2024 Bob Marshall Wilderness Open

mtwarden

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This is an annual event, similar to the Alaska Wilderness Classic if you're familiar with it. Travel is on foot and/or packrat, the start and finish change each year, you decide on the route on how to get there. The event happens the Saturday before Memorial Day, now in it's 13th year. I've been doing it for the last 10 years. May in the Bob you can expect snow at a minimum in all of the higher passes, high water in the creeks and rivers, lots of blowdown (the trail crews don't start until early to mid June) and hike amongst most of the apex predators :)

This year the route would include a bunch of road walking and much of it outside the Wilderness Complex. Soooo.. my buddy Tom and I decided we could do better. We came up with a 100 mile route that started and finished within the Bob Marshall Complex AND no road walking. We went our way also in 2021 when the route ended in Missoula and would require rafting (we're not rafters). We had a great time that year and met a new comer, Elliot, who agreed to go with us again.

We planned a very ambitious route that included a lot of off trail stuff, lots of ascent/descent and would put us through some of the nicest stuff the Bob has to offer (which is a lot!!). We would start near Lincoln and if all went well, end up north of Choteau at the SF of the Teton River.

We camped Friday night at the trailhead and started early Saturday morning.

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It was raining lightly, but we had mostly snow free trails, not a lot of blowdown and were making decent time.

Webb Lake cabin (USFS work cabin)

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mostly snow free :)

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Turning up Middle Fork of Landers Ck headed for a high pass. We hit deeper snow on and off; every time we thought about donning our snowshoes, it would peter out (only to reappear after we didn't put them on :D)

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The trail started to quickly turn steeper and then disappeared, we just kept climbing.

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The higher we got, the sketchier it got.

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Not going to lie, a sigh of relief at the pass

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We we were welcomed at the pass with 50-60 mph winds, driving #6 shot gropple into our faces- nice. The wind finally died down and we started our long descent into the NF of the Blackfoot River drainage.

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The map & gps showed the trail descending and switchbacking off the north side of the ridge. Trail was covered by snow, but we were confident we could hit on of the switchbacks and carry on. This was a $hit show of a descent- steep as a cow's face and snow covered alder and bear grass- I was on my ass at least twenty times! Oh and after a couple of hours (including several time of the gps showing we were on the "trail") we finally just started side hill our way around where eventually found the real trail that went straight down the ridge. The old trail probably hand't been used in 20-30 years and yet shows up on recent Forest Service maps and Nat Geo maps.

We started cruising again once we were on a real trail. Starting raining pretty heavily, but we at least knew we were on the right track. Crazy wood jam on Cooney Ck, not a big creek must have been hell of a flood event to deposit this much wood!

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Carmichael cabin where we called it a day.

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mtwarden

mtwarden

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Up bright and early and pointed for the Scapegoat Plateau. It was only lightly raining, but with 15 minutes of leaving we'd be fording the North Fork (actually twice) and would be soaked regardless.

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We took the trail to it's highest point before turning, exited and started our climb to the plateau.

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Once on the plateau it was readily apparent we needed to be on snowshoes.

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We eventually starting descending off the plateau with the hopes of hitting a trail that went in the upper reaches of the South Fork of the Sun River. We had never exited this way or had been on the upper portion of that trail. It was frustrating (and tiring) as every ramp we tried to go down we ended getting cliffed out, had to climb to higher and repeat. Finally Tom found some elk track we maneuvered our way through the labyrinth. We started descending slowly towards the bottom of the drainage. We had to change routes several times due to cliffs. At least the views were decent.

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The further we sidehilled, the steeper it go and decided to make a straight line to the waiting trail. The only problem there was no trail, even though the maps and gps said we were on it. What was worse is this entire upper drainage had burned years ago and was now nothing but jumbled blowdown.

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We looped one way, then another with the hopes of picking up the trail. After about an hour I lost Tom and Elliot. I knew that eventually following this drainage down I would bisect a trail that I knew was in existence as I had been on it. Unfortunately according to map that was another 3-4 miles downstream, with no end to the blowdown. Also unfortunately between the steep descent and the nonstop blowdown, the top of right foot where it meets the bottom of the shin was screaming. Eventually I was limping and when jumping off of blowdown tried to land on the other foot—didn't have a lot of luck with that. Several hours later I did finally bisect that trail, but light was getting short and I needed a place to camp. I found a nice meadow where the trail was close to the river and low and behold, there was Tom and Elliot too :D

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I told them I would be limping my way to the Benchmark trailhead in the morning and hoping to convince my wife to drive and get me. They decided they would do the same as there was no way to make it to the Teton in the time left. I got ahold of my wife on my inReach and we agreed to meet at 2:00 PM and I'd have two additional passengers.

In the morning I told the guys to wait for me at the ford of the SF of the Sun as it had the potential to be a tough one. It was thigh deep and very pushy, but we all made it across safely.

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Those guys took off again and I just took my time—the trail was in good shape and still plenty of views.

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We met at the pack bridge to Benchmark and took a photo exiting the Bob; a little haggard but not bad considering.

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A great view to end a great trip!

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Thanks for reading.
 

schmalzy

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I always get excited when I see these trip recaps. Inspiring.


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7mm-08

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Epic trip (as most if not all of yours are) and a fabulous write-up. Thanks for sharing. Hope your foot heals quickly.
 
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Man i love reading about your adventures. I just moved back east from Stevensville a few months ago and miss MT deeply. I love seeing your logs like this. Great work! Anything but an easy trek.

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mtwarden

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Thanks a bunch Guys-much appreciated!


Awesome photos. I’ve elk hunted a good chunk of what you crossed. Getting off the plateau is a little sketch. I did it via the Green Fork, but without snow. Saw three Griz up there that trip.

Nice work!

Jason- Green Fork is definitely a good way to go, might be a little sketchy in the snow as the tread is pretty narrow (and a long ways down if you had a misstep!). You can definitely cross off the SF of the Sun and also via Cigarette Rock (we tried that last year) :ROFLMAO:

We saw a giant boar up there 3-4 years ago, almost at the very top of Scapegoat Peak. We were caught completely off guard, as was he. He was rolling boulders getting some kind of insects underneath. Fortunately he skedaddled off quickly.

We've camped up there a couple of times and as you know there are no suitable trees to hang your food, BUT there are a bunch of super deep holes that evidently go into a large maze of caves underneath, so we would hang our bags of food 50' down one of the holes :D

Those holes are numerous enough you have to be on your toes a bit, wouldn't be a good way to go.
 
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mtwarden

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Thanks Gents!!

Had a question in my pm's about fording in cold water and strategies to help. The bottom line is on these May trips you're feet are going to be wet, no matter what you might try to prevent it. Each and every day you'll be crossing numerous small creeks, big creeks and rivers. Often there is running water right down the trail, sometimes for miles. Add in wet snow and rain on top, it's a given your feet are going to be wet.

We wear wear trail runners exclusively, have tried boots-they simply get too heavy and when they freeze at night (soaking wet) almost impossible to get back on—trail runners you can work the fabric with your hands and wiggle in your foot.

If it's warm and mostly dry (rarely) I'll just wear my regular wool socks. Take the wet ones off at night (and hopefully at least once during the day to air out), dry my feet thoroughly and don "sleep" socks. These are always left dry and stored in a dry bag w/ any other clothing not being warm. The exception is the last day when you can start off in dry socks (short lived, but it is a pleasure :D).

Most of the time though I'm wearing thin neoprene socks w/ a very thin merino liner sock. The neoprene does not keep your foot dry (nothing would), but it does keep your feet warmer. Not toasty warm, but not frigid like with regular socks. They will also freeze at night (along with the merino liners) but a little hand molding and you can get your foot in them w/o much effort.

If the day does turn on hot and dry, I'll bag up the neoprene socks/liners and go back to regular socks.

I should also mention that in addition to airing your feet out mid-day (usually lunch break) and wearing dry socks at night, I apply a thin coating of hydropel. It's petroleum and dimethicone based cream that helps prevent blisters but also maceration from wet feet. You might be able to apply to wet feet, but I apply at night to dry feet.

https://www.trailtoes.com/product-page/trail-toes-hp

Putting on cold, wet (and often frozen) socks and shoes in the mornings is definitely not one of the highlights of these trips, but a necessary evil that I don't think anyone would ever truly embraces :ROFLMAO:
 
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