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Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Yes on 05/07/2013 17:41:51 MDT Print View

As near as I can tell without a map this is where I'm planning to cross into the Flathead Basin. This will allow me to wok around to the north east side of the Flathead without crossing it directly. My concern is that not being familiar with the area that I would have to head upstream on the flathead to find a suitable crossing. There are several other options further to the west but all involve a Flathead crossing. maybe that's not a big deal but May 25th is normally close to the peak streamflow.

Dan Durston
(dandydan)

Locale: Cascadia
BMWO on 05/07/2013 20:14:03 MDT Print View

I don't think there's going to be much packrafting happening on the MF Flathead. There's possibilities, but it's a rowdy river this time of year. If someone is at that skill level it would be a great way to travel, but it's bold water. The main waterways people will float are probably the Sun River and SF Flathead. There's a chance someone will float White River, Spotted Bear, MF Flathead.

Most walkers are likely headed north up the Sun River valley for a long time (to Sun River pass). It's mild, low elevation fast travel with only one low pass and it lets you over the MF Flathead without major trouble. Any foot options west of here require a major river crossing, which can be fun. So likely the west side will be more the domain of the rafters.

Use this website and set the maps to t3 or t4 (USGS topo or similar).
http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.php

Edited by dandydan on 05/07/2013 20:15:28 MDT.

Alex Joseph
(alxjalxj) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains grew up Lk Superior
BMWO - the long walk on the east side on 05/07/2013 22:14:33 MDT Print View

Thanks for the insights...

The eastern route looks like a 115km walk between 1200m and 1800m elevation.

Snow at 6000ft seems to be disappearing rapidly

http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/nwcc/site?sitenum=693&state=mt

Question is can the feet handle it and can it be done in 3 days?

Will see how the feet do this week on some 15km marches...

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: Bob routes on 05/08/2013 07:55:20 MDT Print View

Time to talk turkey.

I'm contemplating several routes, and won't make a decision until a few days before and the river levels sort themselves out. It's gone past 70 the last three days here in town, and predictably the S Fork has gone past 7000 cfs and the Middle Fork is closing in on 10000.

Packrafting down the S Fork Sun, walking the excellent N Fork Sun valley, and floating virtually the whole Middle Fork is the fastest route. The issue is, as Dan says, that if the water is big the M Fork will be a good place to die. I've never floated above Schafer, and will float little if any miles below Schafer if levels are above 5000 cfs. There are at least four places on this stretch where the whole current goes through a spot about 10 feet wide, and two of those are outside the Three Forks and Spruce Park gorges.

Hiking below the Wall and going through upper Spotted Bear is a nice route. It'd be nice to see that again, especially (as Greg said) if the weather is good.

A third option is to head west over Hoadley/Stadler and float Danaher to the S Fork. (Or one could climb W River Pass and drop in lower.) Not possible to do that float too many times. All the options for getting back over to the M Fork drainage make it a bit long, but I have a sympathetic work environment which makes this option awfully tempting.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Bob meeting on 05/08/2013 08:00:28 MDT Print View

It seems like everyone is congragating Friday evening, which should make for some high quality prevaricating. For those who haven't been back before, make sure to snag a spot in the South Fork campground, which is right next to the TH at the end of the road. The Benchmark CG is a few miles back towards town. Sites are 6 bucks a night, and we can share. Shouldn't be too crowded, even if the weather is good.

It's a good idea to have a saw in your car, as downed trees on the road are not uncommon. The road is passable to any old vehicle. Unless it snows a ton.

Edited by DaveC on 05/08/2013 09:42:27 MDT.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
The 12 mile question on 05/08/2013 08:45:40 MDT Print View

This event is truly incredible. It really forces you to deal with ambiguity and be willing to decide last moment as the conditions become clearer. Here's the latest option that I'm flirting with. instead of doing the full CDT route from start until Sun River Pass there is an option to stay high, leaving the CDT at Open creek and continuing north over switchback pass, past trilobite and gable peaks and hit the middle fork at Schafer.

This route is 12 miles shorter but stays in the 7000' range for an extra 16 miles which will likely involve significantly more snow travel than the option over Sun River Pass. Additionally it would require a Middle Fork crossing near Schafer which looks to be in an area of slower moving water. So is it worth 12 fewer miles to potentially be on the snow an extra 16 miles with a middle fork crossing. Hmmmmm. I love these options. Actually, as I type this the shorter option seems insane unless this melt off continues to accelerate like the last few days.

Cyrus Dietz
(CyCalvin)

Locale: Midwest
Routes on 05/08/2013 10:34:29 MDT Print View

I, like Dave am leaning toward floating the South Fork of the Sun, then hiking to the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Flathead. At that point the decision to float or hike or both will depend on water levels.

I am seriously concerned about boating such a high volume river in high water, but I also really want to float it...

As for the camping, I plan to arrive at Benchmark Creek ahead of Friday so i should have no problem grabbing us a couple campsites and procuring some fire wood.

Edited by CyCalvin on 05/08/2013 10:35:58 MDT.

Greg Gedney
(ggedney) - M

Locale: Rocky Mountain Region
Routes on 05/08/2013 13:59:00 MDT Print View

Sounds like a good plan Cyrus, we will not be arriving at Benchmark until maybe 9:00pm and it would be good if a few sites were arranged by then. As previously stated, all routes are weather dependent. Good weather will likely mean a trip over White Pass, down the White River to the SF Flathead to Twin Creek and over the hills to the Middle Fork. I will be rafting. The White river route is the one I took last year. IF the weather is bad and there is little to see I'm inclined to go over Stadler Pass, Danaher to the headwaters of the middle Fork and down. I'll use my Alpaka even though Dave makes a good case for the Scout (I don’t have one). We'll compare tales of who gets the wettest after it's all said and done.

Anytime you put a hundred or more miles on your feet it’s going to hurt; last year did. I’m hoping to split the trip to about 60 miles on foot, 40 miles on river. For general information purposes, last year the snow level in the central range west of Benchmark started at 5900’, by 6100’ snow shoes were really needed. In that case I went over an unnamed pass that was about 7900’ if I recall at the extreme headwaters of the South fork of the White River. There were a number of avalanche chutes along that route but no real danger. Most of the snow I saw slide came off the upper reaches of the surrounding mountains. Of the few I witnessed most stopped sliding well before they reached the valley floor.

Frankly I’m hoping for weather similar to, but not as wind driven intense as last year because the lower temperatures kept the stream levels low. Having said that those are conditions that are out of our hands so route planning that involves more than one path is a good idea.

Lastly, I will have some extra room in the van for gear if things get tight in any of the other cars.

spelt the enigmatic
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Routes on 05/08/2013 14:51:47 MDT Print View

I won't know if I can make it until the week of, but I might as well throw my two cents in. I'm looking at going over Spotted Bear Pass and down Spotted Bear River, cutting up to the MF either at Pentagon or Schafer.

John St. Laurent
(johnstl) - M

Locale: Pacific NW
Foot Route on 05/11/2013 11:02:49 MDT Print View

My objective this year are to finish and, secondarily, to absorb some more local knowledge, the idea being that with both of those in hand I'm positioned for bolder route attempts in the future. But this year is about a finish, a conservative goal that, combined with solo travel, lends itself to a conservative route.

So, I'm looking forward to returning to the familiar and striking Sun River basin (my bail route last year) but on the west side of the river this time. Cross at the bridge near Gates Park and then over Sun River Pass. Some tributary crossings after that, than I'm out.

96 miles if I added right. I could probably cover the distance in three days without obstacles (but with sleep), plan to take four, and will bring food for five. I'll be carrying overnight gear. Incidently, I just finished the new book about Dick Griffith and discovered that we both share a liking for sleeping well each night. Sustainable pace is my strategy here.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Flathead levels on 05/13/2013 08:01:30 MDT Print View

I hope everyone already noticed that all three forks of the Flathead are setting flow records as we speak. I drove past the Bear Creek TH yesterday afternoon, and must report that it was an impressive and terrifying sight.

Cyrus Dietz
(CyCalvin)

Locale: Midwest
NEW Flathead levels on 05/13/2013 11:48:48 MDT Print View

So Dave, How does that rank on the PR difficulty scale?

Has me wondering how wet the trails will be and how much of them could be underwater...

Greg Gedney
(ggedney) - M

Locale: Rocky Mountain Region
Temperatures and rising stream levels on 05/13/2013 11:53:17 MDT Print View

Yep, been watching that. In-flow at Twin Creeks is now over 20,100cfs, aka 13 feet deep. Also have to notice that this is after a weekend of upper 80's. The long range forecast through mid this week, and into late next week, is for highs about 2o degrees cooler and for cooler nights. As I recall it did this last year also about this time and then settled down for the second half of May, I see something similar setting up now. The long range weather patterns do not; however, seem to suggest a major spring storm is on the way like last year. Nevertheless it looks like some dicey stream crossings could be in the offering.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: Middle Fork levels on 05/13/2013 14:52:07 MDT Print View

"So Dave, How does that rank on the PR difficulty scale?"

I'll just say that my plan had been to float down the Essex, use the Isaak Waltons phone, and drink a beer while waiting for a ride home. There's no effin way I'd packraft the Bear Creek to Essex stretch right now.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
New plan on 05/13/2013 17:36:58 MDT Print View

Dave, any pictures of the middle fork?

Since all the snow has melted off the trail, there isn't enough challenge in the hike. Now thinking that a ride down the middle fork in an inflatable duck could be much quicker. But that's only the backup plan.

I went ahead and put an order in for the weather. I ordered continued melt for the next 6 days with wind and rain followed by a cold snap with temperatures in the lower 30s through our weekend. That will give us low snow and low stream crossings. We will see if my order comes through.

Here's the interesting part of this adventure. The 25k cfs flow now really won't help the flow in two weeks. Right now using the Mt Lockhart data the melt is ten days ahead of median. (It was right in track two weeks ago) so if you assume that the middle fork is also ten days ahead it puts the flow at exactly the maximum median flow rate of 12,200 ft. While we won't have median conditions, it does show that the only real positive will be less miles of snow to walk through. Now we are at the mercy of the temperatures.

As an aside, will bugs be out this early? I know the Sierra goes from snow to bugs overnight, how about here?

Stubblefield creek
Where's my duckie?

Edited by gg-man on 05/13/2013 17:38:57 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan)

Locale: Cascadia
BMWO on 05/20/2013 08:36:54 MDT Print View

Malto: There were no bugs last year. IIRC, Dave said last year that bugs wouldn't be a concern this time of year.

My close to final gearlist is up in profile now. I'm feeling really good about it after testing most of it out on a recent 7 day packraft/hiking trip. 28 lbs skin out weight including food, packrafting setup and snowshoes.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Middle Fork on 05/20/2013 09:39:26 MDT Print View

Looks like the Middle Fork is back down to a more reasonable level, and the weather for the rest of the week is supposed to be a little cooler. Let's hope it stays that way.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Current River Forecast on 05/20/2013 09:59:10 MDT Print View

Still expecting above average flow for the weekend.
Flathead

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: Bob Open final on 05/22/2013 08:23:37 MDT Print View

The conditions are settling in, and generally looking not too easy but not too harsh. Rivers are high but not terrifying, and will probably rise a fair bit with rain in the next few days.

Looks like I'll be getting into Benchmark fairly late Friday night. Looking forward to meeting everyone.

A final, pedantic but obligatory reminder of the spirit of the Open:

-There is no support or oversight provided. You are totally responsible for yourself. Leave a comprehensive route plan, with bail options and a series of emergency service call times, with someone you trust.

-It's not a race. I think it's valuable to share your experience with friends and strangers, but if someone wants to show up and tell no one afterwards, that is welcome too. It follows from this that meeting a pre-determined finish time should not cause you to do anything excessively risky. You probably won't see anyone aside from other Openers out there, and the rivers are big enough to wash you away and hide your body for years while the bull trout gnaw your bones.

-The mental side of these pursuits is the key to success and likely the reason we do it. Check yourself, make good choices, and don't hesitate to take a coffee break when psych is running low. The axiom of taking a 12 hour break before bailing is a good one.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Get out the pack rafts on 05/22/2013 20:04:25 MDT Print View

They might be needed on the trails.
Today
I was think of going the Spelt route but no way I'm crossing the middle fork at Shafer. It's looking like a run by the Wall then shoot over Sun River Pass. I think the tributaries will be enough excitement for this trip. I land in Great Falls tomorrow evening. I'm whimping out and staying at a hotel Thursday night. Look forward to meeting everyone Friday evening.

Edited by gg-man on 05/23/2013 05:03:56 MDT.