Among the original trail-less peaks, and today still one of the summits accessed by unmaintained paths, the "Grace Peak" experience was unique. Lacking available trees on which to mount the summit register, the canister was instead bolted to the summit rock, one of its kind in the high peaks. The summit canister has since been removed by the 46ers, as were all summit registers when found to be in conflict with revised conservation master plans. But the several traditional approaches to the summit of "Grace Peak" remain wild and an adventure, offering a wilderness journey far superior to prevailing conditions when the Marshalls and Hudowalskis and other early explorers first began to wander the Dix wilderness.
Doug Arnold and author and 46er Sandra Weber on summit of "Grace Peak". Photo courtesy of Carl Heilman II.
"Grace Peak" summit photo courtesy of Carl Heilman II
It took a decade of tireless, tenacious, persistent and some might say relentless advocacy, a rigamarole of a random scoot - to borrow a term from the early 46rs, but in June 2014 the hard work of Doug Arnold (46er No. 4693W) paid off and the U.S. Board of Geographic Names officially renamed "East Dix" Grace Peak. Doug's self-less commitment was testament to the mark Grace left on so many lives and on NYS History. Today Grace Peak is one of only two of the 46 high peaks named in honoring women mountain adventurers.
46ers kick off effort to name "Grace Peak". Photographs courtesy of Carl Heilman II
Soon after the Marshalls and Clark completed their ascent of the Dix Range, state maps for the region identified the lesser Dix summits as East Dix and South Dix, even though neither name at that point had been officially adopted. The summit the Marshalls had called "Middle" appeared on the 1927 map with the name "Marshall" a name suggested by Carson and used by the 46rs of Troy. Less than ten (10) years later when maps were reprinted, the summit first identified by the Marshalls as "Middle" and then Marshall by the state in 1927 had no name at all. Quietly it seems from a review of the record, State Conservation officials had filed a petition to officially name the summit "Hough" and that petition was granted in June 1937, although the name change came as a surprise to the principal climbing groups of the day.
On October 15, 1940, Grace Hudowalski and the 46-rs of Troy petitioned for the official permanent naming of three of the Adirondack high peaks: Blake, Couchsachraga and what they then knew as Marshall (Middle Dix), the latter summit to officially honor the memory of Bob Marshall, who had tragically and suddenly died the year before. But on the eve
The most interesting fact about these two mountains [South and East Dix] is that their names are not important enough to be retained and that they can be given distinctive titles, when the right occasion comes, without violation of old-established names.
The Dix Mountain wilderness remained unexplored much longer than other parts of the high peaks. While the area was extensively lumbered and then ravaged by wild fires during the end of the 19th and early 20th Centuries, recreational use of the area was slow to develop and it was not until Bob and George Marshall and their friend and guide Herb Clark climbed the three lesser Dix summits on August 13, 1921 that any of those summits needed identifying names. In fact, what is now officially Grace Peak and was formerly identified as "East Dix" had no name whatsoever until the Adirondack Mountain Club published Bob Marshall’s vignette, The High Peaks of the Adirondacks, in the 1920's. In that work, the author, Bob Marshall, 46er number 3, identified the three lesser summits of the Dix Range by reference to their location to the principal summit, referring to them as “Middle”, “South” and “East” Dix. At the time only the two principal summits, Dix (4842’) and Macomb (4425’) had common use names. “Middle”, “South” and “East” Dix were nestled between the two earlier named and explored prominent mountains in the range, Dix lying basically to the north of the three lesser summits and Macomb generally to the south.
In the 1920's and 1930's, when the little Dixes were being explored by the earliest 46ers, climbers found a desolate wasteland of lumbering slash and charred stumps. Bob Marshall described their August 1921 journey to what he dubbed South and East Dix as “ascending and descending through terrible slash,” commenting that the view from the summit of South Dix was “one of the most desolate views I know of – nothing but burned wasted land on all sides.” Marshall's opinion of the view from what he identified as "Middle Dix", later to be named Hough, as it is known today, in honor Franklin B. Hough, first chief forester of the U.S. Division of Forestry (predecessor to the U.S. Forest Service), was even less flattering: “The Mountain is by no means worth the trouble of climbing.” But for the littlest of the Dix summits, Marshall offered a complimentary, even hopeful, critique: "The view was interesting and very different from any other but badly marred by fire. The part I liked the best was looking across the deep valley of the Bouquet toward the side of Dix. Other interesting views were toward the ponds to the east and Macomb to the south."
of filing that petition, Grace learned that recently released topo maps designated the summit their petition proposed as "Mt. Marshall" as “Hough”.
Grace quickly mobilized, forwarding correspondence to contacts within state government and to her friend Russ Carson in an effort to determine whether what they had heard was in fact true and to inquire whether their petition should propose an alternate summit to honor Bob Marshall. Grace's inquiry revealed the quiet renaming of the middle Dix summit “Hough” in June 1937 to honor Dr. Franklin B. Hough and confirmed that the maps evidencing that official designation had already left the printer. Undeterred, although quietly very disappointed, Grace launched an immediate campaign to alert the public of the new name.
By 1937, the official and permanent names for the three most prominent summits in the Dix range were officially established as Dix Peak (4842’), Macomb (sometimes McComb)(4425’) and Hough (4404’). The two lesser Dix peaks, “South” and “East”, were designated by their relative association to the prominent summit for the time, the default descriptive names assigned by the Marshalls, leaving it to future generations to assign appropriate permanent names, an observation first suggested by Russ Carson in Peaks and People.