|living the dream, photo by Dave Newman|
Do you ever have one of those hikes where everything just sort of comes together to create an unforgettable experience? My recent ascent of the Tripyramid North Slide is one of those hikes. This trip combined Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and snow climbing in ideal weather conditions. The skills that I learned on this trip will help me be a better mountaineer for years to come.
The Tripyramids consist of 3 peaks (North, South, and Middle) located in the Sandwich Range Wilderness a few miles from Waterville Valley ski area. The North and Middle peak are #32 and #35 on the New Hampshire 48 4,000 footer list. The summits themselves are viewless and relatively unimpressive by White Mountains standards. With these peaks it really is about the journey not the destination. The North Slide, located on the Tripyramid Trail leading to North Tripyramid, is one of the steepest, most exposed and most spectacular climbing experiences in the Whites. This rock slab ascent climbs almost 1,700 feet in 1 mile which means it is really steep!
Our goal for this hike was to cross country ski 3.6 miles on the Livermore Trail to the junction with the Tripyramid Trail. From there we would use snowshoes, crampons and ice axes to ascend the North Slide. We had no desire to bag any peaks since our main goal was to gain experience on sustained steep snow climbs. I had also done the Tripyramids twice before so there was no need to top out.
3 friends and I pulled into the Livermore trailhead parking at 9 am to find clear skies with temps already at around 32 degrees.
The warm weather gave us the luxury of getting geared up without gloves on which was nice since we had a lot of gear to pack.
|learning to Nordic ski, photo by Dave Newman|
We took a few minutes to figure out how our rented Nordic skis worked, since none of us had Nordic skiing experience, and we headed onto the Livermore Trail.
|one of many falls that day|
The Livermore Trail is a former logging road that now leads to Waterville Valley’s groomed Nordic trail system. Luckily the Livermore Trail is also groomed which treated us to pre-built tracks to guide our skis. Despite this luxury we all took a few falls as we got used to being on Nordic skis. I found it challenging to glide on the skis with a full pack on but it was still faster than walking!
|putting on snowshoes|
We came to the junction with the Tripyramid Trail after a few miles. From here many hikers do a loop that bags all 3 peaks but our goal for the day was just to climb the North Slide. The trail from here is no longer groomed so we stashed our Nordic skis and put on snowshoes.
This area clearly got pounded with snowfall as we almost sunk up to our waists if we stepped off trail. Needless to say all of this snow dramatically slowed our progress. We took turns breaking trail as we trudged toward the North Slide.
|first of many views|
Then all of a sudden the climbing started and we caught out first views. A few steps later we found ourselves at the base of the North Slide.
|preparing for the ascent, photo by Dave Newman|
The North Slide is a tricky rock slab in the summer months. On this trip it looked like a mile long double black diamond ski slope with heaps of snow on it. We put on crampons, climbing helmets and readied our ice axes for the ascent.
|super steep and super awesome, photo by Dave Newman|
With each step we secured our footing, sunk our ice axes in the snow and moved upward. It was hard to not stop and stare at the epic views as we climbed. The North Slide is completely exposed but temps were in the mid-30s with no wind so we were able to ascend in complete comfort.
|having fun, photo by Dave Newman|
There are few places in the Whites, especially this winter, where you can climb an extremely steep, sustained and snowy pitch which only added to the fun of climbing the slide. It took us almost an hour to reach the top of the slide since we did our best to take our time and enjoy the experience.
|A view I can get used to|
We took a few minutes at the top of the slide to take in the view, have a snack and add a layer. It was now about 2pm and we knew that we had to start the descent.
|the quick way down, photo by Dave Newman|
The plentiful snow and steepness allowed us to glissade down which had us back at the base of the slide in about 10 minutes.
|getting ready to ski|
The Trypyramid Trail was well packed by this point which saved us the effort of breaking trail. In what felt like no time we were back to our skis. Once again we stopped to put away our snowshoes, boots and put on our skis. There were now just a few miles between us and the trailhead.
|learning to ski the hard way, photo by Dave Newman|
The Livermore Trail slopes downhill on the way out which should have made for quick skiing except for one thing. Nordic skis, with the unlocked heal, are extremely hard to control down hills. I learned this the hard way by falling on almost every significant descent. Despite these falls we soon found ourselves back at the trailhead which completed one of my favorite hikes of all time.