By Ben Nephew
After several of the locals, mostly Ryan Welts and Adam Wilcox, had suggested that I would really enjoy the Tripyramid loop, I found some time to head up on August 10th...I’m finally getting around to posting some runs from this past summer!
The loop itself is 11 miles up and across the three summits of Mount Tripyramid with about 3400’ of climb, and may have the most extreme range of trails for a day hike. Starting at Waterville Valley, the loop heads up the North Slide to the North summit, you then traverse to the South summit and descend the South slide. The first few fire road miles, Livermore road, are about as fast as it gets, and the North and South Slides are about as slow as it gets. There are also a few miles of some of the best NH singletrack money can’t buy.
I got up to Waterville pretty early, ran around a little to loosen up, and then took off up the fire road approach to the North Slide. Ryan had set a strong FKT (Fastest Known Time) of 1:53, taking a couple minutes off Adam’s record, and my strongest advantage was over the runnable miles, so I was pushing on Livermore road. It was a good way to get warmed up for the steep North slide, but I didn’t want to destroy my legs before the real climbing started. I turned off on the singletrack around 3 miles, and was soon at the bottom of the slide. That thing does not mess around, it’s an elevator to the summit. I was soon on all fours, just trying to maintain upward momentum at a very moderate pace. The consistent slab surface is rough on the calves, and any attempt to stand up to look for the route can easily lead to an ugly backwards fall. I kept my head down after losing my balance a second time. I changed the direction of my feet to give various muscles a break a few times, but it didn’t really help much. My legs were just about done by the time I reached the top of the slide and North summit in 53 minutes.
It would have been rough if you had to descend the South Slide right then, but luckily you get an amazing 1.2 miles on the ridge over to the South summit. I could have run that section of trail all day long, a narrow ribbon of pine needle perfection and low ledges that instantly made me forget about how wasted my legs were. I was sad for it to end, both because of the quality of the trail and the sight down the South slide at about 67 minutes. Steep, broken, downwards sloping rocks, sometimes covered with gravelly sand. I’m supposed to “race” down this, right.
It was sketchy even trying to be moderately conservative. I sometimes get over-confident with my Orocs, but I had some close calls even while expressing some quasi-caution. The Orocs saved my pelvis a couple of times. Time seemed to slow due to the difficulty of the slide, and I imagined that I was surely losing time to Ryan. The bottom could not come soon enough. There was a short transition section at the end of the slide, but before long I was back on pristine singletrack. The relief of being off the slide, as well as the accompanying adrenaline during the descent, were great motivators for the final few miles. I was able to open it up on several extended smooth sections between creek crossings, getting my pace under 6:00 at times. The grade was perfect, and the biggest challenges were just getting the legs to turn over fast enough and not carrying too much speed into the rougher creek crossings.
The last 2.5 miles on Livermore road are even faster, and my pace on this section dropped below 5:00 a few times despite the cumulative fatigue from the rest of the loop. Lifting my knees required a conscious effort by the last mile, and the parking lot could not come soon enough. I stopped my watch at 1:44:09, which lowered Ryan’s FKT by about 9 minutes. It is a great loop that has a little of everything, and some of the nicest slab climbing and singletrack you will find anywhere.
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