Bob Marshall Open 2019
May 29, 2019 at 7:53 pm #3595317Tom MBPL Member
Thanks for the tip Dan taking one proactively is a great idea . I’m not a big fan of the NSAID’s in general but they can be a necessary evil. I prefer to use more natural approach in my day to day diet to combat inflammation. It was great to meet you and it would have been awesome if we would have met at the Soldier creek TH. It would also be an honor to share a campfire with you if you are in the area hit me up I will send you my contact information. Take a look at the cabinet wilderness near Libby Montana it would also lend itself to a challenge like this with some peak bagging check points, almost entirely off trail, lots of alder, and my favorite Devils club. :)May 29, 2019 at 10:11 pm #3595328RobBPL Member
The jungled obstacle course up Conner Creek felt like classic Bob. The worst I’ve ever seen before was coming up Hungry Creek to gain Picture Ridge. The aptly named ridge gives some of the best views in the whole complex but it’s a heinous bushwhack. The experience was made even more classically Bob when I got bluff charged in a avalanche chute near the ridge proper and then got lost coming down the backside (I thought I’d be a purist that trip and left the phone at home). I love it out there and am stoked at the possibility of additional trips this year. Maybe one way to minimize growth of this enterprise is to flood the market with additional events. Thanks again Dave for spearheading this; it clearly adds a lot of value to people’s lives.May 30, 2019 at 3:00 am #3595372Dan MBPL Member
Mike, dave, others – the (mich crews) are all out and safe – including colorado guys – i spent several days in GNP and just got internet- trip reports are fantastic this year – some of you guys are beasts ! Will post ours in a few days – great seeing everyone again , great stories! Great fun !May 30, 2019 at 12:31 pm #3595412
thanks for the update!May 30, 2019 at 3:51 pm #3595448Kyle PBPL Member
These trip reports are awesome. Thanks everyone for some great pictures and descriptions of their trip across the Bob. Dan, are you putting together another video this year?May 30, 2019 at 9:49 pm #3595497Matt LBPL Member
Start of the BMWO2019
My original plan held up, at least for as far as I made it. My plan was the same as many others: Head to west to Schaefer, south to Whitcomb, roads to Posy, then trails to Swan Lake.
- Day 1: About 40 miles, camping at FS 9856 (0800-0330)
- Day 2: About 14 miles, getting 5 miles short of 381 (the road leading to Posy Creak TH) and decided to stop/bail right around noon (0610-1200)
- Day 1, I sat down only twice … once after the Middle Fork ford and once around 0230ish.
- I ate breakfast before we started the Open but then didn’t eat anything until 1830, just after the Middle Fork ford and when I sat down to take a 5 minute break.
- In general, I am fairly slow. I don’t worry about it or feel bad that I am not as fast in the mountains as others. I just don’t stop to eat or take breaks. It works really well for me and I felt awesome all day.
- I only wore my snowshoes once for a short stretch up to Whitcomb (in the dark)
- I stressed way too much about the Middle Fork and I was able to walk across (in my underwear – because I thought I would be swimming); the water was only waist deep.
On the way up to Badger Pass
On day 1 I went until 0330 hrs (Sunday)… good timing because as soon as I got my Duplex set up just off the road, it starting raining a little harder. I knew I was chasing Tom and that was great motivation to keep going through the night. I loved hiking with my headlamp up and over the pass by Whitcomb! Coming down the backside was interesting/treacherous but I loved it. I saw Tom’s headlamp in the distance and tried hitting the gas a bit – it really kept me going. Tom, you are a beast! An important mindset transition had occurred hours before but were in play during the night. I realized that I wanted to test my self-imposed limitations and just keep going until my body forced me to stop. I set my mind to think I would keep going the whole route without sleeping if possible, and if that wasn’t possible, I would keep going 24 hours to test my 24 hour distance, and if that wasn’t possible, I would keep going longer than others and sleep less. Eventually I started zig-zagging on the roads around 0300 and soon after decided to stop. Feeling the energy of competition fueled me. I knew I wouldn’t come in first, but I desperately wanted to perform my personal best!!!
So I got settled in my tent, reviewed upcoming route, messaged wife, checked weather forecast, and went to sleep at 0415. I set my alarm for 0600. It didn’t matter, I was up at 0530 and got ready and started down the road at 0610. I was incredibly motivated to push my limits and learn where my boundaries might be. Despite not finishing, this was huge for me for me regarding an experience that encourages self-discovery and gives plenty of opportunities for self-reflection and introspection. I still believe that experiences like this Open are not dependent on finishing, but rather what’s important is having an adventure and learning something about yourself.
It was a tough decision to bail because I knew I could make it otherwise. Oddly enough, I thought that so much road travel would make this route kind of lame (too easy) but it turned out to probably be the cause of my right knee swelling up and causing pain that I couldn’t/didn’t want to tolerate. I have had two knee surgeries on that knee and it doesn’t really seem to be agitated by trail hiking, but who knows …. Maybe it’s just the miles, but I feel that I wouldn’t have had my knee blow up on the trails. I ended up stopping every .5 to 1.0 miles to stretch and rest my knee. And hey, I’ve got three weeks of vacation left with my wife and I need to be able to walk, so no regrets on not pushing myself in that respect!!!
Middle Fork, just downstream from where I forded
I haven’t calculated calories consumed (and I’m not sure it’s worth my time at this point because I only went 28 hours) but I don’t need much food and still feel great. I used to be on a strict ketogenic diet. Now I have been getting into intermittent fasting or time-restricted feeding – whatever you want to call it. For me, it’s usually only eating for 3-6 hours a day. I’ve been doing this around 8 months (after keto) and I can easily run or hike for hours fasted. I don’t know whether keto is necessary or if intermittent fasting is better or necessary. I can say that any attempt to become fat-adapted is a game changer. Many roads can lead to fat-adaptation and I am not sure anyone really knows best, but it is clear to me that it makes a difference for performance. It’s a huge advantage to not have to eat. Unfortunately most people are carb-based and that means that your body will need carbs to perform and will not be happy in the absence of carbs. This is like putting a bunch of fast burning twigs on a fire rather than a huge log (fat). Your body won’t prefer fat unless you train it and also restrict carbohydrates (sugar!) to some extent. Anyway, I’m not a nutritional expert but I have been a guinea pig for years and finally found something that is incredibly powerful, but unfortunately requires the will to defy what everyone else does and/or defy what the nutrition industry says you should eat for high performance.
This summarizes all the beautiful terrain I observed at night!
I changed my training for the Open. I followed Uphill Athlete’s Expeditionary Mountain training program (with an extended base period and unfortunately mostly flat terrain since I live in Chicago!). I didn’t train much for 2017 and it hurt me much more physically. I can’t tell you how good I felt physically the whole time! Sleep deprivation was the only thing stopping me day 1 and knee pain was the only thing slowing me down on day 2 all the way up to bailing. I didn’t have any cramping or feelings of muscular weakness, unlike two years ago (although admittedly much less downfall and post-holing than last time).
Campsite for about 2.5 hours
I have been trying to toughen my feet for years now. It is a slow process. I try to walk barefoot whenever possible and all of my shoes now (even for work) are Xero shoes (zero drop and thin sole). I used the TerraFlex (trail runners) for the Open and they were great. Admittedly, you feel every rock under your feet but I am not convinced that it was worse than when I wore my Bushido’s last time. The biggest difference for me is that I didn’t get blisters. I think for me it has to do with wearing wide, loose, flexible shoes. I got horrible blisters with the Bushido’s and have noticed that as I transitioned away from rigid shoes and boots, while also strengthening my feet, in general, I rarely get blisters. I did pre-emptively tape the balls of my feet with Leukotape and used Hydropel the first day and some Hiker’s Goo stuff the second day. Once my feet dried after the Open, other than some serious soreness they were no worse for the wear.
The endless roads
It was great seeing everyone again this year and also meeting new people! Another fantastic adventure that I swear I’ll never do again 😉
Bailout spot where I rested and waited for my wife to drive hours to pick me up!May 31, 2019 at 9:32 pm #3595651
Here’s a shot of everyone at the start:
“Dan, are you putting together another video this year?”
Not sure yet – super busy right now so I haven’t gone thru the footage to see if I have enough. Might just do a written report. Hopefully soon while it’s still mostly fresh.May 31, 2019 at 10:18 pm #3595658Will BBPL Member
I hope you find the time for the video, Dan. BPL needs more thigh.
For those of you who are interested, the tests suggested that I did, in fact, have Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The folks at the ER said they’ve seen a lot more of it than usual this year, and a lot more tick bites in general. Take care out there.Jun 1, 2019 at 2:39 am #3595694
That’s pretty amazing how long you went without eating Matt. I once went almost three hours without eating and had to sit down for 10 minutes because of low blood sugar.
Dan D – is there any way I can use get and use the full resolution version of the starting line photo in my video?
Rob – this is just a Hail Mary but you probably don’t want that post-ferry picture to show up in my video, do you? I can’t imagine, but it would be pretty funny. Send it to me if you want it in there.
I’m gonna post my full writeup and video, hopefully late tomorrow. Got some really cool photos to share.Jun 1, 2019 at 3:35 am #3595701
Will: That’s pretty nuts. Glad you bailed out of there.
James: Yeah go for it. I uploaded the start line photo here. Anyone is welcome to use it. Looking forward to the video.Jun 1, 2019 at 3:02 pm #3595738
I think John is going to possibly add to our report (maybe Andrew too), but I’ll give it a go for now. Early on we had settled on three possible routes- one for lower flows (north route), one for moderate flows (middle route) and one for high flows (south route). Thad came up with the south route, a really neat combination of trails and off trail that would avoid all of the major fords- it was longer and it would entail more snow, but it would allow raft-less people to finish.
It was until Friday morning, diligently watching flows that we decided on the most direct route w/ a ford of the Middle Fork (w/ fingers crossed!)
We drove up Friday from Helena after work, enjoyed a great meal at Dupuyer and meeting some old acquaintances and some new. We enjoyed visiting around the fire (and a few libations).
We woke early to raucous chorus of coyotes (Elvis was ears up!), ravens and grouse drumming AND no rain! Get the fire going, coffee on and breakfast cooking and a final gear check.
requisite group photo and at 8 sharp on the trail
with adrenaline high and fresh legs we ate up the trail North Fork of Birch Ck
what a beautiful drainage!!!
here’s where my mountain man cabin and Blackfoot wife will live (that’s a joke honey :))
patchy snow was soon replaced by steady snow
trail was obliterated by snow, so just made a straight shot for the first pass
As soon as we hit the pass, it started raining, donned a rain jacket (but not pants which would come back to haunt me badly) a couple of switchbacks were visible, but then the trail disappeared again- this is where about 10 of use diverged on numerous paths. I was following two tracks that were headed in what I though was the right direction. Navigation was made tough by a fresh burn that erased any sign of a trail, snow that buried the trail and thick fog. I finally hit a burnt tree that had a burnt sign, but laying next to it was a sign saying S Badger Ck- the two tracks I was following descended down that trail, hopefully they recovered from their error sooner than later. The trail I needed (or thought I needed) didn’t have a single track- well that’s certainly odd as I was definitely not in the lead. I kept pressing on, but doubt was lingering. Finally from above the trail a snowshoe track joined in, I quickened my pace and was glad to see Andrew ahead of me. Eventually a few more tracks joined from above the trail.
20 minutes later John and Thad magically appeared out of the mist and we were altogether once again. It turns out I wasn’t the only one to err and not don rain pants, everyone’s pants were completely soaked at this point. Probably don’t need to point out that the femoral arteries play a major role in heat regulation (or lack there of in our case)- we literally couldn’t stop for more than a minute or two w/o being chilled, not a good feeling.
We would our way around Beaver lake and down Cox Ck, we were in snowshoes now for several hours, finally the snow quit (but not the cold rain!!!)
and then without any warning, the rain stopped and the views came out
not the only ones using Cox Ck
We started making pretty good time again and ever so slowly started to warm up too. As we forded Cox Ck roughly 2/3 of the way down, Andrew announced it looked floatable and decided to part ways and then meet us at the Schaefer crossing later.
We finally made it to the crossing hours later, only to find the Middle Fork had swollen w/ the rain and Andrew wasn’t there waiting. Upstream, downstream- nothing looked overly good. We decided to give it a go- knee deep, then thigh deep and then over my waist deep AND pushy, I thought for sure I would be swimming, but somehow we made it across. We had a nice (but short) celebration and set about getting a fire going and get some warm supper into our bellies. This was the first real stop we had made all day and we were ready! Will had drifted by sometime later, but no sighting of Andrew. We were a little worried, but before too long showed up w/ a story to tell :)
The fire that Thad had started (more like a pyre!) really helped our spirits and dry our clothing- we stood there watching the steam roll off of our clothing :). We still had daylight so made it a few miles up Schaefer Ck setting up camp in the dark, but still no rain. Well until we climbed into our shelters and then it started again and the proceeded to rain all night long. At 5-ish I could see it getting lighter, but the rain was still steady. I asked if anyone wanted to give it 45 minutes- in unison I got three yes’s :)
Amazingly it did let up to a light drizzle and we quickly eat our breakfasts and broke camp. 5 minutes on the trail and the rain came back :(
Of course the fords always warm a guy up :)
It wasn’t too long up Schaefer Ck and we were once again transitioning to snowshoes (oh yeah it’s still raining)
water rich environ, no need for trading here
When we finally gained the top near Whitcomb, we decided to forego the trail and descend (steeply descend) through a new burn heading for an old logging road. It went pretty well towards the top with snowshoes on, but when the snow petered out it was replaced with a lot of slick mud and laid over wet vegetation. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one to land on my ass a couple of times.
finally we hit the logging road AND the rain stopped!
and now time for a sit-down lunch and air out soaked feet!
We hit Silvertip road and made our ways towards Spotted Bear, after a few miles Andrew split off again and would try to meet us near Soldier Ck on the South Fork.
“The Road” while at first was pleasant (and fast) to travel, quickly became wearing and eventually numbing- mentally and physically! My feet (and John and Thad’s too) took a beating- blisters when I never get blisters and a deeper tissue bruising that really sucked. We ate a quick supper at the SF bridge and pressed on down “The Road”. Andrew was waiting at Soldier Ck as promised, but with daylight we decided to stumble on till dark another couple of miles (close to 34 miles for day 2). My feet we so sore it’s hard to put into words. I think John and Thad would concur. We slept in a little and headed back onto “The Road”, fortunately not too long though.
we hit the Posey Ck trail and right away were hit with a problem- getting across Quentonken Ck- while not overly wide it was steep and extremely fast.
downstream wasn’t an option, fortunately a potential way across was found upstream a couple hundred of yards
the Posey Ck “trail” turned out to be a long abandoned trail and much of it choked w/ alder and small trees and once again as well climbed we hit enough snow to don snowshoes. We quickly lost the trail in the snow and made our best guess for the pass, which happened to be almost straight up! The snow was a little slick and I had a 40′ slide back down that was luckily halted by a downed tree. This is what a guy looks like after such an event.
we finally made the top
and glimpses of the Swan Valley
About a 1/2 mile down the trail, the snow petered and we were out of snowshoes for good.
and a much deserved break!
it was all downhill from here, but steep downhill which definitely taxed already fatigued quads
I just missed kissing this
A quick wash and a change of clothes and the next order of business was cold beers and a burger
Andrew hardily recommends the Packer burger- 1 1/4 lbs of burger, two cheeses, ham, bacon and all the trimmings!
A long drive around Highway 2 and some road closures near Augusta, saw us home at 1:30 AM- sore and tired to be sure, but very satisfied w/ a great trip across the Bob!Jun 1, 2019 at 4:25 pm #3595748John NBPL Member
Good write-up Mike. A few additions:
- Every mile of this trip was a new mile for me so that was great to see so much new country. Really enjoyed the hike down Cox Creek.
- Not a lot of deadfall and the snow was in great shape. I did use my snowshoes a fair amount but also just shoe packed quite a bit. Definitely could have gotten away with no snowshoes. I always bring them and always say I won’t next year. Cheap insurance I guess.
- I felt pretty good the entire time. Definitely very foot sore after The Road. At times my left knee, left achilles and top of my right foot were sore enough to make me concerned. Thankfully those parts would rotate on what was sore at the given time so I’d forget about the others. Today my left achilles and right foot are a little tight but doesn’t seem to be too much lasting damage.
- My strategy for The Road was to simply put one foot in front of the other and not think about the miles ahead. Yeah it was quite dull at times but never thought about bailing.
- This was definitely the most weather I’ve experienced during the Open. I was quite wet the first day and learned my lesson about donning my poncho and rain chaps the second day. Those two pieces of gear were great for keeping me and my pack suitably dry and comfortable (not to mention combined weigh less than my regular rain jacket).
- Very thankful the water levels dropped the week prior. We definitely would have been vexed at the Middle Fork and would have a bit more miles and higher elevation weather had we went the southern route.
- Food was just right if not a bit too much. I like to not be hungry so even though I can get by on less.
- Barely used my esbit and likely won’t even bring a stove next time (heating by a fire works just fine).
- Thad is quite skilled at building big ass fires that dry lots of stuff quickly
Great trip overall and eager to see the route choice next year. I have quite a bit of video but haven’t stitched it up yet. Here is the one I uploaded of my crossing of Quintonkon Creek (another Thad tree crossing classic):
Great work to all participants, “finished” or not. Remember-this is not a race and just a simple walk in the woods. ;)Jun 1, 2019 at 4:39 pm #3595750Andrew CBPL Member
I think Mike told a pretty good story, so I’ll just fill in the gaps where I separated from them.
The relentless drizzle during our Cox descent was affecting my morale, so when I saw decent flows at the Cox Creek crossing south of Wapiti Park, I opted to put in there instead of waiting to hit the Middle Fork. It turned out to be a bad decision with all the deadfall. It took 2 hours to get maybe 2 miles because I was portaging through loads of underbrush. In the process I lost my bear spray, so kept telling myself I looked huge and scary with a boat on my head. Eventually seeing smoke from fire at the gravel bar drying party on the Middle Fork was definitely the high point of day one.
The next time I separated from the group was at Trail Creek when I hiked down to Spotted Bear and floated over and up to the reservoir. Flows were a bit higher than the week prior, but my confidence was high so I was purposely hitting a lot of the easy whitewater lines. That resulted in me taking a swim under the bridge at the ranger station, but it was a quick recovery and the drysuit did a great job so I warmed up pretty quickly. This bought me a couple hours at the reservoir where I got to yard sale all my gear and get it almost completely dried out Saturday evening.
I’ve got a short video uploaded for anyone who is interested: https://youtu.be/OatGSu1sdX0Jun 2, 2019 at 6:09 am #3595858
My write-up –
and video –Jun 2, 2019 at 2:10 pm #3595886
nice write-up James :) it was nice to meet you and congrats on a great finish!Jun 2, 2019 at 4:24 pm #3595902Matt LBPL Member
Awesome video, James!!Jun 6, 2019 at 2:55 am #3596468Scott GBPL Member
Super Impressive everyone!! Lots of finishers this year it looks like. Man, the conditions looked absolutelly chilling. I can’t wait till next year or a pseudo event later this year i’m definitley interested.
The Smith River was great weather and fishing for 3 days, then 2 days of constant rain on a boat. At least I had a cooler of beer with me so i’m not complianing.
Nice work , great reportsJun 7, 2019 at 11:08 pm #3596714
someone (of us) has lost a inReach Mini that was found and had some of our contact info in it- has to be one of ours
anyone?Jun 11, 2019 at 1:51 am #3597132
Finally got my trip report written up and posted:
And a video to go with:
Jun 11, 2019 at 1:52 am #3597133Jun 11, 2019 at 2:25 am #3597140
No. I have one of the heavy original models.Jun 11, 2019 at 12:25 pm #3597178
great writeup and video Dan- enjoyed it very much :)Jun 12, 2019 at 7:02 pm #3597430
Thanks for the writeup Dan. It’s always interesting to see what you come up with. And thanks to everyone who took the time to write up their experiences afterward…this stuff was very helpful when I was working up to doing this event.Jun 12, 2019 at 7:04 pm #3597431
Bob Marshall Wilderness Open Snowshoe Addendum
I’m putting this here for posterity, mostly to provide some clarity in the future for those who, like myself, don’t have the opportunity to train on the spring Montana snowpack before the event.
Historically, most of the participants use MSR Shift snowshoes, but I decided to use Northern Lites Elite Race snowshoes, which didn’t work out too well.
Here are some reasons why, and some advice from myself as a first time BMWO finisher:
Lightweight youth snowshoes
$90 or less
40 oz/pair (manufacturer claim)
7 in by 19 in (120-ish square inch surface area)
Steel toe crampons, dual steel traction bars
Northern Lites Elite Race:
33.6 oz/pair w/speed bindings
8 in by 25 in (164 square inches)
Aluminum toe and heel crampons
Northern Lites Race:
28 oz/pair (manufacturer claim)
8 in by 20 in (130 square inches)
Aluminum toe and heel crampons
Being from Indiana, I trained on snow in winter in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The snow there is very fine and light. So light it won’t even make snowballs. Flotation is absolutely key. Northern Lites snowshoes excel at floatation per weight. Walking on the wind-scoured ice humps of Lake Superior gave me a good understanding of the traction afforded by the Northern Lites snowshoes. It’s decent. Not as good as snowshoes with traction bars and more aggressive crampons, but definitely usable on low-angle, low consequence ice.
This year the snowpack was high enough that almost everyone decided to bring snowshoes along. I chose to bring the Northern Lites Elite snowshoes for the BMWO, because I thought they’d have a good balance of traction and flotation. It turns out that I didn’t need much floatation, and the halfway decent on-ice traction of the Northern Lites wasn’t the kind of traction that was demanded by the spring snowpack in the Bob. I didn’t end up traveling over any bare ice, but rather over a lot of slushy snow on angled terrain. The Northern Lites crampon configuration didn’t provide much traction in the slushy snow, and the large, smooth decking tended to slide downhill, almost as readily as skis sometimes. Dan M and Tom warned me about this tendency before the event, and they were right. I fell several times, but luckily didn’t suffer any injuries. I eventually settled on a method of stepping, pausing a beat to let the snow underfoot consolidate with the shoe, and then moving my weight onto that foot. It helped but slowed me down, and I still didn’t feel sure footed.
Dan Durston used Shifts this year. Following in his footprints from the South Fork to the finish, over the entire Swan Range, gave me plenty of time to compare the performance of the two models. I only noticed maybe two times where he postholed with his Shifts on. I only postholed once. Not much of a difference there. But I would slide several inches downhill on many of my steps, and I envied his ability to plant his shoe and have it stay right there. His footprints showed very little sliding at all, even on steeper surfaces.
I think the lateral traction advantage of the Shifts is provided by the long steel traction bars on either side, with the forward traction supplied by the 4 plastic protrusions under the heel. I’m not sure how much the two toe crampons help in the slush, but they don’t hurt. The Northern Lites don’t have an answer for this.
I haven’t ever used the Shifts, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. Dan M specifically has tried both Northern Lites and Shifts during the Bob Open. He just uses the Shifts now.
I also noticed a lot of people this year bringing a smaller model, the Northern Lites Race. They have less surface area, but the same crampon configuration. I’m guessing they are equally poorly suited for this snowpack.
I’ll keep my Northern Lites for use on powdery snow, but next time I need to travel on slush I’ll bring Shifts.
Anybody have anything else to add?Jun 12, 2019 at 8:13 pm #3597448
I think your assessment is spot on; the only caveat with the Shifts is fitment- they fit my size 11 foot (in trail runners), but that’s getting pretty close to the limit it appears
I’d also add the Shifts have a nice binding setup; practically identical to my high end Lightnings, minus one cross strap (2 vs 3)
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