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Ascent of Mount Frissell-South Slope on 2016-11-06

Climber: David Odenwalder

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Sunday, November 6, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Frissell-South Slope
    Location:USA-Connecticut/Massachusetts
    Elevation:2372 ft / 722 m

Ascent Trip Report

One word for Connecticut's high point - "surprise".
I did not expect several aspects of this hike
- it was more challenging than I had expected
- I almost missed the high point due to a deceptive "false summit"
- it was really slippery, due to dead foliage (in this case, autumn leaves).


Frissell had one other surprise - there was some lightweight scrambling involved. Nothing very risky, no more than Class 3-. But not a walk in the park.

The access was from the MA side. I arrived on a red-eye in Boston mid-morning. Picked up a rental car, and immediately drove out on I-90 to the west side of the state. It was on the order of 3 hours from the airport to the trail head. Massachusetts has implemented automated toll collections - so I had to pay for a transponder in the car - plus the tolls on I-90 - which is a toll road for most of its route through the state. Took side roads starting at Lee, then Stockbridge, Great Barrington, and Egremont. Found that Mt Washington Road was closed due to a bridge being out. So I had to backtrack and find another access road - having already driven so far, I was not going to let Lady Luck deny me another notch on my hiking stick. The nearby Jug End Road did the trick.

Eventually Jug End Rd joins Mt Washington Rd (past the bridge construction site). A few miles later the area becomes sort of a mixed use forest- part state reservation, part privately owned. Eventually the pavement ends, and the last 2 or 3 miles is on a well-groomed graded road. The trail head is only a few yards from the concrete marker indicating the CT state line. There are several places to park, and the trail leads off from one of these pull-out areas on the west side.

The hike starts out as a "walk in the park" - reasonably distinct trail heading into the forest, with very little slope. After maybe a quarter of a mile, though, you reach the bottom of the ridge - and from here, the climbing starts. Part way up the slope, you reach some steep rocky stretches, several of which you will probably use your hands and feet to scale. Again, no significant risk or exposure - but you aren't going to stroll up. At one point halfway up the slope, there appeared to be a fork, with what appeared to be red blaze marks in both directions. I took the left or south-west route, which got me to the top eventually. So it must have been the right choice.

After climbing maybe 200 or 300 feet, the trail levels off and reaches was looks like a local high point. There was also a rather large cairn - of the type one might expect at an important mountain top. Seeing no other markers, I assumed this must be the place. But I was bothered by the fact that I found no peak register, no signs. Just a very large cairn. I might have quit at that point, but was trying to get my mobile phone camera to work - which it did not do. I was also questioning why I had not found the short downhill section, followed by a second climb, which maps had led me to expect. I could see - to the north - another large hill - and it looked like it would be a pretty challenging climb. Since I was a little pressed for time, I was about to call my hike ended - when I noticed some more red marks on the ground, indicating travel towards that very next hill which I had not been eager to go up. I followed those markers and encountered another hiker coming in the opposite direction. He informed me, that yes, I did need to climb this other mountain.

Dropping down into a bit of a saddle (with thicker/more fully developed trees), I soon found myself at the bottom of the dreaded hill. Nothing to do, but climb. Actually, the trip to the top was faster and less challenging than I had feared - but did involve some more steep sections best handled by scrambling, unless you are a mountain goat. At the top was Mt Frissell - the actual peak (which is in Massachusetts). There are signs and an ammo box register - as well as a notice that the CT high point is to be found several hundred feet down a side trail to left (to the south/west).

There, on the side of the mountain slightly below the summit, was a cairn, second ammo box, and a metal geographical survey marker that demarcates the state line and presumably high point of CT (the marker looks like a pop-up sprinker head, with top popped up). I signed both registers, then headed back to the car. As noted, one of the difficulties of the hike was a lot of loose foliage - autumn leaves on the ground - which made slipping and sliding a real problem on the steep downhill sections.

The nearby forests had lost much of their colorful leaves at this point in the season - unlike the areas around Boston, where fall foliage and colors were still pretty much to be seen. The foliage on Mt Frissell and the nearby hills, was quite scrubby - mostly stunted oaks.

So anyone hiking the trail should expect an uphill push of a couple of hundred feet elevation change, a false summit (the trail heads off to the right/north), a short downhill, and another climb of several hundred feet more elevation change - then a side trail to the CT marker. If you don't get to the actual marked top of Mt Frissell (MA side), you probably didn't make it to the CT high point, either.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Route:standard via Frissell Peak
    Start Trailhead:MA/CT state line, Mt Washington Rd  
    Time:1 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 



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