28 students successfully complete the DOC Fifty
Nine teams participated in the trek from Moosilauke Ravine Lodge to Dartmouth’s campus along the Appalachian Trail. The event faced weather and flooding concerns.
On July 14, 36 students embarked on the Dartmouth Outing Club Fifty — a challenge in which students hike 54 miles, traversing six different peaks on a section of the Appalachian Trail maintained by the DOC. Nine teams of four students hike from the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge to Robinson Hall, stopping five times at support stations spaced seven to 10 miles apart. According to this summer’s Fifty director Daniel Xu ’25, 28 students completed the Fifty.
Xu said teams are selected on a lottery basis, following a mandatory information session during week one of the term. From the pool of 29 teams that initially applied, eight teams were selected. Xu said the directors and Outdoor Programs Office staff agreed to add a ninth team, due to an “extenuating circumstance” that he denied to disclose.
The event took place earlier than in past terms, occurring during week four rather than week seven of the term as usual. Xu explained this was due to a variety of reasons, including avoiding high heat conditions and to have more time to find the next set of directors for the Fifty this fall.
Due to the flooding and a thunderstorm watch in the Upper Valley, directors of this year’s Fifty had to consider the possibility of even running the event as well as the hikers’ safety.
“We were pretty concerned about the weather and honestly not super optimistic,” Xu said. “We did consider canceling the Fifty or at least postponing, but that would have been not ideal for a series of reasons, including logistically with students’ schedules and rescheduling van and space reservations. But we are so grateful that [the weather] didn't become an actual problem.”
At the Atwell Hill support station, hiker Justin Pavan ’25 said the weather was a concern for him and his teammates.
“We’ve definitely seen some of the after-effects of the flooding and heavy rain from the past week,” Pavan said. “It just means we need to be more careful with our footing.”
Gannon Forsberg ’25, another hiker that successfully finished the Fifty, agreed that the recent weather and the forecast was a concern for him and his teammates. Forsberg said the support stations brought him “back to life.”
“Just seeing friendly faces and hearing how much they believed in me [or] how much they appreciated me, made me feel like, ‘oh my god, I really can do this,’” Forsberg said. “I knew how physically hard it was going to be, but I didn’t anticipate how mentally tough you have to be to get through 50 miles.”
Xu said the Fifty had around 75 volunteers. Around 10-15 volunteers are assigned to each of the five stations along the route. Each station has at least one “safety dork” volunteer with a higher level medical certification, a station captain and two to three “sweepers” who are tasked with hiking to the next station after all groups leave, in case any hikers are lost or are in trouble on the trail. Other volunteers help to cook food for hikers, fill their water bottles and provide a high energy environment to lift hikers’ spirits.
The support stations are also tasked with pulling individuals or teams from the hike if they have medical complications or are not hiking at a pace to safely continue. The station captain, safety dork and the hiker deliberate if necessary, but Xu said all the decisions regarding whether a hiker would drop this year were unanimous.
“[The Fifty] is a very considerably safe event, despite all the hazards involved,” Xu said.
Xu explained that there is “extensive infrastructure” in place to account for hikers with onset health concerns, the possibilities of hikers getting lost and other sudden emergencies.
Hiker Alexis Francis ’25 said she dropped at the Atwell Hill station. One of her teammates had already dropped at an earlier station, and the other two teammates continued with a sweeper.Francis said her decision to step down was hard for her, but she knew it was the right decision for her own health and for her team’s ability to finish.
One teammate from Francis’s team ultimately finished the hike, Arne Grette ’25.
“The Dartmouth community throughout the hike really picked me up,” Grette said. “I had a lot of moments during the hike when I wasn’t sure if I could continue with the cutoffs and my teammates’ injuries and personal safety.”
Grette said that no matter how uncertain or tired he was, he knew he could look forward to the next support station. At the stations, Grette said there were people dressed up in flair dancing, singing and giving him hugs.
There were a variety of reasons behind why volunteers chose to support the Fifty. Katherine Lynch ’25, a volunteer at the Atwell Hill support station, said she originally signed up to hike, but when her team did not win the lottery, she decided to volunteer. Lynch said that volunteering at stations earns participants support points, which give them priority during future lotteries. The Fifty also gave Lynch the opportunity to engage with the DOC, which she had not previously been involved with.
“I feel like [the Fifty] is marketed more widely to all students, especially during sophomore summer,” Lynch said. “I thought it was a more accessible way to get involved with the DOC, which feels like an integral part of some people’s Dartmouth experience.”
For Grace McInerney ’25, a volunteer at Atwell Hill support station, volunteering gave her an opportunity to see friends attempt the hike and meet new people.
“[Lynch] and I are both on the women’s rowing team, and a lot of members of our boathouse are hiking [the Fifty] today,” McInerney said. “So it’s really fun to see them come through, and it’s been great to meet new people and be with this cohort at Atwell Hill.”
The range of students in the Dartmouth community that participated in the Fifty was a reason why Xu wanted to direct the event in the first place.
“On the surface, the Fifty is a 50-mile hike,” Xu said. “But it’s so much more … Teams don’t hike just to say that they did it or to fulfill some Dartmouth tradition. People come up with their own meanings and values that they assign to The Fifty, and it’s really special in the way that it brings people together.”