My favorite activity in my professional life is showing others the majesty and beauty of Montana’s wilderness, and teaching — empowering — them with ultralight backpacking skills. Sharing a trekking experience with somebody else, and together, weaving an artistic route across a wild Montana landscape keeps me energized to continue learning and experiencing wild places. I hope I can walk Montana’s trails into a very old age!
Our 2012 Ultralight Backpacking Boot Camps are being held in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness. We selected the "AP" this year for a number of reasons:
- Scenic beauty;
- Good fishing;
- Opportunities to travel along the Continental Divide Trail;
- Remoteness, and lack of people;
- Ecosystem diversity.
Here is a handful of photos from our 5-day, 50-mile September trek that I hope will reflect the majesty of the AP, see the end of this essay for my gear list on this trek.
Our crew reviews options for refilling our water bottles in the dry forests south of the Continental Divide.
The Continental Divide Trail is one of the main attractions of the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness. With the Glacier National Park section, the AP CDT ranks high as one of its most spectacular stretches.
Fall in the AP comes early at high elevations. Red huckleberry and yellow larch dominate the autumn landscape.
The Continental Divide provides a grandiose backdrop to an alpine lake on a calm morning. Early clouds bring a promise of afternoon storms.
Our crew’s three women, standing on the Continental Divide for a quick photo before a hurried trek during a storm.
Surveying the reality of cold temperatures, wind, rain, thunder, and lightning, from the Continental Divide.
Raindrops on huckleberry in a creek bottom.
The massive Warren Peak, one of the largest in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness.
Larches reflect the afternoon light on a calm surface of an alpine lake.
The author with a healthy cutthroat trout taken with a tenkara rod. The Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness is home to rainbow, brook, and cutthroat trout.
Another tenkara-caught cutthroat.
Bob stalks rising cutthroat with a tenkara rod comprised with a trekking pole (Ruta Locura) as the butt section.
Ryan C. releases a cutthroat during the late evening hours at a high camp.
Pre-dawn coffee from the sleeping bag.
Traveling through a recovering burn area.
Ryan C. soaks up the last rays of the afternoon in a subalpine forest.
Some camps are better than others. For this one, views were my highest priority.
Bob tending to gear maintenance in the late afternoon.
Our crew at a remote lake, well off-trail, towards the end of our trek.
From our last camp, we followed bear trails en route back to a human trail and the CDT.
Descending from the Continental Divide on our last day during a 9-hour trek back to the trailhead.
Ryan C. extends the reach of his tenkara rod to entice rising rainbows in a clear mountain lake. He was successful.
Limestone creeks are lush with mossy vegetation, colorful rock beds, and abundant insect and fish life. We seldom carried much water here.
Late afternoon sunlight shines through a lodgepole forest.
You tell me.
Ryan’s Gear List
Here is a summary of the gear that I took on this trek, with comments.
|HyperLite Mountain Gear Expedition Pack||32 oz.||Flawless performer. Pack liner not needed.|
|Various Cuben Fiber Stow Sacks||2 oz.||May as well go as light as possible, the pack is nearly waterproof. These provide additional organization and a second layer of protection.|
|Pack liner/cover||0 oz.||None needed.|
|ZPacks Cuben Fiber Tarp, 8′ square||7 oz.||Holding up well enough but beginning to show wear after two seasons of hard use. Time to retire, perhaps.|
|1.5 mm polyester sheath/Spectra core guylines||1 oz.|
|MSR Ultralight Stakes (6) + Vargo Titanium Skewer Stakes (8)||3 oz.||These new MSR stakes hold well, and are proving to be a lot more durable than I had anticipated.|
|Adventure Medical Kits SOL Blanket for Ground Cloth||2.5 oz.||Lots of holes, now, but expected after dozens of nights now. Favorite feature is the orange top, makes it easy to see gear I lay out, and it’s a cheery color on dreary days. It’s also quiet.|
|SLEEP SYSTEM & CAMP CLOTHES|
|ThermaRest NeoAir XLite||11 oz.||Recovering from a spring back injury, but not incline to give this up anytime soon.|
|Exped UL Air Pillow||2.5 oz.||Best pillow I’ve found for the weight.|
|Katabatic Gear Palisade 30 Quilt & Cords||19 oz.||This was too warm, our low temps were in the high 20s. Should have brought the Chisos.|
|Goosefeet 900 Fill Down Pullover w/Hood||8 oz.||I wore this a lot, and slept in it a few nights all night, and most mornings for the last few hours of sleep.|
|Backpacking Light Cocoon Pants||7 oz.||Didn’t need them with the Palisade, but appreciated them in camp and on our coldest nights.|
|Dedicated Wool Sleep Socks||2 oz.||Critical after arriving in camp in wet feet. I had two nights of cold feet and these were a good morale saver.|
|Patagonia Specter Anorak||7 oz.||I’m in the process of wearing out my last one. All time favorite jacket. Wonder what I’ll replace it with.|
|ZPacks Cuben Fiber Knickers||2.5 oz.||New item. Nice for sitting on wet stuff, and were warm and breathable enough for our stormy day at 10k on the Divide. Love these so far. Incredibly packable and light.|
|Patagonia Houdini Wind Shirt||4 oz.||A staple. What can I say? DWR has been washed out for max breathability.|
|Backpacking Light Merino UL Beanie||1 oz.||Critical piece for cold trekking days, since I didn’t bring a hoody this trip.|
|Patagonia Wool 2 L/S Crew||5 oz.||A nice alternative to the BPL Merino UL crew, at only a fraction heavier.|
|Patagonia GI III Pants||7 oz.||Too heavy for this trip, but proved to be nice protection during our bushwhacks.|
|Darn Tough Full Cushion Trekking Socks||2 oz.||A staple. Not inclined to switch brands anytime soon, after seven years of using these. But, don’t believe the whole "no holes ever" claim. They do wear out.|
|Altra Lone Peak Shoes||22 oz.||The perfect backpacking shoe? My favorite shoe for trails, ever. Some limitations for off trail travel, but only minor.|
|Headsweats Cap||2 oz.||Slow to dry. Not my favorite cap.|
|Cotton Bandana||1 oz.||Neck protection in high sun at altitude.|
|COOKING & WATER|
|Jetboil SOL Ti Stove||8.5 oz.||I can’t think of a faster way to deliver caffeine in the morning, and dinner at night. Fuel miser. 100g of fuel to boil more than 15 pints of water on this trip.|
|Ziplock 24 oz Bowl w/Reflectix Insulation||2 oz.||For rehydrating meals. I like the second container convenience.|
|Light My Fire Titanium Spork||1 oz.||I’ve grown weary of breaking flatware, and I like the idea of owning one piece for life.|
|Platypus 2L Bottle||1 oz.||A staple. Not sure why any other combo would even be considered on a 3-season trip.|
|Steri-Pen Adventurer Opti||3.5 oz.||Fast water, fun technology, good science.|
|Aqua Mira Tablets||0.5 oz.||I use these for treating my 2L bottle at night, and for Steri-Pen backup if needed.|
|Locus Gear Trekking Poles||12 oz.||The best carbon trekking poles I’ve ever used. A little heavier than other cottage brands, but much, much stronger.|
|Cuben Fiber Bear Bag, Spectra Rope, Rock Sack, Carabiner||4 oz.|
|Bear spray with shoulder holster||14 oz.||I like the convenience of a shoulder holster to keep the bear spray on me at all times, even when I take pack off.|
|Petzl Tikka 2 XP+ headlamp||2 oz.||I prefer a light I can navigate with and see bears at night.|
|Sony RX100 camera + 2 battery spares, filters, case||12 oz.||All photos in this essay were taken with this; some with a polarizing filter, some with an ND8 filter.|
|Custom full-height carbon fiber tripod and bullhead||9 oz.||Made by Ruta Locura.|
|Tenkara Amago rod + tackle||7 oz.||Amago provides a little extra reach and ability to throw a long level line for lake fishing, and a little extra beef for horsing in trophy trout. I still lost a few big ones in the 20+ inch range.|
|Iridium satellite phone + extra batteries||15 oz.||Emergency use, and the occasional SMS to Twitter.|
|First aid, toiletry, repair, extra batteries, etc., etc.||another pound or so.|
|Food||1.5 lb/day.||I arrived back at car with 3 oz.|
|Fuel||100g.||I arrived back at car with 6g.|