Tuesday, July 12, 2022

West Sleeper Slide and Three Peaks: 7/11/22

A very rewarding loop in the Sandwich Range Wilderness. Went up Sabbaday Brook Trail and bushwhacked to the big 2011 slide on West Sleeper. Climbed the slide, then whacked to the ridge above and followed it to the summit of West Sleeper. Took the Kate Sleeper Trail to the South Slides of Mt. Tripyramid and followed the Mount Tripyramid Trail over South and Middle Peaks, and returned down the Sabbaday Brook Trail from the col between Middle and North Peaks.

With low water, the brook crossings on Sabbaday Brook Trail were easy and I was soon heading into the Wilderness.

This open glade was the site of the Monahan Camp of the early 1900s Swift River Railroad.

Passing through a dreamy glade while bushwhacking to the West Sleeper Slide.

There's plenty o' hobblebush in this valley.

I exited the woods onto the slide runout track above the chaos of mangled trees deposited in the brookbed.

The ridge of East Sleeper in sight ahead.

The steep bank on the left was created when the slide slammed in full force into the brookbed before surging downstream.


Red elderberry is a frequent colonizer of slides in the Whites.

The West Sleeper Slide was unleashed by the prodigious rainfall of Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011. This would be my sixth visit to the slide. It's been interesting to watch the progress of revegetation over the years. Now, nearly eleven years later, birch saplings are starting to speckle the stony and gravelly face of the slide. 

Slide researcher Edward Flaccus studied White Mountain slides and their revegetation in the late 1950s. He noted that a deposit area at the base of a slide, as seen here, revegetates much more rapidly than the steep, bare face of the slide above. In this deposit area is a stunted mix of deciduous species such as paper and yellow birch, quaking aspen, pin cherry, mountain maple and others, and the conifers red spruce and balsam fir.

Evidence of a slide-bagging moose.

There's a steep and loose pitch at the bottom of the slide.

More red elderberry along the edge.

Heading up.

View to the northeast.

In the view, left to right, are Mt. Tremont, distant Carter Dome, Bartlett Haystack, the far-off Baldfaces, Potash Mountain, part of Bear Mountain, South Potash, and Kearsarge North above Big Attitash Mountain.

After a lunch break, I looked up and thought the top didn't look too far away. As I found out, the slope was steeper and the apex farther away than they appeared.

A moose was up on the slide!

About halfway up I came to interesting ledge terraces.

One area had a prominent intrusion of a dark gray rock, contrasting with the predominant Kinsman granodiorite.

Looking down from the ledges, with the gray rock clearly visible.

Some fun scrambling here on grippy rock.

A steep ledge step.

The average slope on this slide is ~31 degrees, but the upper half increases to 33 degrees.

Down-look from near the top of the slide.

After passing through a brushy chokepoint, I reached the ultimate top of the slide, at ~3150 ft.

This spot afforded a nice profile of Mt. Passaconaway.

I pushed up the steep slope above the slide.

I reached the crest of West Sleeper's NE ridge about 200 vertical feet above the slide, and soon stumbled upon a moose path leading upward.


The upper part of this ridge was a fern-carpeted wonderland of widely-spaced old balsam firs. No wonder the moose like this area!

Looking back down the ridge.

Abundant moose sign.

Boreal forest at its finest.

Passing by a blowdown patch. Luckily this ridge escaped the wholesale devastation inflicted upon East Sleeper by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The little clearing at the 3881-ft. summit of West Sleeper, reached by a short side path off the Kate Sleeper Trail.

The wonderful, fern-lined Kate Sleeper Trail, opened in 1900 by the Wonalancet Out Door Club and named for the club's founder, Wonalancet innkeeper and conservationist Katherine Sleeper Walden.

Near the West Sleeper-South Tripyramid col I ran into Barbara Cutter and Brian Roberts, longtime Randolphians who are staying in Waterville Valley this summer. What a nice surprise! They had been into my store twice within the last couple of weeks. Both are history professors at the University of Northern Iowa. They were the first hikers I'd seen all day. They were heading over to East Sleeper.

The Kate Sleeper Trail concludes with a steep climb up the top part of the 1885 South Slide on Tripyramid.

I took a half-hour break in the sun at the top, savoring the views over Sandwich Dome and the Lost Pass area.

This is another steep slide.

It's a short jaunt across to the 1869 South Slide and the Mount Tripyramid Trail.

More great views here.

The trail makes a steep and rough climb above the slide.

The gentle crest of South Tripyramid.

At the top of the descent off South, a glimpse ahead of Middle and North Peaks with Carrigain and Willey between them.

A Bicknell's Thrush serenaded me as I made the steep descent off South Peak.


Luxuriant ferns in the saddle between South and Middle Peaks.

Neat rock overhang along the ascent up Middle Peak (4140 ft.).

The summit ledge on Middle Tripyramid.

Pleasing view east to Passaconaway and Chocorua.

The narrow and very steep and rough upper part of Sabbaday Brook Trail does a good impersonation of an Adirondack herd path.

Once below the slabs of an old slide, it's mostly smooth sailing down the remote and peaceful Sabbaday Brook valley.


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