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Rip & Go: Five Mountain Loop – Adirondack High Peaks, NY

Trek to the trail-free summits of Macomb, Hough, and The Dixes
august 09 rip n go five mtn 445x260East Dix Slide (Nancie Battaglia)

Key Skill
Slide Hiking
At mile 4.75, you’ll encounter East Dix slide, a vertiginous, 850-foot-long rock slab. It’s the most exciting–and dangerous–section of the hike. Follow these steps to ascend with ease:

1) Shorten your trekking poles for a more stable plant, and use the wrist straps so you can let go of the pole to scramble on all fours for short sections.
2) Maintain a low and forward center of gravity by keeping your knees bent and relaxed and your hands slightly forward. If you use a chest pack for your camera, move it to your pack and stuff the heaviest items closest to your back.
3) Test footing and handholds before committing. Sections of trickling water can be slippery. Slide your foot back and forth with part of your weight on it while balancing your upper body with your poles. If it slips, search for another hold.
4) Use the rest step; it’s not just for high-altitude peaks. Step forward onto your left leg while keeping body weight on your right leg with your knee locked. Pause before transferring your weight to your left leg. Then step forward. These micro-rests between steps will enable you to ascend steadily without burning out.

See This
Anorthocite

Geologists believe that this rock, one of the oldest on Earth, formed when North America and Europe split, bringing billion-year-old magma to the surface. East Dix slide, an 850-foot-long swath, is one of the best places to see the bumpy, blue-gray rock. The slide is significantly older than the peaks surrounding it, which are a comparatively youthful 10 million years old.

Locals Know
The Adirondacks, and the Dix Wilderness in particular, are hotbeds for rare birds (almost 300 total species have been sighted here). "Boreal bird habitat is rare in the continental U.S.," says Phil Brown, publisher of Adirondack Birds: 60 Great Places to Find Birds. "The black pole warbler, Swainson’s thrush, American pipet, and black-backed woodpecker are most often seen in Canada and Alaska. But we have them here, too, thanks to pockets of boreal habitat in the High Peaks." In shady stands of stunted spruce, like on the slopes of Hough, listen for the soft rat-a-tat tapping of the black-backed woodpecker, or the call of the yellow-bellied flycatcher, which makes itself known with a kill-ink, tu-wee, or when it’s feeling territorial, a confident brrrt sound.

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