Saturday, December 4, 2021
Start/end: Harris Mountain Rd, Granby, MA
Total time: 6:29
Split: 3:07 there, 3:22 back
Elevation gain/loss: 7516’/7454′, 735′ change/mile with 370′ gain/mile
Temperature: started at 30, peaked at 40, and dropped back to 35 by the end
My friend Justin and I met at Harris Mtn Rd and got a start right around 10:30am, each carrying 2.5 liters of water. We didn’t bring our headlamps or water filters, assuming we would finish in 6 hours or less and the day would be cool enough we wouldn’t need much water. Sadly, neither ended up being true.
We booked out hard in the first 2 miles in our excitement. We slowed down after that and settled into a more sustainable rhythm. We stopped twice on the way across, once at the Notch to use the portable toilets and once on the Seven Sisters course to refill my water bottles from my reservoir and to adjust layers. The dry oak leaves made for some oddly slippery conditions and hiding rocks underneath; they also made the trail harder to see. We ended up off trail a handful of times, but never more than 100′. We made the road and our turnaround point just a bit past 1:30pm.
The heat of the day was around 40 degrees; when we started, it was around 30 degrees. We’re both still adjusting to winter and overestimated the number of layers we needed. I quickly realized I didn’t need 2 long sleeve shirts, but I refused to take the time to take it off until maybe 2 hours into the run. This meant I was sweating more heavily for the first few hours which made me go through my water faster than expected. We both had to ration our water for the return, which slowed us down a little bit.
With the turnaround, we then had to climb all the way back up to Mt Holyoke (everything was closed up for the winter, FYI) and then back over the Seven Sisters course. It was a rough slog, but we made the best of it. By the time we descended to the Notch, it became clear we’d be racing daylight. We pushed our pace as hard as we could, but the remaining elevation was brutal on our exhausted legs. The sun had just set as we passed the summit of Long Mountain, and we ran downhill towards the finish as quick as our legs and the oak leaves would let us. The descent was in the mountain’s shadow, so it was already darker than most of the surrounding area. Halfway to the road from Long Mountain, we had to pull out our phones to use as flashlights.
We arrived at the road around 5pm, glad for the water awaiting us in the car. It was a tough course, but it was a lot of fun to see how hard we could push ourselves. I definitely underestimated exactly how challenging this would be. I’d definitely bring my water filter next time, since there are two (small but steady) water sources on the route – one by the horse caves and one by the Notch.
It was interesting to compare this run to other challenging runs in the White Mountains, since there aren’t any other local runs that compare. The Long Seven Sisters route is 735′ of change/mile, with 370′ gain/mile. A Pemi Loop is 633′ change/mile, with 316′ gain/mile. A Hut Traverse is almost identical in elevation (while much more technical), at 740′ change/mile, with 363′ gain/mile. A Swan Song (which is the most technical thing I’ve ever done) is 1139′ change/mile, with 569′ gain/mile.