I have not done a race report in a long time, but people ask me about some of the races, or other adventures that I do, and want to hear details about them. This is about the Seven Sisters 25K trail race in Montreat NC. Many of you saw my Strava and Instagram posts, so the pictures are the same.
First, the Montreat and Black Mountain, NC area is a fantastic area and one of my favorite places to visit. It is close to Asheville, in Western NC. Just visiting Montreat and Black Mountain, without hiking the trails is amazing, but the trails and mountains are a huge part of the area.
The “Seven Sisters” are seven mountain peaks on the range in Montreat and Black Mountain. The range is less than 4 miles, but there are 7 smaller peaks, then the “granddad of the sisters” Greybeard peak. Greybeard tops out at 5408 feet. Greybeard information: https://www.summitpost.org/graybeard-mountain/755613
This is the video from Tanawha Adventures, who puts the race on.
Copy and past from above website: “The Seven Sisters 25k is a monstrous mountain of a run around the East and West ridges of the Montreat Wilderness! This route is a Western North Carolina classic, but it will be the first time it will be held as a race. Although short in distance, this route will leave you in awe at its beauty and its difficulty.
The route passes over multiple peaks and overlooks including; Lookout Rocks, Rocky Head, Graybeard, Rattlesnake Rocks, and of course the Seven Sisters themselves along the treacherous West Ridge Trail. Come prepared to run this beast!
Prior Trail Running Experience Required to Participate!
Refunds granted minus $20 up to 60 days prior to the event. No transfers/deferments at any time.”
Distance: 25 Kilometers….ish (15ish miles) (Garmin reads 14 miles)
Elevation Gain: ~4,000 ft (Garmin reads between 3900 and 4100)
Percentage Trail: ~95% (starts and ends on .5 paved road in Montreat)
Time Limit: 5 hours (for reference, it took me 3 hr 39 min/66th place overall out of 150 that finished/155 started/5 did not finish/40 did not show up….overall winner was 2:04)
Aid Stations: Miles ~4 (10:20am cutoff) & ~8 (11:40am cutoff)
This Trail Run Project link/app tells you all you need to about the course. You can use GPS to follow the course, through the free app:
There was a scare before the race, that we were not going to be able to run the whole course. The weather the day before the race was horrible, with major rain and tornado activity. I saw one report say that Western NC had not received that much rain in over 100 years. There was a threat of snow and freezing rain on race day. The race director had 3 different options of what could happen. The race was going to go on, but the worst option was a 6 mile race! I was horrified of the chance of anything, but the full 25K loop. Thank God the weather did not get too bad and we had the full course. This is only the second year of this race. The first year was shortened due to snow and ice.
I thoroughly enjoyed the race and am very happy with it. It was not that I had a great finish time (I was middle of the pack)…it was that I had a great time, as in fun. Between it being in the amazing Montreat/Black Mnt area, the atmosphere, the amount of technicality/climb/elevation/views and the weather, it was a perfect fit for me. I felt great the whole way and was able to enjoy it all. I stopped several times to take pictures, but pushed myself hard, otherwise.
It is a tough course and race. A lot of technical trail with a lot of climbing. I was able to do a lot of long climbing training runs/hikes recently, like Day Creek/Black Horse Gap, Priest/3 Ridges, Grandfather and Linville Gorge..I am sure that helped a lot. While not an ultra, it runs like a mini ultra. Does not compare to the Promise Land 50k and other ultras, that some of my friends are doing this weekend and I have done in past. It is just hard enough and just long enough to be fun..if you know what I mean.
After .5 of pavement you enter the single track of Rainbow Road(trail) and Lookout trail. This part has some portions that are steep wooden steps, that I did not get a picture of. There is some of that on the video. The rest of the course is climbing for the most part, with small descents in the mix, until you get to mile 9-top of Greybeard. The mile 8 to 9 climb to Greybeard was the toughest part, I thought. There were 2 small out and backs to views. Most of the last downhill from mile 9 is very technical. The last mile or so of trail is easy, then the last mile or so of road is super fast and easy. I posted some pictures of the trail being very wet, but the trails were in great shape, considering the prior weather. The wet did not slow me down much, maybe some.
The temp at the start was around 41. I am a cold weather runner, so this was ideal for me. On top of that, there was a light snow, in the high elevations, for around half the race… that was another ideal for me. To start off with, I had a short sleeve shirt, a light long sleeve shirt and a Houdini shell on. I had another Houdini in the hydration pack. I had way too many clothes with me (4 top layers and shorts). The theat of snow, freezing rain and cold temps caused me to over pack and wear. I took off the Houdini and the long sleeve short after a couple miles. I ran in short sleeve shirt and shorts the rest of the way and felt great, even though the temp may have been in the high 3Os at times.
You can see from the website and video, that there are several views and they can be incredible. We had a few good views, but most of them were foggy and cloudy. That did not make the race any less great.
While it is somewhat comparable to the GrandFurther 25K in Boone NC, it is not as technical as that course. A lot of this is runnable, if you have the endurance to climb that much while running technical trail. I averaged around a 15 minute pace.
I highly highly recommend the race and make sure you take the weekend to spend some time in Montreat and Black Mountain. Trailhead Restaurant/bar, Dripolater coffeehouse, Take a Hike outdoor store, Epic Cycles bike shop and Vertical Runner running store (where packet pickup was) is a few of the local places that we have been to and like a lot. There are a few breweries and Cider places…Pisgah, Black Mountain and Lookout, to name a few. Maria did a nice 20 mile bike ride, while I was racing, called the North Fork. Sunday, we did a short ride into Montreat and back. We would have done the Town and Country bike ride, but the storm had caused an issue on that route.
The one negative is that the registration shirt was awful, for me. Please do a graphic of the 7 Sisters plus Greybeard mountain range, next time, RD. We did get a nice pair of 7 Sister logo (just the words) socks as a finisher award.
Maria took the finish pics.