April 25th, 2016
I have plenty about which to share from events prior to Tripyramid, but this hike is so fresh in my mind and there was so much to learn that I just need to get this story out now.
I’ve been back in NH now for about five weeks (not that I’m counting) and Spring has finally sprung (with the exception of today during which we have accumulated at least two inches of snow- great!). I’ve been moseying along, comfortably doing the hikes that I know I can complete in less than a day; hikes that don’t really get me out of my comfort zone but that, at least, get me outside. These hikes are perfectly enjoyable; but, as previously mentioned, I want more.
Hence my recent, vaguely foolish attempt at the Tripyramid cluster in the Sandwich Wilderness of the White Mountains. The cluster is a bit of a trip to get to, I’ve never done them, and they are a mere half hour from my house. There were so many good reasons to get after it! How much planning and research did I do? Not much. Shocking, I know, the self-proclaimed neurotic planner just winging it. I wish I could say that everything worked out perfectly, but alas, it did not.
I decided to approach the mountains from the Waterville Valley side. At the north end of the valley, there is a parking lot depot that provides access to a myriad of trails. The old logging road, Livermore Road, is accessed from this depot. Rather than walk the three miles on the dirt road to the actual Tripyriamid trail head, I thought I would spare myself and bring a bike. Apparently there are some “rules” around the legitimacy of completing a 4000 footer with the use of a bike, but honestly…what contest am I trying to win?
So I rode the first three miles with Koa happily trotting beside me. There are several streams that cross under the road and I encouraged Koa to stop and drink as often as possible. NH is in a bit of a drought, don’t-cha-know, and I didn’t feel like carrying extra water for the dog. The sky was clear, the sun was high, and despite the 35 degree temperature, the dog (and I) was/were super hot. She took to submerging herself into the stream as she drank.
Livermore Rd. eventually forks to the left, continuing up to the trail head, or to the right up to Snow’s Mtn and back to the valley. I went left and rode only about half a mile more until I reached the junction of the South peak trail. There I dropped the bike under a hemlock and continued up the rest of the road on foot. On the map you can see my walking path in magenta.
Sidenote: the road passes a clearing, presumably an old logging yard as evidenced from the rusted old bucket leaning against a tree as well as a rusty metal cable in the field. The more interesting part of this clearing, though, was the old apple tree plonked down there as if it were wild and belonging to the forest.
It’s kind of cool to imagine a logger back in the 1800s eating an apple then throwing it into the woods to decompose and, 200 years later, having an old tree grow where it lay.
In any case, I eventually reached the (very well-maintained) trail sign indicating the trail descending across the stream to the right. Here, I was finally on the actual walking path, and though the signs may be well maintained, it was clear that the trail receives little use. I believe I witnessed one blaze, and often times had to use my mad trail-finding skills to eke out the direction in which I was supposed to go. This was not hugely problematic because the trail still pretty much followed the stream.
Koa and I began seeing little patches of snow and ice on this part of the trail. I knew that it would soon turn right (south) and up to the North Tripyramid peak. I had read about and seen the rock slide areas the make up the trail; however, I was unprepared for just how rugged this part of the trail would be.
At first it’s just a bit messy and technical, just needing precise foot placement, but then the grade turns waaaaaaay up.
And then, before you know it, you’re basically rock climbing. This was all fine and well for me. I was intensely focused on my foot placement and center of gravity when I heard the sound of claw slipping on rock. I looked up to see Koa about 12 feet ahead of me, attempting to get up a boulder and loosing. She was going to fall. I was helpless to catch her (the 70 lb chocolate lab), and I immediately started to freak out. Right as I shouted out her name as if doing so could remotely help her not fall, she grabbed a small stump on the side of the trail with her teeth and pulled herself up the boulder using her damn mouth. She is a miracle dog. After that, I was very scared, and it became very clear that I was not getting up this mountain with a dog in tow.
See that? We turned around and went DOWN that. There was a super fun snow field that was hollow underneath that was a thrill to clamber down as well.
I failed to know prior to this hike that it was not suitable for dogs, and my lack of preparation caused me to abandon the hike. Once we were down off the rocks, I sat by the side of the stream, munching my PB&J and feeling a surprisingly strong sense of disappointment.
I don’t regret choosing to turn around because safety trumps all in these cases, but it’s always a bit disappointing to make the effort only to have it not work out. That’s one of the things about getting out though, isn’t it? It doesn’t always work out (you know who you are). But we go anyway, because it’s either keep going or don’t go at all. I have to chock this one up to experience and move on. Don’t worry, Tripyramid, I’ll be back.