TRIPYRAMID SOUTH SLIDE TRAIL: 7/14/09
The South Slide of Mt. Tripyramid is usually thought of as part of a classic loop over the North, Middle and South Peaks from the Livermore Trail out of Waterville Valley. More adventurous souls go up the steep, smooth slabs of the North Slide and descend the gravelly, loose and slightly less steep South Slide. Those who don't want to mess with the North Slide often go up the South Slide and down via the Pine Bend Brook and Scaur Ridge Trails.
I've done the trip both ways, but on my last two visits to the South Slide, the slide itself has been the destination. The view from the open swath over the Lost Pass/Sandwich Dome area of the Sandwich Range Wilderness has long been one of my favorite White Mountain vistas. The walk up the Slide Brook valley is another favorite, for its easy grades and good footing, its fine hardwood forests, and its pleasing brook scenery.
This shot, taken from Mt. Tecumseh last winter on a cold day, shows the lay of the land on the west side of Tripyramid. The valleys of Avalanche Brook on the left and Slide Brook on the right lead up to the North and South Slides, respectively. The shadowed bowl between the peaks is drained by Cold Brook, which flows into Slide Brook. Curiously, Cold Brook is not shown on the
7 1/2' USGS Mount Tripyramid quad, and thus is not identified (or even shown) on current trail maps. It was displayed on the 15' Mt. Chocorua quad, and on trail maps that were based on the old quad.
The South Slide first fell during an October 1869 rainstorm and was for some years known as the "Great Slide." Contemporary accounts tell of a swath of destruction carrying two miles down the brook that is now known, naturally, as Slide Brook. In his classic 1876 guidebook, The White Mountains: A Handbook for Travelers, Moses Sweetser noted that the Great Slide was "considered by many visitors the most remarkable object among the curiosities of Waterville."
In August 1885 a second South Slide fell alongside the first, a bit farther to the east; this same storm also unleashed the impressive North Slide - making the sequel better than the original. AMC member Alford A. Butler visited the 1885 slides soon after they fell and wrote a fascinating account in the March 1886 issue of Appalachia. (You can find it on Google Books.) Butler wrote that the two slides together on the South Peak "have made the fair mountainside a desert of rock."
The picture below, taken from a small opening on a spur ridge on the south side of Slide Brook, shows the relation of the two South Slides. Though the scars have largely been revegetated, you can still make out the courses of the slides.
Here's another view, taken from a different angle on the spur ridge.
My most recent visit to the South Slide was on a Tuesday that started out partly sunny, with clouds and possible showers predicted for the afternoon. The plan was for Carol to hike in with me on the Livermore Trail and perhaps partway up the South Slide Trail. Then she would head back to prepare for the arrival of visiting relatives on the morrow, while I would continue on to the slide.
We started off at 9:00 am from the large Livermore parking area and soon strolled through the Depot Camp clearing in morning sun, with the top of North Tripyramid poking above the trees.
The wide gravel ribbon of Livermore is a pathway to many trails and destinations.
In summer it's a pleasant stroll under a high arching canopy.
About a mile up the trail there's a meadow where each Tripyramid peak makes a cameo in turn; South Peak is seen here.
More nice walking on Livermore.
We made the short side trip on the Norway Rapids Trail to see the ledges and cascades on Avalanche Brook. One of many fine spots reached by the nifty WVAIA trail network in Waterville.
After passing a spur gravel road on the right, Livermore Trail leads past additional cascades. Lots of brook scenery on this hike.
The South Slide portion of the Mount Tripyramid Trail is reached 2.6 miles from the trailhead.
The crossing of Avalanche Brook is usually shallow, stony and fairly easy.
On the far side you enter the Sandwich Range Wilderness.
The first part of the trail is a relaxing ramble under tall hardwoods. With the exception of a few muddy spots a quarter mile in, the footing is uniformly good nearly all the way to the slide.
Where the trail first comes by Slide Brook there's an idyllic rest spot in an opening beside a small cascade and pool.
Wonderful open hardwoods along this trail.
Carol heads farther up the valley.
At 0.7 mile from Livermore Trail you cross Cold Brook. Carol headed back home from here, giving her a nice 7-mile round trip hike.
Just above Cold Brook, the trail passes by Black Cascade on Slide Brook. You get only veiled glimpses down to it from the trail. To get down to the brook here requires descending a steep, wet and fragile bank - not recommended. However, you can get a side view from a short path leading down from a waterbar. The ledge here is a dark rock called gabbro, hence the name Black Cascade.
Somewhere above the cascade I left the trail in search of a long forgotten Waterville feature
known as the "V." Watervillian A.L. Goodrich, in his 1892 guidebook to Waterville Valley, had this to say about the "V":
The "V" is a place in the path of the South Slide where Slide Brook has cut through the ledge in such a way that a cross-section of its excavation gives a V. It is not an easy place to pass."
This had some importance to hikers since in the early 1900s there was a crossover trail leading from the Woodbury Trail up Mt. Whiteface (an old route from Waterville) to the route up the South Slide; this path crossed Slide Brook at the upper end of the "V." The AMC Guide referenced the "V" into the 1940s, calling it a "small flume."
I had looked for it once before on an early winter exploration but wasn't satisfied with my search. So I carefully picked my way down into the steep ravine, with its treacherous footing and numerous blowdowns. First I came down near a spot that could be called a flume of sorts, or perhaps a "V."
Farther upstream I came to what could be considered a miniature flume, with a small waterfall. I had found this spot on my earlier probe a few years ago, but then the waterfall was frozen. I'm still not sure if I've found the "V" or not, but there's a chance that one of these spots could be the place.
Farther along I whacked back up the slope towards the trail, at one point easing through some gorgoeus hardwood glades.
I emerged at a birch-rimmed opening right at the base of the slide.
A short climb through dense conifers got me up to the lower open part of the slide.
I scrambled up a ways to get my first views over towards Sandwich Dome and that wild Flat Mountain/Lost Pass area.
To the west I could see Mt. Tecumseh, but the clouds and showers were advancing quickly. I found a rock seat off to the side and waited out a shower under my trusty travel umbrella. That's a mighty handy item on a wet day.
After a long break at this spot, I headed farther up the slide.
A trail crew had built some rock steps to stabilize one section of the slide.
A zoom on Lost Pass, that mysterious gap between the northern Flat Mountain, Snows Mountain and a long southwestern arm of East Sleeper. There's a beaver pond in the heart of the pass, which you can glimpse from the top of the South Slide. Mt. Israel is seen through the pass.
Two descending hikers went by, having come up the North Slide - the only other folks seen all day.
I continued up to some open ledges at about 3550 ft., just above a mildly tricky scramble. Here there was an intriguing view of that long SW spur of East Sleeper. That would be an interesting, remote and likely thick bushwhack.
On the plateau between the South Slide and that spur are two beaver ponds/meadows. From this spot I could just see the fringe of one. They can be better seen from the top of the slide. But with more showers approaching, and a possibility of thunderstorms, I decided not to go up to the top. Here is a view of South Tripyramid from one of those beaver meadows, taken during a December bushwhack traverse of Snows Mountain to the Lost Pass area with my friend Keith a couple of years back.
A pretty heavy shower hit as I descended the slide. Still, it wasn't bad going down. Now the North Slide, that would be a different story in the rain...
On the way back down the trail I admired the many rock waterbars that help keep this trail in good condition.
I made a short side trip to have a close look at another cascade on Slide Brook.
A nice look back up the trail above Cold Brook.
Near the end of my stroll out on Livermore Trail, I paid an obligatory visit to The Boulder in Avalanche Brook.
By the bridge over the Mad River I followed a path down to where the Mad River and Avalanche Brook merge. Confluences are cool places.
Despite the rain, it was a good day on the South Slide Trail.