Mountain Day 2022: We're on top!

Mountain Day 2022 came on a clear fall day, perfect for celebrating.

The 7 am clock tower bells rang out across campus, just as they have since the tower was built in 1897. But after the seventh toll came an eighth, then a ninth, then a tenth…

As the bells gonged on, the realization spread across campus: It was Mountain Day!

A proud tradition that began with Mount Holyoke founder Mary Lyon’s own dedication to fitness, Mount Holyoke’s Mountain Day is when classes are canceled and students, staff and faculty alike climb Mt. Holyoke and enjoy ice cream at the summit.

As the Mountain Day tradition has aged and evolved, alum clubs around the world have developed their own ice-cream and mountain events. Now the day is celebrated in more than 100 cities around the world. Alums share photos of their hikes and ice cream enjoyment on social media and to connect with the Mount Holyoke community from wherever they are in the world.

At the mountain, cars and buses filled with students emptied, and the road was filled with a happy cacophony of singing, laughter and portable speakers playing everything from Lizzo to Broadway tunes.

Mountain Day is amazing because we get to see all of the College — first years, sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Students in groups of four, five and six cheered each other up the steep path that rises through trees, eventually revealing a wide vista of the valley below, the Connecticut River a blue ribbon wending through swaths of farm fields.

Hikers reaching the summit could be heard cheering “it’s the top, it’s the top!” Hikers who finished the climb spread out on the rocky grass field, enjoying the frozen sweets handed out by Dining Services and adorning themselves with glittery, metallic temporary tattoos from the Alumnae Association.

“It’s such a gorgeous day. I’m just really happy,” said Emi Wilson ’23 of Montana. Wilson admits that they tried to sleep in on their first Mountain Day, but a fellow first-year convinced them to go. Since then it has been a keystone tradition for them: “I’m so grateful that I went,” they said. Last year their coworkers in the dining hall even made certain that they got off their shift in time to catch the last shuttle up.

The speculation about when the day will come adds to a sense of anticipation and excitement each year, they added. And the official cancellation of classes and meetings during the particularly stressful period in the semester — so that more people can join in — makes it even better. “There are so many friends all in the same place,” they said.

Carolyn Dietel, who retired in June after 45 years as the director of the Frances Perkins Program, was also there to enjoy the day.

“I will come up here as long as I can,” she said.

Xi Stoddart ’24 said that they had been speculating with their roommate about when it would be. “We’ve been waking up and counting the bells every morning,” they said. When the bell rang for the tenth time at seven in the morning, they knew that was it. They hiked on foot last year, but because of an ankle injury, they took a shuttle to the summit this time, so they would reach the top with undiminished joy.

Interim President Beverly Daniel Tatum was there to sing the “Alma Mater” with the choir.

Hanan Khan ’FP23 is an art studio major who was able to join the in-person expedition for the first and last time as a student.

The most exciting part of the day to her is the opportunity to be together with her community members. As a Frances Perkins student, she often feels that she sees only a small subset of the community.

“Mountain Day is amazing because we get to see all of the College — first years, sophomores, juniors and seniors,” she said. “That is my favorite thing.”

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