Today, October 15th, the plan is to do all three Tripyramids in a loop, North, Middle and South. The first two being the only ones that count as official 4000 footers. It's been a wet week again with the latest batch of rain coming yesterday. But today the forecast is supposed to be dry so will keep the fingers crossed. Out of the house by 5 AM and up to the Livermore Trailhead off Tripoli Road in Waterville Valley. No one is at the trailhead when I get there just before 7 and I pay my customary $3 and I'm off on the trail a little after 7.
The trail is an old logging road, wide and flat gradually climbing, and long, 3.6 miles until the trail junction. But it is beautiful with everything wet from the day before and the leaves have that great color they have after a rainstorm. Passing the Greeley Ponds Trail junction and it is all roped off, closed, due to the damage from Hurricane Irene. The Mad River, it is reported, did quite a number on the trail, completely gone in some spots. A little later I start to see the damage that Irene has caused. Most of the culverts that crossed underneath the trail are all exposed. In the middle of the trail, 6 foot swaths, have been washed away for most of the way up. A few breaks here and there but for the most part the entire path has been washed out.
An hour and thirty minutes into the hike and I reach the junction with the Mount Tripyramid Trail. Looking down the embankment and the brook that I am supposed to cross is not a brook anymore thanks to the rain, it's a fast moving mini river. I make the decision that instead of heading up the Scaur Ridge Trail that I am going to go up Mount Tripyramid Trail. So down the embankment and where one is supposed to cross is not a very good option. I go upstream(river) and can't find a safe and suitable spot to cross. Heading downstream(river) and I am not finding anything promising that way either. Walking back I notice a small tree about 6-8 inches in diameter across the stream and make the decision that this is the best and only spot to cross without getting wet. Gymnasts may make it look easy when they are on a balance beam but lets see them try it on a round wet log with a backpack and 5 feet above a raging brook! Anyways I make it across without incident and then scramble up the other side of the embankment and go left back towards the trail. That took a good 20 minutes out of the schedule.
A half a mile later I reach the bottom of the, think I would have learned from last weeks hike, SLIDE. I do not know what I was thinking, well I do but I wasn't expecting what was coming based on the Flume Slide. Only a half a mile straight up(seemed a lot longer), all rock, boulders, slabs you name it. Did I mention it rained the day before? Nothing like tackling the worst of the worst on my third hike. Up I go and almost immediately I stay to the left near all the scrub for hand holds and footing. The slide is wet with water running down it and I really want nothing to do with that part of the path. 15-20 minutes later I turn to get my first look at where I am. The Osceolas just peeking over Scaur Ridge, the stream running down the path, and no end looking up. Five minutes later I get a better shot of the Osceolas and twenty minutes after that, Waterville Valley. I continue up along the edge until I am forced out onto the exposed slab due to the scrub becoming too thick to get through. At one point when I am out in the middle of the exposed face I feel trapped with nowhere safe to go. It is steep and slick with nothing to grab onto. To the right there is no option and looking down that way is definitely not an option in fact out of the question. So I start to the left and get about ten feet when I realize this is no way to go either. I make my way back to the right where I was and after a few minutes suck it up and push upwards scrambling to a safer point. Just under an hour later, yes an hour, I make it to the top of the slide and am amazed that I actually made it. Total time doing that half mile, one hour and forty five minutes! Great pace kid, great pace. I swear that slide is longer than a half mile.
The adventure isn't over yet, I still have to get to the top of the peak. When I get to the top I head straight ahead thinking that is where the trail goes. Bad habit I seem to have, when climbing rocky mountains, keep head down and forge straight ahead. There is a path at the top of the slide but not a well worn one. I have no desire to turn around and head back down on the slide to find the right path so I forge on. The woods are very thick and the path sometimes hard to follow, several times I get to a spot I think is the peak but continue on to find it is not. Eventually I get to a small wooded clearing and I'm at the top of North Tripyramid, it's about 11:30 now. I would later find out that there is a cairn near the top and I should have turned left at that point.
It is time to make my first hard decision that would bother me for a while. I vowed that I would always stick to my original plan to complete my hikes unless something went terribly wrong. Hiking is an outlet for me to flush my head and to get a fresh outlook on things. To push myself, not dangerously, and to not give up or turn around and take the easy way out. It makes me stronger physically but more than anything mentally. But, I had to decide to continue on to the next two peaks or to start heading back. It took about four and a half hours to make it to the top and I still had another 5.3 miles to get back to the car. There were also two major obstacles in the way that would slow things down also. One was the trail exiting South Tripyramid and the other was Avalanche Brook. The South Slide is just as steep as the North Slide but not as slabby, more loose rock and gravel. On the way up Livermore Trail I saw the crossing of Avalanche Brook that lead to the South peak and that crossing was much wider, deeper and faster moving than the one I had previously crossed. All this meant that I would have had to push it to get back to the car before dark. Not being experienced enough with the trail times I didn't think that continuing with the original plan would be very prudent. The only way out then was to go down Pine Bend Brook Trail to Scaur Ridge Trail back to Livermore Trail to the car, a total of 5.8 miles. Half a mile longer than the intended path but no dangerous obstacles and time restraints.
Down Pine Bend Brook I went and a little after noon I made it to the intersection with Scaur Ridge Trail where there was a clearing that had some nice views to the northeast. Back to Scaur Ridge Trail and within a short distance saw the slide I had just climbed through the trees. Making it down to Livermore Trail and the long walk back to the car was on. I made a sidebar, was actually hoping for a different path back to the car, down to the Norway Rapids. However, when I got to the rapids the path trail across was impossible. The water was flowing fast and the stream had no way of rock hopping anywhere. Back up to Livermore and a quick diversion to the Big Boulder and returned to the car at 2:35. Back down in about three hours. I think this is part of the reason I had some questions about my decision because I probably would have had time to make it as intended. But this is part of the learning curve and I keep thinking back as to how wet the trail and how much water was flowing in the brook. Thinking about those two obstacles helps to confirm that I did the right thing.
I will be back to climb Middle Tripyramid and instead of two peaks today I settle for one. Back home to figure where to go next weekend.
Final numbers: 10.7 miles, 7 hours and 25 minutes, 1 peak, # of peaks to date - 6.