View Full Version : In Search of Titan's Piazza - Mt Holyoke MA

06-03-2004, 12:03 AM
Weather and bugs have kept me off the trails for a while so with cool temps, a good breeze and clear skies last weekend I just had to get out somewhere.

Since being corrected about my mis-naming of a rocky ledge on Mt Holyoke as Titan's Piazza I had vowed to go in search of the real thing.

A little online research led me to the great web site (although with annoying popup sidebars from the hosting company) of the Friends of the Mount Holyoke Range (http://fomhr.tripod.com) where, in the history section, I found a reproduction of an etching from around 1841 showing Titan's Piazza. Armed with this image, and 160 year old directions, Lisa and I started our expedition at 9am on a nice crisp, last day of May, morning.

Titan's Piazza is a formation of hexagonal basalt lava columns that adorn the steep northern face of Mt Holyoke. We had travelled the trail that leads to the summit house by way of the ridge line several times but this trip would require a frontal assault on the cliffs.

Within yards of the car we were scrambling up very loose talus made up of sharp shards of ice shattered rock. With the trees in full leaf it was not possible to see far ahead. The slope was around 45* and after a few hundred feet we concluded we were in the wrong spot.

We decided to press on to pick up the ridge trail in preference to returning down the very slippy slope. All we had to do to reach easier terrain was to make a short (ten feet or so)angling traverse up some more vertical rock. At least it was solid and offered good hand and foot holds but the consequences of a fall made me shudder a little.

Safely reaching flatter ground we investigated back and forth a little to see if we were near our goal but we confirmed that we were in fact not. Another steepish, but less hairy, scramble brought is to the ridge top near a vernal pool I recognized as being adjacent to the trail.

We then decided to follow the trail towards the summit house then drop down to the Halfway House and visit two large glacial erratics that lie in the woods near the summit road. At the Halfway area we came across the well preserved steam generator that used to power the funicular tram that took passengers to the summit house.

We visited the conglomerate rock and the Devils Football both huge, but very different in nature, boulders. Left behind by the retreating ice sheet of the last ice age they make striking objects to come across in the woods.

We then took our last, best shot at finding Titan's Piazza. The alternative trail started out promising showing obvious signs of being well travelled. It too, soon turned into a steep talus slope and the signs of other adventurers diminished with every step. Then, ahead of us we saw the unmistakable basalt columns on the cliff face. The last few yards to the narrow ledge at the base of the cliff was somewhat challenging but we made it.

I took out the 160 year old etching and attempted to find the same viewpoint in order to make a contemporary image. If the etching was a faithful depiction of the scene then erosion had shortened some of the columns and reduced the cliff base ledge but the scene was mostly unchanged.

A few words and pictures can be found HERE (http://www.bobspics.com/hike04/04-05-30/index.html)


06-03-2004, 04:53 AM
I said it over on the AMC forum, but I'll say it again here - excellent report Bob!

06-03-2004, 07:44 AM
Hey Bob, Just the other day i was thinking "What about BOB?", glad to see your still on the trail:-)

Good report and pics, i really enjoy that whole area from 47 to the Notch also..

See you on the trail.

06-03-2004, 08:09 AM
And all the time I was searching for Titan's PIZZA...

06-03-2004, 08:37 AM
Great TR. I'd like some pizza too.

Bob, on those plant IDs: the "columbine" is actually Pink corydalis (Corydalis sempervirens). As for the "blue-eyed grass", true blue-eyed grass has six petals. My guess on that one would be Herb Robert, a geranium; seeing the leaves would help the ID. Both of these plants were blooming at the same time here in Maine last year; haven't seen them yet this year but I'm sure they're out there. (Mt Cutler in Hiram ME has fields of the corydalis, and the geranium is in wooded mossy glens.)

Herb Robert (http://www.ct-botanical-society.org/galleries/geraniumrobe.html)
Pink corydalis (http://www.ct-botanical-society.org/galleries/corydalissemp.html)

You're finding all sorts of things in those woods!