We arrived at the New Russia trailhead at 4:38am to begin our attempt, signing in and heading up the trail we felt strong and were able to keep a solid pace. Reaching the intersection, we stayed north to take the shortcut trail, happy with the ease of the ascent so far. Reaching the blueberry cobbles, we could catch intermittent glimpses of the striking (nearly) full moon, which continued to fire us up. As we ascended Bald Peak we tried hard not to stop and stare too much at the mesmerizing alpine glow that was forming over the Great Range in the distance. The trail jocked north for a moment, placing our backs to the rising sun which is when we noticed the vivid red glow of the sunrise reflecting off the white birch trees along the path. We felt like we were in a dream! We summited Bald Mtn just as the sun peaked over the mountains and took a moment to admire the beauty before dashing across the now open rocky terrain to visit our first high peak of the day – Rocky Peak Ridge. Going was easy and we used the opportunity to jog a good portion of the ridge, reaching the summit at 7:04am. A moment to enjoy the scenery before we flew down the backside of RPR and headed up Giant, pacing ourselves on the steep ascent and recovering easily as we reached the junction. Hitting the Giant summit at 7:41am, we paused for a moment to refuel and say good morning to the Dix Range in the distance. Now for a fun descent! It was still early enough that few people were headed up and we got into a groove bouncing between rocks and allowing gravity to take us down the mountain, reaching the road at 8:40am. I was shocked how quickly we reached the Round Pond trailhead but glad to be off the busy road. Keeping a steady pace up the Dix trail, we hit Round Pond at 9:16am and allowed ourselves a solid break to filter water, refuel and recharge. We continued to cruise towards Dix, only stopping once more to top off our water at the Bouquet River, knowing the range would be dry. We were excited to reach the slide and the infamous “steepest mile in the Adirondacks” from the slide to the junction near the summit and it did not disappoint! Like seeing an old friend after a long break, I popped out at the slide at 11:09am and grinned knowing the challenging fun of this section of trail. Up, up, up we went. Knowing how easily we could burn ourselves out on this section, I took point and focused on keeping our pace moderate and steady. We passed several groups descending from Dix on our way up, the lunch crowd, and were reminded of the fun of wearing a mask on a steep ascent. Hello sweaty face! Reaching the summit at 11:56am we felt a boost of energy knowing we had completed most of the elevation gain for the day. Pressing on, we made good time across the range hitting Hough at 12:35pm and South Dix at 1:03pm. When we discovered this FKT route and realized Grace Peak had been left out, we knew we needed to set a new standard. After all, who leaves out Grace on a Dix Range traverse?!? Despite feeling the fatigue of the day’s efforts, we knew we would feel pride in including her so we declared “for Grace!” and headed out on the 2.2 mile round trip add on. Grace was kind to us with gentle terrain and a gorgeous view, as always, and we reached the summit at 1:27pm. She will always be one of my absolute favorites and we took joy in being able to look back over to Giant and Rocky Peak from the summit, where we had started our day. Getting back to South Dix, we began the ascent of our final mountain without pause reaching Macomb at 2:24pm. We were in the final stretch! Unfortunately, now we had to tackle the Macomb slide. If you’re considering this FKT, definitely contemplate reversing the route as descending the slide on tired legs proved to be quite harrowing. It’s rare that I feel unsafe on any piece of trail but this section had me moving cautiously and concerned about injury as the scree slid me off my feet every other step. Coming off the slide we felt relieved and were prepared for an easy hike out to finish our day. As we descended along the Slide Brook path I suddenly heard a loud *crack* behind me. I whipped around to see what had made the noise and found Bethany doubled over holding her head. I had easily walked below the downed tree across the trail due to my height but Bethany stood a few inches taller and hadn’t been so lucky as she walked with her eyes gazing down at the trail. After just a moment she stood up and declared “I’m totally fine, let’s keep going!” just as a significant stream of blood began to run down her face. My mind immediately went into First Responder mode and I began pulling my first aid kit out and evaluating evacuation options. We took some time to slow down the bleeding and check for signs of concussion and it turns out… she was right, she was totally fine! Head wounds just bleed… a lot. Left with a goose egg and a small cut but as enthusiastic as ever, we pressed on. Reaching the Hunter Pass Trail we took another break so that Bethany could get cleaned up at the river. Now for the final push! We took off toward the trailhead, I was concerned about pushing the pace with Bethany suffering a head injury but she had fire in her eyes and took point at a full run. I pushed hard to keep up – ‘this women is so amazing she’s out running me with a head injury’ I thought! Our pace continued to quicken as we got closer to the trailhead until we were nearly sprinting and finally popped out at Elk Lake trailhead at 3:51pm. Mission complete!!
10,026 feet gain