Will Peterson and I were looking for a route in the whites with good vertical gain and found this loop. It also goes through a bunch of sections that are less popular but were really a pleasure to run.
We started up Cannon at around 7:45am with a couple of other pals and tried not to burn our hiking legs with those two steep miles. The Cannonballs were very muddy and slick which gave us some trouble on the descents. We each had a number of stumbles and slips off of rocks that would normally have been no trouble.
After summiting North Kinsman we enjoyed the descent down to the Basin, even though it was certainly more technical than either of us had expected. Our mindset was to simply stay under control and try to let gravity give us some speed.
We stashed a few bottles of water at the Basin and took a couple of minutes to fill our packs up. The first couple of miles on the Flume Slide trail is the easiest part of the whole run and we perhaps ought to have moved a bit faster there. However, it was the hottest and muggiest part of the day and ultimately we ran at an effort that served us well long term.
That last mile of the Flume Slide was a doozy. Wet conditions made a tough trail dangerous in some spots and we really slowed down. Our main goal there was to keep moving no matter how slow it was so that we could make time back up on the ridge. Getting to the junction near the top of Flume was a huge relief and release of energy.
It might be crazy, but the Flume to Lafayette section may have been the second-easiest portion of the run. We moved consistently just slightly faster than Nate’s pace here and ran into a guy doing a Diretissima! This whole section was a fun run/hike mix where we did not feel the need to turn it over too fast.
We had about 75 minutes to get back to the tram once we hit the top on Lafayette so we were able to stop briefly at the Greenleaf Hut for water before heading down on the Greenleaf Trail. We thought that the trail would get cleaner and easier to run as we descended further as it does on Old Bridle Path, but it was not to be. It was new trail for both of us and we did not get many chances to get a good stride going. Our watches over estimated how long we had left on Greenleaf, so it was a nice surprise to hit the road a few minutes earlier than expected. We turned it over pretty well in the last quarter mile to pull back up to the Cannon trailhead at 7:10 elapsed time. Afterwards, we dunked ourselves in Echo Lake nearby and stopped for poutine in Lincoln.
Overall, we had a really fun time on this route running at a very moderate effort. The west side of this route is really no joke both in terms of elevation and technical terrain. We were both surprised at the reality that this route has about 425 feet of gain per mile. While it doesn’t have the name recognition that the Presi and Pemi have, this route is very much on par in terms of difficulty and views. Conditions are an important consideration, especially on the Flume Slide, but we highly recommend giving this one a shot.