view. Caitlin dropped our first aid kit down the 50′ rock face here, so that was a loss. Unfortunately, it was in a place that wasn’t accessible to get. I hate having littered way up here, but there wasn’t a lot we could do about it. I was super conscious of picking up all litter found the rest of the trip. This was surprisingly minimal compared to what G and I had experienced just the week before on the Franconia trails.
After about 20 minutes we headed off the peak towards South Tripyramid. This is another 4000′ footer but doesn’t count as it’s only 50′ below the middle peak, thus not meeting the AMC requirement.
The col here is much less pronounced than the one between north and middle peaks. We made very short work of this section.
We spent very little time on the south summit. There were tree obstructed views that were just a little bit better than the north summit. We ran into our teenage friends again and let them hang out on the top together. We did not encounter them again. The entire time on the loop, the teens and the group of ladies were the only others we encountered the whole time, and that was only on the peaks. We saw no one else on the ascent/descent until the Livermore Trail. This was the least crowded ascent of any of our 4000′ footers to date. If you are looking to get out alone, this might be your spot on a weekday.
The trail winds down the southwestern facing slope of South Tripyramid. In very little time you reach the top of the south slide. You can catch glances of Lake Winnipesaukee to the ski area on Tecumseh from here. This is a great contrast to the peaks with little or obstructed views we had just climbed. The AMC WMG is spot on with this slide as it is a significantly pitched gravel field with occasional outcropping of ledge and larger stones.
I’d recommend staying laterally apart on this thing as you send stones of all sizes down the slide with just about every other step. I went and hiked below Caitlin to minimize the danger for her (I’d have at least a chance to arrest her fall and eliminate the chance of me sending a rock onto her). I stayed right below her as I did on the north slide and had rocks pelting me the whole way down, but it made me feel better. She was solid the whole way down and navigated the slide slowly and carefully. She’s usually fast and clumsy with a lot of other activities, but not with this hike. She did a superb job on two very tough slides.
The south slide is about .5 miles and it took us a little over 30 minutes to navigate the whole thing. There was the occasional cairn and faded yellow blazes on the rocks, much the same as the entire rest of the trail. I thought at many points during this we could volunteer with the Waterville Valley Athletic & Improvment Association (WVAIA) for some much needed trail marking. The WVAIA maintains a large number of these trails in the valley. I’ll donate the cash for the yellow paint and a day of my time to help. We completely missed the trail intersection with the Kate Sleeper Trail that would take you to Mt Whiteface. No big deal as we weren’t planning on using it, but again shows the lack of markings. The AMC WMG notes that there is a three way arrow painted at the intersection within 60 yards of the top of the slide.
Once you are off the slide the trail turns more westerly and back towards the Livermore Trail for the last 1.8-1.9 miles. The grades are moderate at best and the trails are without much in the way of rocks to trip you, so this section moves fast. There are multiple small stream and brook crossings as well as multiple bogs forded by bog bridges on this section.
This section was a bit rundown from a trail perspective with bog bridges falling apart and some mini bridges across streams with rotting planks. Again WVAIA, I’m available and willing to help. It seemed in no time we were leaving the Sandwich Range Wilderness area and back to the other end of the loop!
So this is when things got interesting. Catie said she was doing well and would like to cool off in the stream and then look for several of the geocaches on the side trails. I nicely informed her that this would add several miles and hours onto the end of the hike, but I was more than willing!
We had spotted a nice place on our way in not far from the loop sign, so we tucked down to the stream and cooling down quickly ensued..
We spent a nice 20+ minutes refreshing in the stream and it was as fantastic as it was numbing. Even in mid-August the stream was maybe 50-55 degrees! I love how the water flows over the granite ledge. Just be careful, that stuff is so slick! We put our shoes back on and headed up the Livermore Trail again heading for the Cascades. Catie and I used a Waterville Valley resort mountain bike trail to cut off some distance as not to backtrack. I’m not sure you are supposed to use these trails but we did not encounter anyone else so it worked out.
The Cascade Trail starts just after a bridge and follows the west side of the brook then a branch crosses to the east side and another branch stays on the west side. We stayed west and found a geocache just before the top of the trail for #1 of the day. Funny I got a pic of everything except for the geocache today. It was well hidden but relatively easy to find (aptly named the Cascade Falls geocache).
I’ll give it up for the geocaching as I would not have spent the time on the spur trail to get to this and the falls were quite nice. My crappy iPhone pics don’t do them any justice. From here we headed back to the intersection of the Boulder Trail. Shockingly, there is a giant boulder at the end of it. It is called an erratic I believe as a glacier just irresponsibly left it here.
This took us back to the Livermore Trail. Our next geocache was just onto the Greeley Ponds Trail .2 miles from the Boulder Trail intersection. This one took some searching and quite a bit of time, but we did find it. It is in a rotted knot of a tree at eye level just a few feet off the trail. #2 was in the books for the day (aptly named the Waterville-Greeley cache). Backtracking to the Livermore Trail we headed to the parking lot. At this point we were passing quite a few late day dog walkers.
There was one more additional geocache that is located in the trees behind the restrooms in the parking lot. The Depot Camp Waterville Valley geocache was #3 and the last one of the day. No pics of it so just trust us on that one. This is an easy find that requires zero hiking!
That ended our hiking day and we headed out for the resort town of Waterville Valley just to the left at the end of Tripoli road. We ended up eating at The Valley Pub and Grille, one of the restaurants on the second floor of the town center. We chose it as it had great views of the pond below and the Tripyramids beyond. Food was average but reasonably priced. Caitlin had a grilled cheese and I had the garlic shrimp pasta. I’d probably try another one of the establishments before coming back here, but a nice place for a drink after hiking or apres ski.
We headed across the town square and Caitlin went to Sugar Rush for ice cream. She gave it a 4.5/5 saying Coneheads was better. It was then off back to Boston!
Dad’s Trip Tips:
Trails and Planning: The north and south slides are the real deal and probably the most difficult hiking we have done to date. I think Geoffrey may have been able to handle both, but I’d likely alter the route to the Scaur Ridge Trail (longer but without the extreme grades) or Pine Bend Brook Trail (shorter overall trip but a re-summit of the north peak needed) when he attempts these peaks. Remember, if you take this route, you are completely exposed for a full .5 miles up and down the slides and if the north slide had been wet, footing would have been an issue, so plan accordingly. The views on both of the slides are better than anything on all three of the peaks, so I’d recommend hiking the short way down to the top of either slide for a more expansive view or lunch/snack spot option.
Distance wise, this is a long hike with over 6 miles on the Livermore Trail which is not all that exciting since it’s just a gravel road. You can make great time with the minimal grades on that trail and the bonus of the rushing water next to you for most of the trail is nice. Explore the side trails if you get a chance. The cascades and giant erratic boulder are interesting and worth the extra few minutes hiking. Avalanche or Slide Brooks are nice spots to cool off if it is hot out. Take the time to find a nice spot anywhere off of the Livermore Trail. There is also swimming and cooling off opportunities at the very end of the Cascade Path. We did not partake of that there, but many families were when we were there late on a hot day.
Kid Factor: As noted before, the slides aren’t for the skittish little ones. Catie did quite well with multiple rests up the slide. She also took her time coming down the south slide but wasn’t afraid at any point (like I was for her). Your experience may vary and may necessitate the need for alternate trails. At the very least take the kids to the top of the slides to get the best views as views are minimal save the Middle Tripyramid! Cooling off in mountain streams is my favorite thing to do with both of the kids after hikes and I’d encourage it for anyone! Geocaching led us into some very interesting side trails at the end. Caitlin enjoyed the side trails and the features found on them, but I’d save it to the end to gauge your energy level. Plan something to keep the kids entertained on the hike in/out as the 3 miles is walking on a gravel road.
Equipment: This is one day I could have done without the boots. Climbing the north slide required more traction than the boots provided. On the plus side it kept the small rocks and gravel out of my shoes on the south slide. Full emergency gear and layers were packed but not needed. I can easily see scrapes and bruises associated with the slides. The first aid kit ended up at the bottom of the cliff (thanks Caitlin) so those of you on the Middle Tripyramid have at some free medical supplies. There is no water once you hit the north slide until you descend off of the south slide, so plan accordingly. We had plenty with each of us carrying our 2L Camelbacks.
Other Tips: The Waterville Valley resort town is a nice place to visit with plenty of eating options for after your hike. There is also a general store in the town center if you happened to forget or need last minute supplies of just about any sorts. Our experience there was just fine, but I’d imagine this place would be bustling in the winter when the ski slope is open. There are also a few options on the road in from Campton as well for sundries and restaurants. Overall and excellent yet challenging hike with spectacular views from the slides (not the summits)!