Kevin Sawchuk and I finished our trek across the Bob Marshall complex Friday afternoon, hiking around 170 miles in 5 days and change.
We saw no other people the whole time we were on trails, which was almost 120 hours exactly.
Our original route had been an ambitious traverse of the full Chinese Wall, but 12+ inches of snow above 7k made that a non-starter. The revised route still had plenty of challenge, and it's mix of alpine, forest, river, and valley scenery gave a grand sampler of all the Bob has to offer.
We saw the tracks of all Bob critters over 50 lbs: Grizz, Black bear, Moose, Elk, Deer, Sheep, Cougar, Wolf, Coyote, horse, human. Snow made this easy. We flushed a bunch of grouse and saw a few deer and elk, but no bears. Sawchuk's masterfull bag hanging kept the food safe.
There's so much to say that I'll leave the rest to unfold later. Here's a video that seems totally inadequate:
I learned several things that are worth saying:
Pick your partners. In Kevin I had the best available, and we had tons of fun even in gnarly conditions as a result.
Gear is important, but skill, fitness, experience, and will are moreso. On Thursday we left camp at first light and headed up Pentagon Creek. Soon we were hiking through the rain, dealing with wet brush, mud, and melting snow (churned even better by a moose in places). We postholed up steep hillsides and snowy talus to the pass at ~7k, then strapped on the 'shoes to descend through 2 feet of snow, skirting some sketchy cliff bands in the process. By the time we shed 'shoes and headed down Dolly Varden I was totally soaked, and even though my rain gear kept the wind off and my Wind Pro gloves and Hydroskin socks kept me warm, forward motion and the metabolic furnace were the most salient factors.
Have good shoes! The shoes I've been using all summer got a big hole in the forefoot 10 days before this. I wore their replacements everywhere, but that wasn't enough to reveal that the seam above the toes would rub the hell out my feet with thicker socks. Ouch.
Above all, get out. It's a big world.