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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

21 students complete the DOC Fifty

As per tradition, Dartmouth students participated in the 54-mile hike from the peak of Moosilauke to Hanover, supported by volunteers along the route.

10.19.23_Fifty_Courtesy.jpg
Courtesy of Caroline Phipps ’27

On Oct. 13, the Dartmouth Outing Club sponsored a roughly 53.5-mile marathon hike from Moosilauke Ravine Lodge to Hanover, aptly called The Fifty.

According to previous coverage from The Dartmouth, the Fifty is an overnight trek over the course of roughly 24 hours meant to test the limits of physical and mental endurance. The route takes hikers through diverse terrains across the New Hampshire wilderness with sweeping views of the colorful foliage in the fall. 

The tradition was established in 1920 when Sherman Adams, a member of the Class of 1920, completed an 83-mile hike from Hanover to Franconia Notch State Park, according to previous reporting by The Dartmouth. Adam’s trek encouraged other students to compete in mileage contests, eventually evolving into the “trail walk” in the 1960s, which followed the New Hampshire portion of the Appalachian Trail between Mount Moosilauke and Hanover. 

Sponsored twice a year, once in the fall and once in the summer, The Fifty has gained a reputation for being a challenging yet rewarding experience. 

“I’m super into challenges … obviously the goal was to finish, but I also just wanted to see how far I could go,” Maddy Spivak ’24 said. “I think putting in the preparation time was incredibly satisfying and fulfilling — just awesome.”

The long-standing tradition was in high demand this year, as 180 prospective participants entered a lottery system for 32 slots, according to Lexi Chelle ’25, an organizer for The Fifty. According to Chelle, out of the eight teams of four Dartmouth students each, only 21 of the students who set out on the trail actually finished. 

“A total of 11 people dropped out throughout the hike, whether they had to be pulled because they didn’t make it to support stations fast enough by the cutoff times or [because] they didn’t feel like they could continue,” Chelle said. 

This past summer, nine teams of four people attempted the Fifty, with 28 students completing the Fifty.

Students who prefer not to participate in the hike itself but still wish to partake in the tradition often choose to volunteer at support stations along the route. By volunteering, students can also earn points to better their chance of being selected to participate in The Fifty in the future. 

Students of any class year can apply to volunteer for a role at support stations. Dressed in flair — random, brightly colored clothing — volunteers welcome hikers with encouragement, first-aid, food and water, Chelle noted. 

With many eager participants, The Fifty’s logistics proved challenging to manage. 

“As the volunteer coordinator, the main challenge I faced was last minute switch-ups from people who committed to supporting or sweeping and then replacing them,” Chelle said. “Over 200 people applied to support … It was just a matter of contacting them and coordinating what station they’d be at.” 

Marleigh Peters ’24 had prior hiking experience and said she was eager to participate in this historic Dartmouth tradition. Peters added that she had to drop out of The Fifty at the eight-mile mark after twisting her knee at the summit of Mount Moosilauke. 

“There’s a point when your brain is telling you, ‘you can’t keep going, and you need to stop right now,’” Peters said. “Getting over that hurdle is the hardest part.”

Spivak said doing The Fifty was part of her senior year bucket list and was a goal she wanted to achieve to cap off her Dartmouth experience. 

“I think for me, [The Fifty] is a very quintessential Dartmouth thing to do senior year,” Spivak said. “… I didn’t want to say no to anything, I wanted to say yes to everything. So The Fifty was on my [bucket] list — like in the winter, I want to do the pond skim and polar plunge.”

Spivak said that she volunteered to assist hikers during her sophomore summer, adding that she “could not comprehend” the level of difficulty involved in the hike at the time.  

“[I remembered thinking], this is such a crazy physical feat, like, wow,” she said. “And it wasn’t something, at the time, that I believed I could do.”