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Great Hikes: Mt Tripyramid Loop w/ the North and South Slides

Lisa scrambles up the North Tripyramid Slide
Lisa scrambles up the North Tripyramid Slide

The complete Mt Tripyramid Loop traverses North Tripyramid (4180′), Middle Tripyramid (4140′), and South Tripyramid mountains, climbing up an avalanche slide and own another on the other side. It’s a classic White Mountain’s hike, with a steep ascent and sublime views.

“I’m sure glad you’ve hiked this before,” I told my friend Lisa as we approached the steep climb up North Tripyramid, one of the scariest trails in the White Mountains. “What?”, she said. “I’ve never climbed it either.”

I was flabbergasted. I’d thought she’s hiked it before and could help see me safely to the top. The north slide trail is known to be quite difficult, climbing up 1200′ in just a half mile over exposed bedrock slabs that are slippery when wet. There was no turning back now. We were here to hike the loop and I girded myself to face whatever came our way.

The beginning of the North Slide is easy
The beginning of the North Slide is easy

The beginning of the climb was an easy scramble up loose rock. No sweat, I thought. This isn’t that hard. But then the funnel opened up.  It wasn’t entirely clear if there was a trail or not and we were forced to pick our way up the slope without the guidance of blazes or cairns.

No worries, though. While steep, there aren’t any places with full exposure, where you’ll fall off a cliff face. We were lucky too. We’d caught a dry day, and didn’t have to deal with any lingering snow or wet surfaces. I’d been worried that there would be some vertical scrambles, but we didn’t encounter anything that steep.

Slabs on the North Tripyramid Slide
Slabs on the North Tripyramid Slide

Still, both Lisa and I were wearing our sticky rubber shoes, me in a pair of La Sportiva Ultra Raptors and Lisa was wearing a pair of 5-10s. They really helped. I can’t imagine what it would have been like in a pair of hiking boots with chunky vibram lugs.

Lisa and I dealt with our fears differently. She took off and climbed on ahead while I helped a guy who was clearly intimidated by the slope. I helped pull him up through some spots where they wasn’t a lot of traction ad gave him advice about the best hand holds and footholds to use. I couldn’t help think back to my rock gym days which were so formative in the development of my hiking footwork and which I put to good use every time I hike.

It was tough going and I paused frequently to admire the view. The views from the north slide may be the best I’ve ever seen in the Whites. I could see from Moosilauke all the way to Webster Cliff, Mt Carrigan, ad Mt Washington, a huge panoramic view to savor.

A lone cairn stands near the top of the trail
A lone cairn stands near the top of the trail

Lisa and I met up shortly before the trail tops out and sat down for a long lunch break, overlooking a lone cairn. From where we sat, it looked like the cairn was at the top of a cliff, without anything behind it except a sheer drop.  It’s not. but the optical illusion makes it look so.

Hiking the ridge trail from the North peak to the Middle and then the South was easy. We’ve both climbed these mountains many times before. But descending the South slide trail proved to be challenging, mostly because it’s loose gravel and not slab. Switching roles, I led on the descent while Lisa followed until we popped out at Livermore Road at the bottom of the loop and hiked out and home.

Tripyramid Loop
Tripyramid Loop

The north-south Tripyramid loop up and down the slide trails is best done in fair and dry weather when the views are clear and the north slide slabs are dry. Hiking down the north slide trail and up the south slide trails are not recommended; hike them in a clockwise direction instead. For complete details, see the AMC’s White Mountain Guide.

Mt Tripyramid Loop
Mt Tripyramid Loop (Click for Map and GPX Track on Caltopo.com)

Total distance: 11 miles with 3,000 feet of elevation gain.

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7 comments

  1. Thanks for this great trail description. I did the Tripyramids via this route quite a few years ago. I remember being nervous both on the ascent and descent, feeling that if I started sliding on those steep slabs, I’d just keep sliding. Made it without incident, though. I found that I felt more secure on the sides of the trail, near the bushes, which gave me something extra to grab hold of. Maybe not classic technique, but worked for me.

  2. This is a classic hike. You’re right about the views!

  3. My eight year old and I did this last October. North slide was one of the only times I’ve seen him visibly nervous while hiking. Then he face planted going down south slide. Still had a grand old time though.

  4. The Tripyramids are a great loop hike, although I would recommend considering taking the Scaur Ridge Trail up instead (and South Slide down). It adds 1 mile, but probably not much more time, since most will be able to climb it a lot faster than the North Slide Trail.

    A great overnight hike is, after summiting the 3, to head down the Kate Sleeper Trail. There a nice established tent site at the junction with Downes Brook Trail. You can then easily summit Mt. Whiteface after lightening your pack, or even push for Passaconway, and then an easy hike out the next day.

    • Passaconaway and Whiteface are on my not yet done list and I was thinking about something like what you propose later in the fall.

  5. I hiked the Tripyramids in early May up Pine Bend and down Sabbaday Brook trails. the ice in the first half mile coming down Sabbaday Brook Trail from the col about did me in. I paid the blood homage to the gods when I slipped. One of these days I want to do the slides though. I wasn’t about to try that in May. I really liked the Pine Bend Brook Trail. I think it’s underrated.

  6. Just did this yesterday with my nine year old and this was one of the coolest hikes I’ve ever done! I completely agree that there is almost no markings except a few faded yellow blazes painted on rocks and an occasional cairn both on the north ascent and south decent. Missed the Sleeper trail intersection altogether which was no big deal. Trails need some maintence as some bog bridges and wood steps were badly decaying!

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