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Mountain Day: A Tradition Returns

Sept. 21, 2022 — On Sept. 15, the longstanding tradition of Mountain Day  — a surprise day off from classes for students to spend a day hiking — returned to NMH. 

In keeping with tradition, the Class of 2023 made the challenging climb up Mount Monadnock in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, while the rest of the students hiked a 3.5-mile section of the New England Trail closer to campus. 

Just the day before, at a special all-school meeting in Memorial Chapel, students cheered and applauded when Head of School Brian Hargrove announced Mountain Day, which last occurred at NMH in 2019. After hearing the news about this year’s hike, smiling students sang and clapped along to a recording of  “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye.

“We were super excited to get this experience back,” senior Maverick Chedel said after his ice hockey teammates challenged themselves to be the first group to finish the 3,165-foot climb of Mount Monadnock. “We wanted to build some chemistry with new guys and show that we are more than just a team — we are a family,” he said. 

The group of about 12 hockey teammates reached the summit in 40 minutes, and, he said, “the views were unbelievable.” 

The first documented Mountain Day at NMH was in 1881, when school founder D.L. Moody announced “A day in the woods for all!” NMH Archivist Peter Weis said there’s no documentary proof that Mountain Day was an annual event until 1889, when a student writer for The Hermonite hoped that the event would happen every year. “There’s a more or less unbroken stream of accounts after this,” Weis said.

Nico Zhang '23 wore a suit to climb Mount Monadnock on Mountain Day.

Flash forward to 2022, and it’s possible that senior Nico Zhang’s Mountain Day experience is one for the history books.

After joking with friends over dinner the night before about “wearing weird costumes or bringing giant flags for a photo shoot at the summit,” Zhang said, he became “obsessed with how cool it would be to climb Monadnock in a suit.

“I put on my jacket and tie, and off I went the next day,” he said.

The hike was more strenuous than he had expected, but, Zhang said, “hiking in a suit is not as uncomfortable as it looks.” At the summit, he completed his look by changing out of his hiking shoes and into dress shoes — and posed for photos.

“I enjoyed Mountain Day very much and definitely do not regret my decision of being a little weird on the choice of attire,” he said.

While her first Mountain Day was not as dramatic as the seniors’, 9th-grader Esme Robinson reported that the underclass hike was pretty strenuous at times. She loved the surprise of having “an entire day to hike and relax” and “the people marking the checkpoints were very nice and encouraging.

“The scenery was beautiful, and it was a perfect day to hike!” she added.

After the hike, whether they climbed a giant mountain or scrambled on a less strenuous path, all students were treated to special picnic lunches thanks to NMH Dining Services. 

“My favorite tradition is eating chili out of bread bowls at the end with friends,” Dory Hindinger ’24 said.

See photos of the Class of 2023 climbing Mount Monadnock and the underclass hike.

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