Mt. Passaconaway, Whiteface, and the Tripyramids
After a couple of small dayhikes in the Spring, and several overnight trips over the summer that fell through while still in the planning stages, the beginning of October came and went, and it was Columbus Day weekend before I finally found myself driving towards New Hampshire's White Mountains with my backpack riding comfortably in my trunk. My plans were to summit four 4,000 footers that are grouped just south of the eastern part of the Kancamagus Highway: Mt. Passaconaway, Mt. Whiteface, Middle Tripyramid, and North Tripyramid.
Saturday, October 11 (8.1 miles). I was packed, loaded up, and on the road by 6:30 am, knowing full well that as the day wore on, the leaf-peeping tourists would be clogging the roadways. After two hours of steady driving, I arrived in Lincoln, New Hampshire, and stopped off at the White Mountain Information Center, which is run by the National Forestry people. My suspicions were confirmed: there is now a pilot program in place whereby user's fees are charged for parking at trailheads within the White Mountain National Forest. A seven-day pass will run you $5.00, while an annual pass (which is what I purchased) costs $20.00, but can be used on two separate automobiles. After I ponied up my twenty dollars, I headed for the Oliverian Brook Trail trailhead, which is located several miles east of Lincoln on the Kancamagus Highway
Within a couple of miles of the trailhead, the Passaconaway Cutoff Trail breaks off to the right, and climbs relatively steadily up to the Square Ledge Trail, which connects Square Ledge to Mt. Passaconaway. While I was on the Passaconaway Cutoff Trail, I realized that I had been on this trail the previous February, when I had gone on a snowshoe backpacking trip with Phill, my hiking partner. I must be getting old, because prior to being on the trail, I had not realized that I was repeating myself. The Square Ledge Trail leads to the Walden Trail, which ascends Mt. Passaconaway. The summit is treed, but there are some relatively decent views from two outlooks near the summit, one of which is on a spur trail. The entire sky was free of clouds, and I stayed on top for quite a while, enjoying the good weather and the good views.
I descended on the Dicey Mill Trail, and then picked up the Rollins trail, which follows a ridgeline over to Mt. Whiteface. After climbing the north summit of Whiteface and descending into the col between Whiteface's two summits, I found myself at Camp Shahadi, and dropped my pack, climbed the south summit, and located a very nice spot for my tent. I retrieved my stuff, set up camp, and ended up cooking dinner by the light of my headlamp. The sunset was spectacular, and except for a lack of water on the summit, Mt. Whiteface is just a perfect place to spend the night. Some of the other people on the summit had brought their dogs, but except for barking a bit in the morning, the dogs were relatively quiet. There is an outdoor outhouse near the south summit of Whiteface (by outdoors, I mean a Forest Service toilet on a platform, but no walls), but unfortunately, I failed to get a photograph of it. Oh well, perhaps another time. I went to bed early, and slept relatively well.
Sunday, October 12 (11.0 miles). I woke up a bit later than I'd planned, missed whatever sunrise I had been hoping to see, and wasted a bit of time going over my trail descriptions, which brought me to the realization that the hike over to the Tripyramids via Sleeper Trail was going to be a bit more strenuous than I had originally thought. Sleeper Trail ascends East and West Sleeper, two peaks that both exceed 3,800 feet. East Sleeper is one of the New England Hundred Highest; West Sleeper is not. After summiting the Sleepers, the Sleeper Trail emerges from the woods on a small but steep slide on the south side of South Tripyramid. The Trail climbs up the slide, reenters a wooded area, and then terminates at the base of South Slide on the Mount Tripyramid Trail. During this part of the hike, I would have been much happier if I had not been carrying a 35-pound backpack.
The Mt. Tripyramid Trail is a loop trail that summits all three of the Tripyramids; most hikers hike it from North to South Tripyramid, in order to avoid descending the North Slide, which is, so I am told, quite a bit steeper than South Slide. South Slide was quite steep enough for me, thank you very much. Once I reached the summit of Middle Tripyramid, I spend quite a bit of time enjoying the summit--there were several people there, and most of them were working on the White Mountain 4,000 footers. I met a family from the Concord, New Hampshire area who were doing the 4,000 footers as a family, which I thought was rather neat. The children were approximately 9 and 11 years old, and Middle Tripyramid was the family's 29th 4,000 footer. I also chatted briefly with a pair of hikers from New York; they had driven a lot further than I had in order to get in a good weekend of hiking.
I continued north along the Mt. Tripyramid trail, descending into the col between Middle and North Tripyramid where the Sabbaday Brook Trail enters from the right. After stashing my pack near the trail junction, I summitted North Tripyramid, and then retraced my steps back down to my pack. All that was left for me was the 4.9 mile hike back to the Kancamagus Highway via Sabbaday Brook Trail, and except for the first mile, which was extremely steep, the hike was a pleasant one. Sabbaday Brook Trail crosses Sabbaday Brook seven times, so I was able to work on my rock hopping skills.
Total trip mileage, 19.2 miles.
Copyright © 1997, David Lister