2015 Bob Marshall Wilderness Open
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- This topic has 343 replies, 28 voices, and was last updated 7 years, 1 month ago by John Klinepeter.
Nov 9, 2014 at 11:42 am #1322540
Holland Lake to Swift Reservoir, starting May 23rd at 0800 MDT.
For those who have participated in the past or been following along: this should be a fairly tough course with lots of route options, plenty of packraftable routes, and almost certainly a fair amount of snow. Not as long as last year, when no one finished, and more complex and slower than 2013, when everyone finished. Very much in line with 2012, when a toughish course was made brutal by heinous weather, and Dan and Greg both put in massive suffer-fest performances to finish.
For those unfamiliar: the Bob Open is designed to provide the best approximation of the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic available in the lower 48. This is tough to do with all the darn trails we have everywhere, ergo the late spring timing to add challenge. I keep thinking about moving it elsewhere, but the Bob is really the perfect place. Enough river stuff to make packrafts a compelling route option, and lots of diversity in terrain. Boats are, however, far from mandatory. You'll get to see the Bob in what I consider it's best mood; after most of the snow is gone, and before almost all the trail crews and hikers. Seriously wild country.
This is not for the uninitiated, but for backpackers with solid "three season" skills who have been pushing into off trail and fourth season hiking, this is an opportunity to jump your skills up a significant amount. A good amount of fitness is required, but this need not be only the land of 30 mpd heroics. Planning for a week on trail, with plenty of time for recovery, would be a fine style.
Transportation has been and will remain a daunting issue. Drive time from the end to the start is about five hours. We'll do what we can to coordinate shuttles and what not here.Nov 9, 2014 at 12:11 pm #2147898MFRSpectator
Dave, thanks for organizing this for another year. I keep thinking about how much I'd love to do it, but with teaching high school, I'd only have the three-day weekend to do it in. Sadly, this year is finally the one where I look to have enough time to train and improve my fitness. But with my students' finals, graduation, and a few other significant things already on the calendar that time of year, I only get Saturday to Monday.
Maybe I'll be able to join you guys at the start and do a challenging (for me), but more doable trip in and out of Holland for the long weekend.
That said, keep me in the loop regarding the transportation situation. If I can help with a shuttle, I'd be glad to.Nov 9, 2014 at 3:53 pm #2147933Hiking MaltoBPL Member
I know I still have my Bob maps somewhere in the gear attic. Will have to scope this out.Nov 9, 2014 at 7:43 pm #2147984
Clayton brings up a good point, which is that the suggested route is just that, a suggestion. A large part of route selection has always been going places I want to go and haven't been before, and if that doesn't fit your schedule it'd be easy to accommodate other options.
Going in at Holland and over and out at Benchmark or Gibson, for instance, would be an outstanding trip and probably a day or day and a half shorter for most. Floating or hiking down to Meadow Creek would be a yet shorter option that would still pack a punch. There will be snow going from Upper Holland down to the Flathead regardless of route; possibly a lot of snow. Durston's hope for a ski option can certainly work with this route.Nov 10, 2014 at 7:02 am #2148052
Count me in.
Let me know if anyone would like to coordinate logistics.
I'll be flying into Kalispell from Atlanta (live in Columbus, GA).
DerekNov 10, 2014 at 7:39 pm #2148223
Great to see the 2015 route. I'm excited. There's a high probability I'll be attending.
Time to dig out the maps for a look.
Clayton: An option is to put together a 3 day route for the official course with a pre-identified bail option in case you arrive past a predetermined time where you're not likely to finish Monday. Both the Hungry Horse reservoir and Benchmark Trailhead could be nice bail options.
Hopefully it's snowy enough that I can ski onto the SF Flathead at a high enough velocity to water ski across :)Nov 12, 2014 at 8:29 am #2148606
I've wanted to try this for a while and I think this year I MIGHT be able to pull it off if I can arrange the time off work. If I do come it would be on a tight schedule so I'd have to go fast on the trail and I'd need a quick exit back to an airport when it was done. If anyone is interested in joinging forces to possibly rent a car, set up a car shuttle etc. I might be interested in that.
Just looking at a map this morning was interesting. One route would be to float down the South Fork then cross the mountains. On the other hand skipping a raft would speed up my hiking and might allow a more direct route from Point A to Point B. Another factor might be how much of the South Fork I would be comfortable floating at spring run off. Dave I'm assuming the river will be a lot more pushy then it was on our trip right?Nov 12, 2014 at 9:04 am #2148622
"Dave I'm assuming the river will be a lot more pushy then it was on our trip right?"
Very possible. We had ~5000 cfs, which isn't trivial. My rule is that below 2000 the South Fork mellows out. Between 2000 and 8000 there's enough power to catch you with your pants down (as I proved in July). Above 8000 is spooky. I think Dan had Greg had 9000 two years ago (when Dan swam down below Bear Creek).
I've been thinking of how scary the West Fork of the Sun might be with 4-6 times the flow we had in July.Nov 12, 2014 at 9:18 am #2148626
Transportation for the Bob Open is a pain. It is strongly preferrable to have a car waiting for you at the end. It provides extra motivation to not bail, and in the case of Swift Reservoir I'm not even sure you get cell service in the parking lot. Hitching from the end is possible, but it's the least trafficked end point we've used so it might take a while. Except for the first round of trail crews and a few bear hunters, bird watchers, and mushroom hunters, you won't see people out in the Bob or at the trailheads in late May. Teaming up with folks beforehand, agreeing to either travel together or finish around the same time, and renting a car to drop is a really good idea.
Once we have a solid idea of who is actually coming rides to the start can be arranged.Nov 12, 2014 at 11:24 am #2148660
I've mapped out 4 possible routes, 2 that go east then north, and 2 that go north then east with estimated distances between 102-113 miles. There is one I like considerably more than the others.
I don't plan to packraft. Just golling to roll as light as possible without starving or freezing.
I'm willing to share a car rental with anyone who has a similar itinerary and gameplan for how they want to execute the event.Nov 12, 2014 at 12:18 pm #2148680
Derek I had thought about packrafting but I might give that up in the interest of car pooling. There is no point in finishing in 3 days if I spend 2 days hitiching back to the airport. Also if we did pair up we might be able to use my raft just to cross rivers, that would free us up from having to cross big stuff like the South Fork on bridges. I may be a wimp but I don't feel like swimming that thing in May.Nov 12, 2014 at 4:24 pm #2148752
I sent you a personal message concerning this. I'd definitely like to work with others who are interested in ride-sharing. I might be able to get my cousin from Missoula to lend a hand, if necessary. In any event, it's quite a ways off and I'm sure a lot will change between now and then.
DerekNov 12, 2014 at 5:18 pm #2148770
LUKE: You gotta do it! Unforgettable experience. The transportation will work out. I might be able to talk my wife into coming along and running a shuttle with our car.
"I think Dan had Greg had 9000 two years ago (when Dan swam down below Bear Creek)."
Yup. It was 9000.
My opinion on paddling the SF Flathead in May is that it's pretty smooth sailing between where the White River feeds in and the Black Bear Bridge, but above and below that it's a bit sketchy. Specifically, the Burnt Park area above the White River (East of Bartlett Mt) has a lot of fast corners, while below the Black Bear bridge the rivers getting powerful so you run into some weird waves and boils.
After Mid Gorge the river is pretty mellow and super efficient travelling, but you do want to keep an eye for boils.
The course this year is really impressive in that there is a diversity of similarly tough routes. 3 days looks like an strong time.Nov 14, 2014 at 5:11 am #2149145
While it's really early before the event, I'm going to start gathering needed equipment so that I can train with what I plan to use and ensure I have a sufficient size pack for the items I will carry. Please offer some insight on these things:
– The bugs…how bad? I haven't noticed anything written about this in past blogs, and was wondering about how much this was an issue.
– Shelters. To cut weight, I have thought of going shelterless and utilizing overhead shelters along the route. Does an overhead shelter exist at Black Bear, Meadow Creek Landing Strip, or Beaver Creek? Note: I would probably carry a small tarp/waterproof poncho for emergency purposes.
– Snowshoes. Who wishes they didn't bring any before and who is really glad they did? I suppose we'll know more in a few months what the situation is for 2015. If you used them, how much (miles)? I'm trying to limit the amount of big dollar items (note: I last used snowshoes in the late-90s during an Army Winter Warfare Course in northern Norway). I expect to see a good amount of snow at a minimum of three points on any given route.
– I'm looking at purchasing an Ultimate Direction 20L pack. Too small for required equipment for 3-4 days?
I'd appreciate any tips you can provide. I expect to learn a lot from this group and the other BPL forums that I've been monitoring.
DerekNov 14, 2014 at 9:34 am #2149207
Bugs: Virtually none
Shelter: Not my area of expertise, but I think all the shelters are locked but many have covered porches. I think the excellent Cairn maps show all of them. There is a shelter at the Black Bear bridge (not to be confused with Black Bear Creek). You can use Google Earth to have a rough look:
20L Pack?: With a rigorous focus on what's really important, and a route that suits your equipment, I'm sure it could be done.
Snowshoes: This is very snowpack and route dependant. You probably won't really be able to make a firm decision until close to the start. I carried snowshoes in 2013 and never used them, but in 2012 I used mine a lot (10 miles?). Snowpack will typically be fairly condensed, but you'll want them if you're on fresh snow, on snow in the afternoon, or walking a lot of snow miles. Since the snowpack is typically pretty solid this time of year, you may be able to get by with smaller snowshoes. MSR Shift are cheap, small, durable, light (2.5 lbs) kids snowshoes that can work with trail runners.
A great tool is the snowpack modelling maps found at the link below. You can set the date to view what the snowpack was in late May for different years in the Bob, to get a likely idea of what you're facing:
Other great resources are:
1) Cairn Carto Maps: http://cairncarto.com
2) GMap4: http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.php
With GMap4 you can switch the map using the top right menu to you can view satellite shots, different Topo's etc. It's a great tool for finer scale beta. I would use the Cairn Carto maps to make macro route decisions, and then sort out the details with GMap4 and Google Earth.Nov 14, 2014 at 9:42 am #2149210John St. LaurentSpectator
@johnstlLocale: Pacific NW
Based on what I've seen, those cabins on the map won't be the three-sided Adirondack-type shelters like you see in some parts, although most have a covered porch that can be a welcome refuge. I personally don't factor them into my planning. Since I'm not on the 48-hour finish plan the weather has more opportunities to do a number on me, so I carry a shelter. Probably a Duomid this year, although I've done a Golite poncho too.
Being unable to continue because of loss of mobility is one of my big nightmares so if my route goes over about 6,500' I'll at least consider carrying snowshoes, with the full realization that they might not be needed. I suspect most of us agonize about this right up to the parking lot.
I know ultrarunners who would do the 20L pack, but they would be on a 40+ mpd pace and would not be carrying a sleeping bag. If there are people who carry full backpacking gear in one, you will probably find them here though.Nov 14, 2014 at 9:50 am #2149213
I've seen a few of the cabins in the Bob, they would be locked most likely. The porches weren't that big as I recall. Given the safety issues involved I'll be carrying a small tarp, its only 8oz so not s huge weight penalty (at least compared to snowshoes).
I have a small pair of snowshoes (about 18 inches long) that someone gave me. I'm not sure if they are worth it or not but I'll probably bring them to the TH at least and make a final decision there.
Since it will be my first time I'm going to carry enough that I can camp safely (if not comfortably) if I need too.Nov 14, 2014 at 10:18 am #2149220
The cabins are all FS patrol cabins. All locked, most with a small covered porch which is not big enough if the wind is wrong. Big Prairie is usually staffed by late May, all others typically not. The FS does not want people camping on the porch, though it happens all the time.
In 2012 snowshoes were essential for all routes due to lots of recent snow. In 2013 no one brought or needed them; no recent snow, melt was far ahead of normal, and warm days and cold night had hardened up what little snow existed. This year I brought 'shoes and used them for 9 miles straight going up to and over Badger Pass, and for a few miles over Sun River Pass. I was glad to have them because in places the snow was a bit slushy and the crust generally wasn't hard enough to support body weight.
In short, bringing snowshoes or not doesn't just have to do with the progress of melt off, but the dynamic of the recent freeze/thaw cycle.
I'm weighing whether to bring a packraft and which boat, and if I go raftless I'd use the Fastpack 20.Nov 14, 2014 at 11:01 am #2149231
Thank you for the helpful tips. After further investigation, I see that UD is going to have a 30L out in DEC-JAN, which might suite my needs better.Nov 14, 2014 at 4:33 pm #2149317
My computer is down so I haven't had time to geek out over route planning yet. I have been thinking about the raft too.
-Could float long sections of the South Fork and possibly a few other streams
-Could make some stream crossings easier/safer.
-Adds weight/bulk for hiking sections, and there will be a lot of hiking no matter what.
-Rafting routes look longer then hiking routes so time saved by rafting is somewhat balanced by a longer trip overall
-If it gets dark while I'm on the river I'll have to stop. If it gets dark while I'm hiking a trail I can us a headlamp and keep going.
-Depending on flow the rivers might be downright scary.
In the end I suspect it will be a last minute decision unless I pair up with a non-rafting partner.
As Dave mentioned the West Fork of the Sun could be scary with high water. I really doubt I'll try that one.Nov 19, 2014 at 5:42 pm #2150562
I'm a planner. I almost enjoy getting prepared for something more than the actual execution of whatever it may be. The 2015 BMWO has brought this passion to a whole new level. I retired 3.5 years ago from the Army after 22 years of service, and after having read 90% of the articles on this site over the last week, I realized that there was so much I didn't know and have fully embraced the "backpacking light" concept.
Here are a few equipment upgrades I have made recently:
Pack: Ultimate Direction 20L. I was going to wait for the 30L to come out in a month, but the 30L would've prevented me from truly embracing "backpacking light" as I would then be able to include a few extra luxury items. After I purchased this item, there was no turning back to heavy gear.
Camera: OK. I spent A LOT of time on every imaginable website (mostly here) comparing the pros/cons of each compact camera on the market. Today, I finally pushed the "submit order" button for a Sony DSC RX-100 (first version). Cheap…well, in comparison to the RX-100iii (I didn't need the improved video, and saving $500 was nice). Lugging around my Canon 70D was unacceptable, and especially not with the 70-200mm lens that's usually mounted. Part of me wanted to make everything else lighter so that I could justify carrying the beast, but after the UD 20L purchase, the tone was set. I will hate myself forever if I see a mountain lion or wolverine off in the distance and I'm unable to get a good shot (I have an up-close grizzly photo from a Glacier trip last August…so that's been checked off the list).
Sleeping Pad: Exped Synmat UL7. Why? Not quite sure about this one. It could be that Dan Durston had it on his list, or that I read somewhere it was more durable than a competitor's pad. I even thought about doing without, but since I'm going without a packraft (not experienced = not good to do during a period of high flow…water kills), I may need a little flotation assistance at one of the water crossings (anyone ever used a sleeping pad as a flotation device?). The REI pad I own is a few too heavy/large for this journey (plus I needed another for future family camping trips).
Sleeping Bag: Sea to Summit Spark Sp I Sleeping Bag. Yeah, I might freeze, but I was fine in Alaska with a 40 degree bag on another trip in early May. I was soooo close to ordering a ZPacks quilt (the 20% off REI coupon was possible deciding factor, too). I also liked how someone wrote that the bag packs-down to the size of a grapefruit. Grapefruit? Yeah, I'm buying THAT bag.
Things I'll buy, but haven't yet:
Footwear: Salomon Speedcross 3 (might try on a pair next weekend at REI when I visit my parents in Atlanta…while wearing Goretex or neoprene socks with wool liners…and maybe some wool socks over top as well, just for the heck of it). NOT THE CLIMASHIELD VERSION, right?
Things I'm on the fence over:
Compass: My old Army lensatic compass is not making this trip, and has been retired. I'm debating on getting a fancy-dancy digital compass watch, or just a plain old baseplate cheapo. I don't care much about anything other than confirmation that I'm going in a general cardinal direction. I don't plan to carry a GPS.
Goretex vs. Neoprene socks: Damn. Yeah, Dave, I'm sure you'll weigh-in on this one. My decision will probably be made after reading your article about this topic one more time.
THE THING THE WILL PROBABLY CONSUME ME THE MOST FOR THE NEXT 6 MONTHS:
Food? What to bring…(you don't have to answer that one, yet…I need something to drool over).Nov 19, 2014 at 6:08 pm #2150571Kevin BuggieBPL Member
@kbugLocale: NW New Mexico
Dang, soldiers vs. bpl ametuers, fun!!
My public school contract runs to May 28th this year and Dave's 3rd week of may timing kills me each year of the BMWO. If only a week later…
Anyway, I bet the solders could have some fancy hightech pack rafts or other gear…
Best luck to all of youNov 19, 2014 at 6:20 pm #2150575
Most of us could learn a lot more from you than the other way around, especially in the lightening of loads world. The BMWO should be a great learning experience.Nov 19, 2014 at 8:45 pm #2150615
I agree, planning can be a lot of fun. You'll reflect on this after the trip and be amazed how much you've learned. The learning that occurs is one of the best parts of pushing your boundaries. The nice thing with the BMWO is that planning is required for both gear and route. So the gear obsessing is balanced by the route obsessing.
With regards to route planning, I've already mentioned the resources I use, but in terms of a strategy I think at this point its best to familiarize ones self with the larger wilderness complex and the suite of available routes, rather than getting obsessed with a specific route. This is just a tip from my past experiences, not because I think you're doing this. In 2012 I was new to this and pretty overwhelmed by the task of putting together a route, so I got wrapped up in the details of one route but didn't have the best understanding of bail routes, alternate routes etc. You can do this online, but the Cairn Carto maps are my preference for studying the general area.
So my suggestion is to put together 3+ routes that are mostly non-overlapping, as well as 1-2 bail options for each. This understanding will prove valuable if you need to bail, and it'll also prevent you from getting too tied to a specific route well in advance of knowing the actual conditions. If you focus on one route, you'll be less likely to adjust if the forecast throws you a curve. It's not a bad idea to plan a route for low snow conditions (ie. short route) and a route for high snow conditions or tough weather (low elevation route).
In terms of gear, I did bring a SynMat UL7 in 2012 and 2013. For the actual event I would consider a torso sized CCF pad since these are light and I'll be dead tired, but getting a good night sleep before the event is important and there's no easy way to swap out pads at the start line, so I'll likely bring an inflatable again.
Since you're packing in a 20L pack, you'll need to carefully think about what gear is needed for safety, what gear is needed for efficiency and what gear is for comfort. Opting for a smaller CCF pad isn't a safety concern, but it definitely compromises comfort and it might compromise efficiency if you sleep really poorly.
That Sea to Summit bag looks neat. Stay tuned to the forecast but my guess is it'll be fine. When I'm pushing hard I seem to sleep warmer. I used a 40F quilt in 2012 and slept great the second night even though it was about 30F.
If you plan on putting in a solid all day effort, you won't need much insulation on the move. I've overpacked on torso insulation both years. Since you're bringing a sleeping bag, you could make an aggressive choice on the upper body insulation and then duck into your sleeping bag if you're unable to stay warm.
Socks: My feet are wimpy and when they get wet they prune up and quickly start to blister pretty seriously. For this reason I sometimes use Rocky Gore-Tex socks to stay dry longer. Once my feet are inevitably soaked, I switch to the Neoprene socks. Unless it's like 2013, you'll be getting your feet wet regularly with cold water, so it's a good environment for Neoprene. Don't buy WP/B shoes.
Food: In 2012 I brought a diverse collection of chocolate bars and generally was content with that. I brought granola too, but never took the time to eat it. In 2013 I only brought snickers and peanut butter snickers and by day 2 I was pretty sick of them. I don't know what I'm doing this year, but it'll be stoveless again, so I'll probably just put together a 9000 calorie collection of quick eating foods I like. Chocolate, cheese, chocolate covered almonds, lara bars etc.Nov 19, 2014 at 10:05 pm #2150632Justin BakerBPL Member
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
I would be interesting in attending next year if I can get the time off work.
For those of you doing this (or have in the past), how many miles per day or miles per hour are you planning on doing, and how many hours per day of hiking?
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