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Planning a trip out west and needing some help
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Christopher Taggart

Locale: Western PA
Planning a trip out west and needing some help on 05/02/2011 11:04:08 MDT Print View

I'm just starting to plan out my vacation for next summer and I'd like to go to Montana and hike around the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

First, I'll give you a brief background.

I live in Pennsylvania and I've never been out west. This trip will include myself and my lady friend. Our goal is to "hike a mountain" while we're out there and I was looking at Silvertip Mountain in particular. We'll be taking our trip sometime in late July or early August but I don't know what kind of weather or temperatures to expect. Because I don't know how cold it usually gets those months, I'm having a hard time plotting out some gear lists.

Also, am I going to need a bear canister or hang my food? I feel like a total backpacking neophyte right now. I haven't even started to look for maps and routes. It's probably a good thing I've given myself so much time to plan.

I just want to add that I'm not dead set on Silvertip Mountain.

Edited by PennDude on 05/02/2011 11:06:24 MDT.

Jason Torres
(burytherails) - F

Locale: Texas
West trip on 05/02/2011 13:15:51 MDT Print View


How much experience do you have?

Fitness level?

How long do you plan to be in the backcountry?

Also, what gear do you currently own?

This will help us make suggestions..

Safe travels

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: Bob trip on 05/02/2011 13:58:03 MDT Print View

Sounds like the beginnings of a good trip. I've never been up Silvertip myself, but that's a beautiful area and you'd be sure to see great stuff from the top.

"Normal" Bob weather around the July-August mark should be pretty good. Could be sunny and 85, could be rainy and 45 and foggy, might even snow a bit (but probably not). Good chance of finding mosquitos in boggy places. So, rain gear, sun gear, and a warm layer.

Definitely bring your fly rod, especially if you'll be in the South Fork drainage.

I don't know anyone who carries a bear can. I'm sure some do, but all the local backpackers I know hang food. Montana bears have enough to eat, so they don't try too hard to get human food. Just fry that fish well away from camp and you'll be fine.

Christopher Taggart

Locale: Western PA
Bob Trip on 05/02/2011 15:32:33 MDT Print View

Fitness Level: Fit as a fiddle
Experience: ~17 years of it. I'm pretty good at map reading and orienteering.
Time in backcountry: No more than 5 days.
Gear I currently own:

That gear list is basically a weekender list for the warmer months in Pennsylvania. I'll probably add a good brimmed hat and some other little things.

David, as far as the fly rod goes, I was really entertaining the idea of getting a Tenkura rod to mate up with my TiGoat poles. The trout fishing in W PA is really not good. If I were to go with the Tenkura, can you suggest which flies I'll have success with?

Now we have the issue of the bears. I'm not too worried about them but the lady friend is another story. She says, "You are bringing your gun or else I'm not going." I would really rather not haul that thing around especially since I can outrun her and save myself from a crazed bear. I really don't know how to go about reassuring her that we don't need a gun with us. Not that I'm against them or anything but who want's all the unnecessary weight?

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
bears on 05/02/2011 16:15:12 MDT Print View

My wife is rather bearanoid as well. Nothing you can do in the end, though there is plenty of research (Interagency Grizzly Team) that says spray is more likely to be effective than a gun.

In early August last summer I packrafted the length of the South Fork Flathead, and caught A LOT of trout on the same #14 elk hair caddis. My fav summer and early fall fly.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: bears on 05/02/2011 16:27:08 MDT Print View

David, you forgot to mention what color was the body on your "favorite" Elk hair caddis.

Richard Lyon
(richardglyon) - MLife

Locale: Bridger Mountains
Flies for Bob Marshall Wilderness on 05/02/2011 16:55:21 MDT Print View

Christopher - I've fished often in the Bob, and in my experience just about any standard attractor works pretty well once the water is warm enough for hatches. On my service trip in early July last year we had great fishing on the South Fork of the Flathead, some of the biggest cutthroats on a regular basis that I've ever experienced. Royal Wulff, Adams, grasshoppers, elk hair caddis (tan), ants all worked well. Mostly sizes 14-16, though the hoppers were a bit bigger.

By coincidence I looked at Ti Goat's website yesterday and the Tenkara attachment is now out of stock. If you will be camping near lakes you might consider a spinning rod instead - you can get much farther out.

Hope you enjoy the Bob!


Jason Torres
(burytherails) - F

Locale: Texas
Bearanoid on 05/02/2011 20:38:17 MDT Print View

+1 for david's comment on bear spray

My fiance is bearanoid as well. She did not feel comfortable in AK since 5 min out of anchorage we spotted a black bear and 3 cubs on the side of the road. This led to two bear bells (how I loathe those bells) and bear spray.

I explained since a bears nose is 7x's more powerful than a bloodhounds, it neutralizes them. She felt better after reading but insisted she would not move a step without bear bells as well. I agreed but disabled both at every stop.

The thing that most reassured her though was when we finally came across a couple of guys on trail. She was good after that.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
elk hair on 05/03/2011 07:50:05 MDT Print View

Tad, usually tan, though I doubt it matter too much.

Dan Magdoff
(highsierraguy) - F

Locale: Northern California
Fly Fishing on 05/03/2011 08:57:11 MDT Print View

I would def bring some tan elk hairs....that is always my go to fly. And a spinning rod and bubble set up is a great choice. You can cast way out into lakes, and also be able to do short delicate casts into small holes in streams. Along with the elk hair I would bring a few Adams and a Mosquito pattern. Just my two cents.

Christopher Taggart

Locale: Western PA
Wilderness guide? on 05/03/2011 14:37:30 MDT Print View

Is there a wilderness guide like a Bob Atlas or something that that has maps and gives access points to trails?

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Planning a trip out west and needing some help on 05/03/2011 15:26:25 MDT Print View

Re climate: You can expect snow or frosty nights at any time during the summer at high altitudes in the Rockies. It won't happen all the time and may not happen at all, but when it does it's nice to have enough insulation to keep warm. Your current list looks as though you're pretty well prepared in that department, but I'd add a lightweight base layer (similar to Capilene 1 or 2) and gloves.

It takes a really heavy bullet to stop a grizz, and the chances of your being able to aim accurately at a ton of bear charging at you are almost non-existent. If you only wound the bear, he (or she) will just be that much angrier, and what very probably would have been a "bluff charge" will end in a serious mauling! Take bear spray instead. Talking to each other on the trail is probably better than bear bells. Hanging your food should be fine. Be sure to do your cooking (especially the fish!) a long way from your camp! The base layer I suggested also gives you something to wear in the tent should there be cooking odors on your hiking clothes (in which case they should be hung with the food).

Since you've never been out west, you are probably not familiar with the effects of altitude. Plan to take it easy the first few days, and ascend gradually. Individuals differ in their adjustment to altitude, so it's quite possible that one of you might have a lot of trouble while the other doesn't have any symptoms. Read up on the symptoms of altitude sickness so you know what they are.

Edited by hikinggranny on 05/03/2011 15:29:37 MDT.

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Trail Guide on 05/03/2011 19:38:33 MDT Print View

The Trail Guide to Bob Marshall Country by Erik Molvar falcon press publishing. I would go with the bear spray it worked for me once and if you have ever had some drift back at you I can not imagine a bear coming back for more (in most cases). But keeping your wits, a clean camp and staying out of previously used camps is helpful. Dont just buy the spray learn how to use it Try it out and get educated on camping and hiking in bear country. Wisdom is a lot cheaper lighter and Im sure statistically safer. A lot of maulings and deaths could have been avoided easily. Im not sure of any recent books but I own and have read Bear Attacks their causes and avoidance by Stephen Herrero, Backcountry Bear Basics by Dave Smith The mountaineers, Bear Aware by Bill Schneider, Mark of the Grizzly by Scott McMillion, Night of the Grizzlies by Jack Olsen and way of the Grizzly by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent. If you choose to bring a hand gun be sure to file off the front sight :)

Richard Lyon
(richardglyon) - MLife

Locale: Bridger Mountains
Hiking the Bob on 05/04/2011 07:44:21 MDT Print View

Molvar's book is the one to get. The Forest Service has some good maps. The trails in the Bob are reasonably well marked, but the distances on the signs are estimates and not completely reliable.

I'd take bear spray. The Forest Service can give you a fifteen-minute primer on where to carry it and how to use it. Bear attacks are rare in the Bob (much more frequent in nearby Glacier National Park). As others have noted, sound camping and cooking practices should keep your camp bear-free. With two of you hiking there ought to be enough noise to avoid startling a bear without the need for bells. Don't hike after dark - bears use the trails then.