Hike: After a 7 month highpointing hiatus since Mt. Rainier, we managed to sneak in Mount Greylock, Massachusetts (and the south slope of Mount Frissell, CT) on the last day of 2021.
Mount Greylock, covered in snow & ice during the winter months—to my detriment, as I’ll share in a minute—looms majestically over the Taconic Mountains and nearby Berkshire Mountains at 3,489 feet. It’s #31 of the 50 state highpoints, just behind North Dakota and in front of Maryland. Mount Greylock is also one of 6 state highpoints along the Appalachian Trail (aka AT; as far as I know, the others are TN, VA, NJ, NH, and ME).
Goal: We had a lofty goal for this trip: we wanted to hit 5 highpoints in 2 days, on a blitz of a road trip. Day 1 was going to be DE, NJ, RI, and day 2 was MA and CT. As you can tell, the plan didn’t work out. We scrapped day 1 (more on this below) and drove to the most scenic of the 5, Mount Greylock. It had and icy, snowy mix on much of the 3 miles up, so my revised goal was not to slip and fall! We also needed to hurry somewhat, but of course, still enjoy the hike!
Gear: I wore my Outdoor Research pants and puffy coat (not the heavy one, just the medium one) from the Mount Rainier trip, plus the usual Smartwool base layer tops (short & long sleeves) and socks, Altra Lone Peaks (circa the PCT trip—about time for a new pair!) and my trusty trekking poles. I also had gloves, a hat, and my Osprey backpack with 1.5 liters of water, snacks, first aid, and my camera.
Weather: Cloudy and 39. I thought for sure it was going to be cloudy at the summit, but we got very lucky and it was clear!
Pre-Hike / Approach: As mentioned, we had revised our plan. Originally, we were going to drive to Ohio & Indiana’s highpoints—two easy, unexciting, drive-up ones—then attend our grandma’s 90th birthday party. Alas, due to covid, the party got postponed. I already had plane tickets to fly to Pittsburgh, so I decided to go anyway, and Joel & I would do two days of highpointing instead of one. I came up with the audacious 5 state plan, knowing it would take all the stars aligning to pull it off. And of course, step one of pulling it off was to arrive on time… which thanks to some wet, foggy weather, caused our flight to divert to Detroit!
I had already gone through several ordeals that morning, including driving on a busy I-40 in the rainy darkness after waking up at 5 AM, missing the turn for the parking garage, causing me to circle the Raleigh Airport (a big pain—I had no idea where I was going!), and shoving my carry-on into the overhead bin, which barely fit. Note: I carried on my trekking poles too, in my hand because they were too long to fit in my suitcase, and got a lot of strange looks. Then I found out a week later that trekking poles aren’t to be carried on, only checked. Whoops! No one said anything?! When the captain announced our landing would be in Detroit, I tilted my head back and audibly groaned… Great. Now Joel will be waiting to pick me up for hours.
I texted Joel, and he drove back to his home. Miraculously, American Airlines got us back in the air in less than 2 hours, and Joel picked me up at 1 PM, instead of 10 AM. So we lost 3 hours. After a quick discussion, we decided to forego the very boring highpoint of Delaware, and instead drive most of the way to Mount Greylock, about 10 hours–oof. We ended up going a few hours north on I-79, then about 6 hours east on I-90, arriving at a Fairfield Inn outside of Albany at 8:30ish that night. I was absolutely BEAT (I never sleep well the night before an early flight, especially out of a new-to-me airport) and went to bed early. I was so thankful Joel drove the entire way, as it was rainy for most of it. Our “fine dining” that night was Taco Bell, which neither of us had eaten since our very first highpointing trip, coming back from Clingmans Dome nearly 2 years ago now!
We woke up early (5:30) to shower and eat a quick hotel brekkie. After eggs and toast for me, French toast and yogurt for Joel, and gulping down some coffee, we hit the road to drive the 1+ hour to Adams, the closest town to Mount Greylock.
I chose the quickest hiking route up Greylock, as the roads are closed in winter. We parked at the trailhead called Bellows South, off of Gould Road, and began our 3 mile ascent at 7:52, just after dawn.
The Hike: The Bellows Pipe Trail intersected with ski paths and other trails, so we stopped a few times to check the map (and for me to take pics, of course). The first mile felt easy, not too much elevation, but then the snow and ice came, and I realized our key gear mistake:
We needed micro-spikes, badly.
The irony was that I had read some hike reports on AllTrails.com and many people mentioned needing micro-spikes, so I looked them up on REI. They’re about $50, and fit over your shoes or boots. The vital part is the spikes, which provide much-needed traction on the slippery snow and ice. I didn’t think it would be too icy after a few weeks of warmer weather, so I thought, nah, I’ll just wing it. We probably could have used Micro-spikes when we climbed Mount Mitchell, but we got by ok with that one. For this one, we had a tough time, especially on the steep sections. While I’m always grateful for my trekking poles, they could only do so much on the ice.
The route got steeper and icier, and I had to stop a few times to catch my breath.
We took a very short side trail to check out one of the AT shelters:
Finally, we reached the junction with the AT, the fog cleared, and we could see the summit tower (the Veterans Memorial) at the top of Mount Greylock, not far in the distance.
We trudged along, only saw 3 people coming back down, and gingerly negotiated the ice-covered steps up to the road crossing. From there it was short woods walk, reminiscent of the GA highpoint, and we were at the summit tower.
Highpoint 15, complete!
The base of the tower was a sheet of ice, so we carefully circled it, took our pics and summit selfies, and settled onto a stone bench for a quick candy bar.
We didn’t have much time to enjoy the views (nor did I want to sit still, it was very cold!) as we knew to make it to CT then back to PA would take all day. The hike took nearly 2 hours–I naively thought it would take a little over an hour.
We cautiously descended, going off-trail several times to avoid the steep icy sections. Nearly every hiker we passed on the way down, and there were many, had micro-spikes. We debated trying to find a nearby outfitter to buy some, and show up at Mount Frissell more prepared, but in the interest of time, we took our chance without them.
It felt great to get back to climbing after so many months off, but I could tell I was out of uphill hiking shape. I’ve been doing more strength work, so I didn’t have any hip issues, but aerobically—and I know this already with my running—I need more fitness. Still, it wasn’t especially difficult, but the ice threw in an extra challenge that wouldn’t have existed in warmer weather.
Post-Hike: We booked it down to the trailhead for Mount Frissell, about 2 hours away.
Recommend: This was an enjoyable, somewhat strenuous hike. I enjoy winter hiking but next time I’ll buy micro-spikes and come prepared! This would probably be best in spring/fall.
Up Next: Mount Frissell, Connecticut (the same afternoon!)
Suzie S Haley says
Micro spikes might be on sale now in the summer time?? Probably a good investment. You guys were lucky to have summitted and returned
with no slips and falls. The Veteran’s Memorial tower looks more like a lighthouse. Sorry about the travel ordeals and party postponement.
i admire you and Joel for persevering despite the delays and icy terrain. Hard to believe that Mt Ranier was seven months ago.
Do you have any more HP planned before you head for Germany? I am thinking not. You are focusing on back to school, intensified marathon
training (and subsequent laundry/sports bra washings), and any other unforeseen daily drama.
What is your favorite candy bar anyway?