Seven teams finish The Fifty hike

by Rachel Pakianathan | 8/16/19 3:00am

On Friday evening, seven groups of either three or four hikers trekked across six peaks from Mount Moosilauke to Hanover — a total of almost 54 miles over the course of about 24 hours, according to directors Jaq Hager ’21, Derek Lue ’21 and Simon Oster ’21 .

Each team hikes Mount Moosilauke, Mount Mist, Mount Cube, Smarts Mountain, Holt’s Ledge, Moose Mountain, and Velvet Rocks before returning to campus. Along the way, teams stop at five support stations staffed with student volunteers. Teams could not stay for longer than 30 minutes at each station.

This summer, 27 teams signed up for the Fifty, and eight were chosen, according to Oster. One team and three individuals from the remaining seven teams dropped out before completing the full 54 miles. According to the directors, teams for the Fifty are selected on a lottery basis, with priority given to those who have volunteered for, or “supported,” the Fifty in the past. Those who have previously directed the Fifty are given an automatic team.

Hager said that almost a hundred students volunteered to support the Fifty this summer. She added that each support station had at least one OEC, WFR, EMT and WEMT-certified safety lead. Hikers themselves are not required to have any safety certifications, Lue said, so the directors took extra precautions to ensure safety checks were being done at each support station. Hager added that they stress at the informational meeting that strong physical fitness is necessary to complete the hike.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun, but it’s also going to crush you,” Hager said. “So we tell them that you need to be strong enough to deal with that, to try to scare off the people that are just doing it for the clout.”

Hager, Lue and Oster said they started preparing to direct the summer Fifty at the end of the spring term. Oster was the hiker coordinator, Lue the logistics coordinator and Hager the volunteer coordinator. The three hiked the Fifty together in the spring. One of the reasons they said they wanted to direct the Fifty was to address the obstacles they faced themselves, including getting lost. Oster said they mitigated some of the navigational challenges by rewriting hiking directions and putting flagging tape on some of the tricky intersections involved in the hike.

“It’s a ‘we got lost so you don’t have to’ sort of mindset,” Oster said.

Ben Zdasiuk ’21 who hiked the Fifty with Kieran Ahern ’21, Ted Northup ’21 and Will Synnott ’21, said his team was the first to make it back to campus after about 20.5 hours. “We intentionally wanted to go a little bit at a faster pace, just so we finished sooner and were off our feet sooner,” Zdasiuk said. “We thought that would lead to a lot less low morale, anxiety, discomfort — all those things.”

He said the last five miles were the most difficult part of the hike.

“At first, you lull yourself into this state where you’re just covering distance and you’re not really realizing how fast or how long it’s taking you to cover distance,” Zdasiuk said. “But then when you get to the last five miles, you don’t realize just how long it’s taking you to complete those five miles because all you can think about is finishing after that long.”

Seeing volunteers at the support stations, especially at Jacobs Brook, was helpful in keeping up morale, Zdasiuk added. Cara Ditmar ’21, who hiked with Elijah Laird ’21, Ben Schelling ’21 and David Vonderheide ’21 agreed that the support stations were a highlight of the Fifty.

“Reaching that first station and seeing everyone in flair handing us water and snacks, it finally hit me that it’s actually real,” Ditmar said. “Each support station was a huge boost for our mentality.”

Ditmar added that her team played games and listened to music to pass the time on the hike. When they reached the top of Moose Mountain, the last mountain of the hike, she said they played a song and danced at the peak.

“It’s just a lot of time, I think that’s what people don’t realize,” Ditmar said. “Yeah, it’s physically hard, but you’re also out there for like 25-plus hours and you have to fill the time. So, we had a bunch of different playlists based on our moods and different games we wanted to play.”

Ditmar said that the activities and support stations were helpful to boost morale, but there were still low moments along the way.

“There were definitely times in the middle of the night when we got on each other’s nerves and there was an hour or two of silence,” she said. “But I definitely couldn’t have finished it without [my team], especially towards the end. Their motivation and their words of encouragement — that was the only thing that got me up those last couple of mountains.”