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Weather Caused Early Mount Greylock Closure

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — With lower temperatures and early snowfall this year, all has been quiet on the summit of Mount Greylock.
Reservation Supervisor Travis Clairmont told the Mount Greylock Advisory Committee on Thursday that although there hasn't been much happening on the mountain because of the early closure, he has been busy.
"We had to close the roads a little bit earlier because winter had a death grip that came a little bit earlier," he said. "It was just really dangerous with the ice and it was a challenge to keep it open."
Clairmont said the roads on the Mount Greylock State Reservation were closed Oct. 26.
He said even Jones' Nose access points were shut down an entire month early because of ice and snow.
"Last year, we closed it mid-December but his year it was mid-November," he said. "Not many people were hunting on the reservation because they just couldn't get up there."
Clairmont said the reservation was also hit with an ice storm in October that hindered access on the mountain. 
"The icicles on the trees brought down a lot of limbs -- thousands of them so it was a lot of work just to clear the road so we could respond to potential emergencies," he said. 
He said access also became an issue after a truck climbed the summit to repair the utility tower. The truck left deep rivets on the road that eventually froze creating a luge effect.
"They left these two-foot rivets all the way up and it froze solid the next day it was terrible," he said. "I have been snowmobiling my entire life and I couldn't make it up."
He said luckily the state police used a groomer to smooth out the path and that in the future, contractors have to ascend the mountain a different way or in better weather. 
Clairmont did say even though conditions on the mountain were not optimal this fall, hikers still showed up. He said he had to turn many away. 
"We got a lot of visitors in November who wanted to hike but in sneakers -- no one was ready for the snow," Clairmont. "Even though we were just a couple of weeks removed from leaf peeping season there was a foot of snow up there ... I had to persuade a lot of people not to go."
However, because of these bad conditions, Clairmont said there were few incidents on the mountain.  
"With not much recreation on the mountain its is kind of hard to get hurt," he said.
Clairmont did say there were a few evacuations but only of people who were concerned they could not make it back down the mountain. He said there was one minor car accident in front of the visitors center.
Committee member Steve Blazejewski continued discussion on the evacuations and asked on behalf of the Ski Patrol that Department of Conservation and Recreation employees on the mountain work out specific procedures with the ski patrol.
"They handle the Thunderbolt but when there is a skier on the other side of the mountain, who is responsible?" he said. "They just want to work out whose jurisdiction is where and they don't want to be responsible for the entire mountain. They want to figure who is on first and who is on second."
Becky Barnes of DCR said they have recently really opened up discussion with local first-responders to hash out better protocols.
"They have always been great but a lot of the time they get called on nonemergencies and it takes them out of their capacity," she said. "We don't know how it is going to work but we are going to figure it out and make it as streamlined as possible." 
Barnes said often time DCR can more easily make these rescues or help first-responders more easily access the mountain. She said they are often not contacted and it is really dependent on where the call is dispatched from.
She added the Ski Patrol can be part of this conversation.
Blazejewski said he was glad these discussions were taking place and everyone was going to be on the same page. He noted during one of the last evacuations first-responders really were not prepared to scale the mountain.
"People that normally would have been called up to help were unprepared. They had no snowshoes and weren't dressed for what they were about to approach," he said. "Luckily the Ski Patrol was there but they just sat there for hours."
In other business, Clairmont said the state came through with three new trucks this year.
"I have been around DCR for a while now and have never seen a park get three vehicles in one year," he said. "We were in horrendous shape when I came on. We had trucks that weren't going to make the year but we are in good shape now."
Clairmont said this also included a sander that has been an asset this winter. 
"It was a challenge we were actually sanding by hand I had a guy in the back of the truck shoveling sand out," he said. 

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