Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Seven Sisters Run

A few weeks back, Jen and I took a trip up to the Holyoke Range and ran a one-way traverse of the Seven Sisters Trail Race course, a roughly 6 mile run from The Notch to the M-M trailhead on Mountain Rd. We'd both hiked the section before, and I've photographed the trail race in May of both 2012 and 2013, and we've each run and snowshoed portions of the course many times, but neither of us had either actually run the race or run the route point to point like that.

The challenging terrain of this run is what usually sets it apart from others (and is part of the appeal), but on this day it was the season that stood out the most. A late-fall chill called for long-sleeve shirts and gloves, with a stiff breeze making us move on quickly from all the scenic overlooks. I'm sure on some summer days the heat would be brutal, but this time we needed to keep moving just to stay warm. Also, since most of the leaves had already come down the footing was especially tricky and you never knew what would be underfoot with any given step. Nevertheless, we were determined to give this run a try.

While no part of the run posed too much of a challenge, and we only slowed to a hiking pace up the steepest sections, we still took our time and prioritized not rolling ankles over a fast pace. As a result, the trip ended up taking a lot longer than we thought it would. My pausing every few minutes to try to take pictures with the lightweight camera I was carrying probably didn't help. The fallen leaves were particularly treacherous, even when dry. I slipped once on a ledge early on and scraped up a leg, and many stretches required extremely slow going just to make sure our feet didn't end up jammed into hidden crevices.

In the end, I'd have to say neither of us feels particularly compelled to sign up for the 2014 Seven Sisters trail race. While we love trail running and don't shy away from tough courses or routes, this one just seems like it would be unpleasant. We've each got weak ankles and I bet it's a rare race around here that has more ankle-busting terrain than this one. Still, people seem to really love it. I'm sure if we actually did it we'd sing a different tune, but for the moment we're content to let others take the slots and risk the ankle rolls. I'm also sure that by next May I'll probably be first in line to race =)

Mt. Holyoke Range State Park sign at The Notch
 in the Notch (lots of recent road improvements here)

climbing the talus slope on the west side of Bare Mtn.
Jen heads up the talus slope on the west side of Bare Mtn.

the view from Mt. Hitchcock in the Holyoke Range
the view from Mt. Hitchcock (mostly cloaked in cloudshadow at the moment)

M-M Trail over the Seven Sisters in the Holyoke Range
Jen rounds one of the middle Seven Sisters

scenic view in the Holyoke Range
looking west from the last of the Seven Sisters (one of my favorite views in the range)

M-M Trail at Taylor Notch in the Holyoke Range
 dropping down into Taylor Notch

the view from Mt. Holyoke

 overtopping outcrops

descending the final mile

Titan's Piazza in the Holyoke Range
Titan's Pizza (just off the trail near the turnaround, but well worth a look)


  1. You know, I've been thinking that I don't really want to run it next year now that I have run Wapack. There were a LOT of people too, clogging up the climbs. That said, it is a good test to see if you're rugged!

  2. oh man, now I might HAVE to sign up... we're rugged, I swear!!! =)

    I think I know what you mean about Wapack, though. As hard and challenging and as much of a serious endurance test as it was, I really enjoyed running it. Maybe it was just all the fallen leaves covering up the already tricky footing of the Holyoke Range last week, but I just didn't enjoy the Seven Sisters run all that much.

    Possibly another factor is that I've really had a lot of fun running in other places in the Range this year, especially at Earl's Trails, and to a slightly lesser extent the extensive trail network off of Batchelor Street (the trails at Earl's are generally a bit less rocky and more forgiving on the feet). In comparison, running along the ridge involves a lot more ledge scrambling.

    I don't know, probably just by talking about it I'll end up making myself want to do it more.