Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Five Dixes in a Day: 07/23/2011

Following is another guest report from my wife, Beth. She is really racking up the peaks this summer! It is the third in a series of posts about women hiking the High Peaks of the Adirondacks.

Posted by: Beth Gelber

Panorama of the High Peaks from Macomb, on a one-day traverse of the trailless Dix Range.

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High Peaks panorama from Macomb

For years, a group of women from New Paltz, NY and their extended group of friends have descended upon Keene Valley for 2 nights in July, to share a day of hiking or other outdoor recreation in the High Peaks. What started out as a chance for a group of moms to get away for a weekend of camping and hiking has inspired many in the group to pursue climbing all of the 46 highest peaks in the Adirondacks. Now, each year, it seems that some of the women finish the 46, or at least get a little closer. I was lucky to join this group of women this year, and connect with a great group of hiking partners.

Beth and Lisa on the Macomb slide

For this year's get together, on Saturday July 23, several in our group headed for a short hike and a relaxed day of hanging out at Copperas Pond. Two women set out to summit Skylight, Grey and Marcy, and eleven (!) of us set out for a traverse of the trailless peaks of the Dix range.

Looking up Macomb's slide: lots of loose scree!

While 11 sounds like a huge group, we self-selected into two smaller groups. One group, Marcy, Lisa G and me, needed all 5 peaks in the Dix range towards our 46. The remaining 8 set out with Judy, who already had Dix, for the 4 peaks in the range that she needed.

Elk Lake from Macomb

We all started out the day together, leaving the Elk Lake trailhead at 6:30am to climb Macomb. The route up Macomb involves climbing a loose scree slide. Though challenging, the trailless route was rewarding with beautiful views of Elk lake and beyond. Summitting Macomb together on a clear, windy morning was certainly one of the day's highlights.

L to R, at the top of Macomb: Linda and Cathy (front), Cherie, Marcy, Lisa P, Jen, Beth, Carol, Lisa G, Tobie, Judy.

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All eleven women at the top of Macomb

At the top of Macomb, we encountered three other parties of hikers who intended to do all 5 peaks of the Dix range that day. Meeting up with those hikers, plus excellent weather conditions, gave the 3 of us the confidence to split away from the rest of the group and make a run at all 5 peaks. We knew we'd be facing a stenuous 12 hour, 16+ mile day, but we also knew from our experience in the Seward range 2 weeks ago that it was doable.

Beth, Lisa and Marcy about to head for the remaining 4 peaks

From Macomb, the route over South Dix, East Dix, Hough and Dix is laid out like an upside-down "T," with Macomb and East Dix at either end of the top of the T, South Dix at the intersection, Dix at the bottom of the T, and Hough half way up the vertical portion of the T. The entire traverse, ending on Dix's summit, is trailless, but the 6.5 mile descent from Dix back to the trailhead would at least be on a marked DEC hiking trail.

Dix Mountain, highest peak in the range and 6th highest in the Adirondacks

Near perfect conditions allowed us to set a good pace - it was dry, sunny, cool and breezy despite the heat wave that was going on to our south. Traversing the Dix range was a very different experience from the Sewards two weeks earlier - beautiful views from the summits and rock outcrops made it more fun and more rewarding. All of the peaks in the range have good views. Leap-frogging the other parties going after all 5 peaks also added to the enjoyment of the day and helped keep us on pace.

Pointing out peaks from East Dix's summit

East Dix was notable, not only for its excellent views but also because of the effort underway by the 46ers to officially rename it Grace Peak, in honor of Grace Hudowalski. Grace (1906-2004) was not only the first woman 46er, but was also the long-time historian of the organization who personally corresponded with thousands of aspiring 46ers as they completed their quest. For many, Grace personified the enjoyment and the preservation of the High Peaks of the Adirondacks.

Lisa and Marcy at the top of East Dix

Below: Copper survey bolt placed in 1873 by Verplanck Colvin as part of the Adirondack Survey

The summit of Dix was also memorable. Not only is it the highest peak of the range with unobstructed views in all directions, it was also the 5th and final peak for us. Dix's summit signified the end of the trailless portion of our traverse - from here on out the marked DEC hiking trail would allow us to hike the remaining 6.5 miles back to our cars on auto-pilot. We finished up at 6:15pm, nearly 12 hours on the route.

View of the Great Range on the final climb to Dix's summit

For any aspiring 46ers considering a traverse of all 5 peaks, I would definitely recommend the route we took, ending on Dix. Bailing from the traverse at any point earlier than Dix entails additional trailless miles, so it almost seems like less total effort to simply do all five peaks. One other tip: there is virtually no water along the entire route, so bring plenty along. We each consumed 3-4 liters on our traverse.

View to the south from Dix's summit

Who knows what we'll tackle next? Connecting with this group has already allowed me to hit my goal of 30 peaks by the end of this hiking season, and there's a few more months to go. Even as this report is being written, some of the women are talking about an attempt at the trailless Santanoni range... we'll see!

Finally... water! Just a couple miles to go.

Macomb Mountain, elevation 4390', order of height: 22, first ascent 1872, Mel Trumbull and Arthur Wyant. South Dix, elevation 4068', order of height: 37. East Dix, elevation 4006', order of height: 42. Hough, elevation 4409', order of height: 21. First ascents of Hough, South and East Dix: 1921, Herbert Clark, Robert and George Marshall. Dix Mountain, elevation 4857', order of height: 6, first ascent 1807 by a surveyor named Rykert.

Previous Women and Hiking entry: The Seward Range. Next Women and Hiking entry: Santanoni Express.


  1. Now that is a good day of hiking! Beth will be in good shape for ski season after climbing all those peaks and is certainly living up to John Muir's advice to "climb the mountains and get their glad tidings."

  2. Nice quote SBR! I've hiked the peaks of the Dix range numerous times myself, but never all 5 in a single day. All that hiking certainly should be excellent cross-training for skiing. I'm hoping we'll get a chance to do some ski-ascent/descents in the High Peaks this winter too.

  3. Beth, congrats. That seems like a lot of mileage to cover without a trail. On the traverse, were you following herd paths, or is the route obvious due to terrain or distant views? How much if any compass navigation was involved? Again nice job.

  4. In general, each hiker should spend some time with the ADK Guidebook and more recently posted info on-line. It used to be essential to have someone in the group who was good with a map and compass and on some hikes that skill is more critical than others, but for the Dix traverse it was not necessary. My experience this summer is that the herd paths are pretty well established. They are not for the faint of heart, however and often require stepping in mud, walking thru very dense vegetation and using good judgement at tricky intersections. One tip for dealing with confusion on the return trip is to “tape” trees and remove the tape on the way back.