For the final weekend in August, I (and Pu) decided to join Alana and Jenn on a fairly ambitious hike to snag four 46R peaks at once in the Dix Range: Dix, Hough, East Dix (Grace), and South Dix (Carson).
There are a few different ways to do this outing, the most obvious being a large lollipop-type loop starting from the west, via the Elk Lake Trailhead. I have learned over the years, however, that a more attractive route is to start and end on route 73 from the east, hiking up and down the various tributaries of the Boquet River, which drains much of the land east of the Dix Range. There are some delightful lightly-trodden forest paths down low, and a fun and interesting ascent route -- the slide of East Dix.
Sublime Twilight View
We knew this was going to be a long one, so we got up and departed especially early (3:00 a.m.), driving down almost entirely in the dark and arriving in the general High Peaks area only right around sunrise.
The plan was to hike in via the North Fork Boquet river at Route 73, where a very good herdpath leads up to East Dix. I located the little hidden unsigned parking lot for this trailhead, and we made ready to go.
We were walking before 7 a.m., giving us lots of daylight time to complete our long journey. There was a new trailhead register at the unsigned herd path, an indication of increased usage and monitoring, but otherwise it was as I remembered from the last time I hiked up here. The small forest path starts off in an obvious manner and is easy to follow, but it is only a few hundred yards before the herd path crosses the Boquet River, and it isn't really obvious where that is. Keep that in mind if you haven't been up here before and you want to follow this route (or just use my GPS track).
The hiking was fast and pleasant along the herd path. The river levels were extremely low, making the several crossings a non-issue. Cool temperatures, no bugs, early-morning sun - conditions were perfect.
The herdpath wanders roughly along the course of the North Fork Boquet River, then crosses a low rise of land and starts following the South Fork of the Boquet River, all on springy uneroded easy-to-hike path. From the South Fork onwards, though, we are getting closer to the Dix Range itself, and the grade starts to increase and the brook's valleysides get steeper. The herdpath is forced to skirt and cross the watercourse and the going gets rougher. But we took heart, as we knew we were getting close to one of the great attractions of this itinerary - the ascent of the East Dix slide. We made excellent time and had reached a nice little campsite along the South Fork just after 8:30 a.m.
After some rougher hiking up the South Fork, and at about the 2600-foot elevation level, the herdpath headed steeply up the southern slope, away from the watercourse. A couple of hundred feet of climbing brought us to a patch of open bedrock in the forest - this was the first bit of the East Dix slide. Long ago I imagine it would have been entirely clear all the way from here to the summit, but the forest has been reclaiming the bare bedrock for ages (well, maybe not *ages*, but certainly for a long time).
We climbed up along the bare bedrock, avoiding any wet or mossy patches. As long as we stayed on dry rock, the grip was good. There were a few minor spots where the forest had closed completely across the slide, but a faint indication of foot travel led us through and past these sections. Soon we came to a much wider and more open expanse of flat bedrock. We had arrived at the main and best part of the slide.
The calf-burning began as we climbed the steeper bedrock on the middle section of the slide. The rock is more open and less mossy here, meaning it is less likely to be wet or slippery. There are many ascent lines that can be chosen. We headed straight up for the steep crag of the summit crest, now clearly visible about 700 feet above us.
Turning around periodically, we now had a broad view out over the eastern flanks and basins of the Dix range, as well as the sharp little crag of Noonmark. Surprisingly (given the forecast) the summit of Dix was still wreathed in clouds (although we were fairly sure that would evaporate off by the time we got there).
The next half an hour was an enjoyable exercise in light scrambling. Apart from a few short stretches through some bushy bits, the rest of the climb was entirely in the open. Near the top, it became less slabby and more blocks and ledges - true scrambling requiring hands, although nothing overly technical. We all dispatched it with ease, and soon we were standing on the sharp-edged clean granite of East Dix's summit crest.
Expansive views from upper slide
After celebrating our successful climb with a little snack break, we moved on from the beautiful summit ledge, and on to the actual summit, which is a few metres away along a well-defined herd path. It was here that we started to realize that we weren't going to be alone today, for there was a veritable crowd of people on the summit (up to this point, we had encountered no one). Possibly a hiking group? or was there really that much traffic on a more remote peak like East Dix.... In any case, Alana got her official Grace Peak (East Dix) summit shot, and we moved on.
Now that we were one of the Dix Range summits, moving between them was relatively easy, as there is a well-defined herdpath along the crest of the range. Off we went, then along the herdpath connecting East and South Dix mountains. The tread was good and the elevation loss and gain was only about 300 feet, so we made short time of it, and were soon taking a photo at the nondescript little conifer at the top of South Dix (aka Carson). A few yards west of the true summit is one of several large open patches, and we went there for a more scenic place to take a break.
The Dix Range herdpath splits at South Dix - one branch heading west to Macomb (which we were not doing today), and the other north towards Hough and Dix itself. This was our intended route, and we headed off in that direction after our break. The skies above still had lots of low puffy clouds, but they were clearly starting to thin out. Temperatures were still very pleasant and cool, despite the increased sunshine.