October 4, 2017

Scenes from Mountain Day 2017

Mount Holyoke College

Featured Image

The weather was glorious for hiking — sunny, breezy, not too hot. All day the ubiquitous greeting echoed off the trees and rocky cliffs of Mount Holyoke: “Happy Mountain Day!” “Happy Mountain Day!”

“It’s like we created a holiday for ourselves,” said one student. “It’s something we all do together, as a community. Everyone is happy. It’s a nice break from classes!”

Where were you at 7 a.m. on October 3, 2017?  

When the bell on Mary Lyon Hall rang in Mountain Day 2017, the campus was quiet and only one hiker was in Skinner State Park, home of Mount Holyoke. Mist covered the valley, hiding the Connecticut River winding below. The surprise news that the day had arrived bounced out like radar over the social media airwaves via the hashtag #MTNDayMHC. Within moments, it seemed, everyone everywhere knew.

Blog_MTN day 2017_1.jpgEarly morning mist above the Connecticut River. Photo courtesy of Sam Tressy ’18. 

Setting up

The first staff member on the summit was Latrina Denson, assistant dean of students, just before 8:30 a.m. “I have the permit!” she said.

Moments later, Jonencia Wood, senior director of alumnae engagement in the Alumnae Association, arrived with boxes of temporary tattoos. She was followed by Jennifer Grow ’94, the editor of the Alumnae Quarterly, and Danielle Lund, director of student and young alumnae engagement, with more materials, including spray bottles full of water to wet the tattoos.

They also brought a map of the world with a dozen flags pinned to their respective countries. The flags marked the regions of the 163 alumnae reunions in honor of Mountain Day happening this day across the country and the world (19 countries!). From Massachusetts to Malaysia, alums jumped into action after the bell was rung to hold their own Mountain Day celebrations in their own communities, complete with ice cream, hiking and friendship.


First students

The first hikers appeared at the top of the Halfway Trail near the south side of the Summit House just before 9 a.m., as the rising sun slowly burned off the mist below. Annie Choi, Lily Danieri and Ashley Cavanagh, all students in the class of 2019, even beat Dining Services’s ice cream delivery (fact: 1,500 Hoodsie Cups were served). That delivery coincided with the arrival of the first van loaded with students. Archives arrived a few minutes later with button-making materials — and Mountain Day 2017 was off!

Photo of students at the bottom of the halfway trail
Students at the bottom of the Halfway Trail

Watch the video


Social wrap-up

More snippets from the day

This was the third Mountain Day for both Elise Newcomer ’18 and Sarah McCool ’18. Both had hiked in their first and sophomore years at the College. Both had celebrated while they had been abroad during their junior year.

Newcomer was in the College’s Montpellier program in France with six other students, and the program’s leader had led a surprise excursion on the big day.  

“We hiked the Cévennes,” she said. “We had ice cream in Montpellier. I had pistachio.”

McCool spent Mountain Day 2016 at the Powerscourt Estate outside of Dublin, courtesy of three alumnae, who had gotten her name from the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, which in part oversees international education. They had picked her up, taken her to lunch and given her lots of advice about working and studying abroad.

“Mountain Day is important because we’re doing something collaboratively as a school,” Newcomer said. “We can all do this together. I’m looking forward to reminiscing about it as alums.”

“It’s a time for community-building,” said Leah Keeffe ’19. “I like getting outside at this time. This is the time of the semester that really picks up. Exams are coming. I wanted to savor the moment, to slow things down. You get going really fast during the semester.”

Photo of students forming the letters MHC
An MHC for Mountain Day

Maggie Murdock, Lillia Baird and Elaine Hartman, all class of 2018, have hiked all four years and gotten selfies with the president of the College.

“We get on the first or second shuttle and get here early to see the sun and have the rest of the day to ourselves,” said Hartman. “We live together in one of the Rocky apartments and we’re going back to make chocolate chip pancakes. We like Mountain Day a little bit.”

“A little bit!” said Murdock, to laughter.

“It’s a nice change of pace,” Hartman said.

“Nice to be part of the tradition,” said Johanna Brown, standing with her friends, Neorgia Grant and Toni-Ann Rankine, all the class of 2020. This was her and Grant’s second Mountain Day and Rankine’s first.

“I took the wrong bus last year,” Rankine said. “I thought I was going to the mountain and I ended up at Smith.”

“This year we’re taking you to the right spot!” Grant and Brown had told their friend this morning.

Four staff members left at 8:40 a.m. running the 10.5 miles round trip from Mary Lyon Hall to the summit of Mount Holyoke and back: Polly Prewitt-Freilino (director of institutional research), the head of network, systems and application support, Joel Broyles, and the head of business intelligence, Devon Smith (both of LITS, Library, Information and Technology Services), and Liz Lierman, director of the CDC, Career Development Center. Their average pace, 9-minute miles, included the 1.75-mile ascent from the entrance of Skinner State Park to the summit.

Athletic teams hiking together included cross country (the coach ran up), lacrosse, squash, field hockey and volleyball. Sisters who play field hockey together, Kaitlin Braz ’18 and Chelsea Braz ’21, hiked together, of course. “It’s very bonding for a team,” Kaitlin Braz said.

Photo of students hiking to the top
Students hiking on the road to the top

Lisa Burns FP’18 is a first-time hiker. She works at Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, Massachusetts, as a staff assistant in its TRIO program. A 10th-grade high school dropout, Burns was a student in the program before coming to what she called “THE finest college in the country” as a Frances Perkins Scholar, the College’s program for students over 25 who have experienced an interruption in their education.   

She was thrilled to hike up with what she called her “FP family,” which included several students who lived and worked in places like Bernardston, Massachusetts, and southern Vermont: more than an hour away, in other words.

“I’m supposed to be at work,” Burns said. “But I have permission to play hooky. It’s my first Mountain Day and it’s great. It’s so cool to be up here. I can’t believe I made it.”

This year Mount Holyoke graduate students were specifically invited and encouraged to participate in Mountain Day. Sarah Tobias ’17, Anna Furr, Lauren Jones, Ethan Campbell and Jeffrey Cloak, all class of 2018 students in the College’s master of arts in teaching program, hiked together.

“Both of my supervisory teachers and my mother are graduates of Mount Holyoke,” Furr said. “My mom did it four times. Everyone is super-excited for me.”

Samantha Tripp ’20 was one of several students who first hiked Mountain Day when they were younger because their parent works at the College — her mother, Jeanne Tripp ’90, works for campus police. “I like to get outside and hike and not have to worry about doing homework,” Samantha said. “I can set it aside for the day.”

Photo of Acting President Sonya Stephens and a group of students on Mountain Day
Acting President Sonya Stephens and a group of students at the summit

Among the faculty and staff spotted on the mountain: Ng Tian Hui, the orchestra director; Sandra Lawrence in psychology and education; Eva Paus, economics and director of the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives; and Tricia Paik, the director of the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum on her first Mountain Day.

Jordan Tirrell, math and statistics, hiked with his wife and their son, Colexender — they call him Ender — who had turned 3 months old the day before. “I like the ice cream, and the mountain and I love climbing and haven’t done it enough since this little guy,” Tirrell said, gesturing to the sleeping baby strapped to his chest.

Mark Lauer in German studies hiked with his Five College colleagues from Smith, which was also hosting its Mountain Day. The friends considered both events and decided to participate in Mount Holyoke’s.

“More alumnae and more staff than I remember in the past,” said Leslie Fields, the head of Archives and Special Collections, who oversaw her office’s button-making activity all day. This year, staff members were specifically encouraged to make the trek, and many were decked out in their new Mount Holyoke staff T-shirts.  

Photo of Mount Holyoke staff at the top of the mountain
Mount Holyoke staff decked out in their blue t-shirts to celebrate the day

Archives offered four designs for buttons — repeat hikers often collect them:

  • “I climbed Mount Holyoke 2017” featuring Jorge the goose and balloons in the class colors
  • “never fear / climb”
  • two with archival images of the mountain from 1900 and 1914.

Button-making in honor of Mountain Day 2017 will be available in Archives for the rest of the week.

Photo of an "I climbed Mount Holyoke" button
The "I climbed Mount Holyoke" button

Acting President Sonya Stephens hiked up, arriving about 11 a.m. She made her way around the summit, posing for countless selfies, acquiring a temporary tattoo and chatting and laughing with everyone. Just after 11:30 a.m., she led the more than 200 students gathered around her in singing the alma mater, everyone joyously shouting out the line, “Mount Holyoke forever shall be!”


“One of the reasons Mount Holyoke was my top choice is because it has so many traditions. Here we’re not just first years, sophomores, juniors and seniors. We’re all together.”

“Great photo opps. And it’s fun when you get to the top. But coming up — oh, my!”

“Sonya has a tattoo on her face so I decided it was okay to have one on my arm.”

Photo of Mount Holyoke Forever tattoos
Temporary tattoos are one of the newer Mountain Day traditions

“I like Mountain Day because I can pet dogs. It’s a good day to get outside — but any chance to pet a dog. And ice cream. And dogs.”

The “Hamilton” soundtrack and ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”

“Flat Mary [Lyon] is having a rough day. It’s windy!”

“Getting to the top was hard — it’s a long walk! I’m from Miami so there’s no elevation. Everything is flat.”

“I’m like, these are the finest port-a-potties!”

A student peeling back the top of what appeared to be her first Hoodsie Cup: “Do you eat one side, then the other?”

A student scrambling down from the top of the 20-foot conglomerate boulder known as the Devil’s Football: “It’s actually really easy to climb up. Do you want to try?”  

“It’s a good day to be a Lyon!” breakout chants.

“I can go to the library and study any day. Mountain Day is just once a year.”

Join the tradition. Visit us!


Mountain Day Slideshow

  • Photo of a group of students showing off their Mount Holyoke Forever tattoos
  • Group photo from the top of the mountain
  • Group photo at the top near the Summit House
  • Photo of the button maker
  • Photo of a Mount Holyoke Forever tattoo
  • Photo of a group of students at the top of the mountain
  • Photo of a group of students on their way up the trail
Mount Holyoke, a women’s college, is for ambitious, independent students from around the world who embrace complexity, cultivate curiosity and resolve to become agents of change. The tight-knit community is academically rigorous, intellectually adventurous and socially conscious. As one of the most diverse research liberal arts colleges in the United States, Mount Holyoke prepares students for leadership and cultural awareness on a global scale. Mount Holyoke graduates thrive in all fields, on all continents and in a vast array of languages.
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