Posted by: Beth Gelber
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Below: Copper survey bolt placed in 1873 by Verplanck Colvin as part of the Adirondack Survey
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.
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!
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.