Mon, May 25, 2020
By Steve McGilvary
Hike Length: 11 miles
Trails: Livermore & Mt. Tripyramid Trails
Date: June 29, 2002
Weather and trail conditions: Excellent summer day! Temps in the mid to high 80s all day. Air was dry. Skies mostly clear. Black flies bad at times. Condition of trails excellent. North slide was challenging but fun.
I've read so much about how dangerous the North Slide on North Tripyramid can be in wet conditions, so I took advantage of the fine, dry weather on Saturday to tackle this 4,000er.
I arrived at the Livermore Trail a little before noon and got started down the broad, dirt road. Livermore is gated, so there are no speeding cars to worry about. An occasional mountain biker would race by but otherwise, not much traffic on the 3.5-mile trek to where the northern end of the Tripyramid Trail begins on the right. If you are planning to do this hike, take note: pay close attention to which end (north or south) of the Tripyramid Trail you are taking off Livermore. The AMC Guide, for good reason, cautions against a descent down the North Slide. And a dangerous descent down the north slide is exactly what you'll get if you unwittingly diverge onto the south end of the Tripyramid trail just 2.5 miles down Livermore. I met up with 2 young guys who made this goof, and they sure regretted it. The safer, north section is clearly marked "North Slide".
After entering the North Slide Trail, I trucked for nearly half a mile through the woods until I finally emerged at the base of the notorious rocky outwash. From here the trail gets very steep. At first, there are plenty of bushes & tree branches to grab onto. Soon, though, I popped out onto the completely exposed, gravel-strewn slide. From here on in, I was scrambling up bare slabs of rock at an unnerving 45-degree angle. At first, I wasn't watching where I stepped. It seemed as though every rock I put my boot on was booby-trapped to kick off a mini avalanche. I admit, I got a little panicky at the thought of falling backwards and bouncing down the slope like a tennis ball. But I found that if I just leaned my body into the slide and went on all fours, I was in no danger of losing balance. My apprehension disappeared and I started to really enjoy the ascent. I stopped about a dozen times along the way to turn around and admire the views that stretched north all the way to Mt Washington. I took quite a few pics. The only real bummer from this point on was the black flies. It was painful to hold the camera steady as the little monsters chomped away at my forearms!
While I was ascending, I met up with the 2 young guys I mentioned earlier. They started on the southern end of the loop by accident. Now they were having some serious difficulty descending the North Slide. The loose gravel and steep pitch of the slide tossed them on their butts after every 3rd or 4th step. One of the guys looked at me and blurted out, "Dude, this sucks!" I guess they made it down okay…at least I didn't hear about them on the news. It really pays to have the AMC Guide along for the hike.
Finally at the top of the slide, I knew I wanted to pick up the trail that veers sharp left into the woods. I noticed what looked like a trail a short distance from the slide, so I went over to check it out. That's where I met up with Mark & Laura, a real nice couple from Boston who are also working on the list of 48. Seems they got turned around and entered an old, unmaintained section of trail after ascending the slide. We studied my AMC Guide, went back to the cairn where the trail was supposed to appear on the left, and got ourselves straightened out. This was a fortunate happenstance for me; we joined forces and finished the hike as a trio. I enjoy hiking solo, but it is also very cool to experience the trails with other people, especially when they are as friendly as Mark & Laura.
The rest of the trip seemed to fly by. The trail goes through a series of easy drops and climbs, and we were all amazed when we hit the nondescript summits of Middle & South peaks in what seemed like record time. The rocky slide that descends South Peak was the first real challenge we encountered since the North Slide. But we all took our time and went very slowly from one solid footing to the next. The sun was getting low in the sky and the views from the side of South Peak were both breathtaking and mellow in the subdued light. Unfortunately, the batteries in my camera crapped out, so my photo album of the Tripyramid loop is incomplete. But hey, that's a good reason to go back in the fall.
We eventually made our way to the base of South Peak and, after a pleasant half-hour hike through the woods, were back out onto the Livermore Trail. We were all tuckered out, but very happy about checking 2 more peaks off the list.
Back at the parking lot we swapped email addresses. Laura suggested we join forces again this summer to bag several more 4000ers. That sounds like a great plan.
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