We had another storm last week that dumped three feet of snow or more up north. Like a bee to honey, I drove up north Saturday morning, leaving before dawn and braving terrible road conditions, to go climb a mountain. I should know better by now.
This latest storm delivered hurricane force winds and heavy snow that knocked out power across New Hampshire. Down south in Boston, we only experienced heavy rain and 25 foot seas off the coast. So, driving north, I was surprised to discover how much snow had fallen just 20 miles north of my house and that the storm was still going strong, covering the interstate with wet snow and freezing rain.
Regardless of the hazards, I still wanted to bag Mt Passconaway (4,043 ft) last weekend to celebrate my birthday. But due to the snow, we decided to reduce our distance and climb Jenkin's Peak (3,460 ft) and Sandwich Dome (3,993) to the south. I figured we'd still have to break trail in deep snow, but the shorter distance would help mitigate our risk.
Unfortunately, when we got to the Sandwich Mountain trail parking lot, it hadn't been plowed and there was nowhere nearby to leave my car. So, we decided to take a stab at the Tripyramids and see how close we could get by walking up Livermore Rd to the Scar Ridge trail. If nothing else, it would be a good scouting trip.
The Tripyramids are a very distinctive set of 4,000 footers in the Sandwich Range. I'd never hiked on the southern trails below the North (4,180 ft), Middle (4,140 ft), and South (4,100 ft) peaks and wanted to see whether they'd make an acceptable approach.
I drove over to the Depot Rd parking lot at the base of Mt Tecumseh off Tripoli Rd, where we had to wait about 5 minutes for the forest service plow to finish the lot before we could park and change into our mountaineering gear. From there we walked north out of the lot to Livermore Road, which is a groomed cross-country run maintained by the nearby Waterville Valley ski resort.
We had arrived well before any skiers and started making our way up Livermore, which must be a wide, unpaved forest service road the rest of the year. It runs through forest for 3.7 miles before reaching the Scaur Ridge Trail, just 2 miles shy of the North Tripyramid peak.
We made good time from the parking lot, bare booting it 1.8 miles up to the Norway Rapids Trail junction in about an hour. This section of the trail is groomed by a snow cat, which passed us shortly after we left the parking lot. The driver, a fellow winter explorer, warned us of waist high snow drifts at higher elevations.
After this point, trail conditions deteriorated rapidly. Many tress had been blown down by the storm or broken by heavy snow and the trail became a maze of wood.
We continued on another mile or so following some snow covered snowshoe tracks, but still sinking deeply with every step. It was slightly better than breaking trail but still a hard slog. After another hour, we'd covered another mile or so but the wind had picked up and wet snow began to fall. I began to get chilled and put on another layer, my Patagonia R1 hoody, because I had sweated through my base layer and my Goretex shell wasn't doing a good job of insulating me or venting the moisture. This warmed me up quickly. I love that fleece.
We stopped and had a big snack, but decided that we really didn't like the conditions enough to make a run at one of the peaks. So we about faced and marched out the way we came, only to be mobbed by cross-country skiers when we got back to the groomed section. There must have been a hundred or more who zipped past me, obviously enjoying the fresh snow. I had to envy them a little and the ease in which they were able to traverse sections of fresh powder. Maybe it's time that I start cross-country skiing again. All traction and no slide is a dull way to travel in deep snow.