8:00am Start at Marias Pass
Run Hwy 2 ditch to Skyland Road and up to Morrison Cr. Trailhead
Morrison Cr Trail to Big River Trail
Big River Trail to Schafer Meadows
Schafer Meadows up Dolly Varden to Pentagon Pass
Pentagon Pass to Pentagon Cabin
Pentagon Cabin to Wall Cr. then to White River
White River down to South Fork of the Flathead
South Fork of Flathead to Youngs Cr.
Youngs Cr. to Hahn Pass
Hahn Pass to Monture Trailhead
Purple line shows planned route. (Included an optional route toward the beginning)
Red line shows actual route.
117 proposed total miles.
Planned to be out Monday Night or Tuesday.
Light weight packs with 10 lbs base weight 9 pounds of food.
1 Liter water bottle with 1 Liter backup
35 plus miles a day but reevaluate if lower mileage than 30 a day.
Try to jog easy sections of trail
Utilize Two man river crossing techniques to fords streams
Time Constraint (Must be out by Tuesday)
Day 1 Started at Marias Pass with a meet and greet of the 4 participants. Jog highway ditch then up Skyland Rd. to Morrison Cr Trail, reaching the trailhead at 10:45 am. High snow levels at the trailhead. 5-6 foot drifts with full snow cover of the trail. The trail was hard to follow for the first 3-4 miles. Snow for the first 7 miles slowed the pace. We crossed Morrison Cr. 3 times using the two man crossing technique and it was needed. A one man crossing would have been tough.
Final Crossing of Morrison Cr.
Trek up Big River Trail to Schafer Meadows with an arrival time of 4:00pm. Signed the logbook and swam the Middle Fork River to continue up Dolly Varden Cr.
Schafer Meadows Airstrip
Middle Fork Conquered
Up Dolly Varden hoping to cross the Pentagon Pass to make it to the cabin, we realized that we would run out of daylight nearing the top of the pass making the climb and descent dangerous.
Up Dolly Varden Cr.
We would have liked to make the cabin (45 mile mark) but were happy with a 35 mile day, confident we could make up some of the lost miles the next day. So we decided to hold up at 5400 feet (snow line) to wait for morning. As we set up camp we looked down upon the large Grizzly tracks that had just passed through and slept well. Low temp for the night was 34 just before daybreak with a slight drizzle.
Dolly Varden Near 5400 Feet
Day 2 Woke up and headed toward the pass. Snow travel again made the trek slower than planned especially toward the top of the pass where varying snow conditions had us transitioning from kicking toe holds in frozen snow to swimming waist deep snow holes.
We glissaded down the pass to the bottom. The snow transitioned with the lower elevation, becoming softer. Maybe a 1/4 mile down I broke through the snow layer and hit the front of my shin 3 inches above the ankle on a downed log. My body flew forward and I was lucky not to snap my leg. It hurt but I pulled my leg free and was able to keep trekking. There was allot more snow in the Pentagon drainage than expected. 1-2 miles later and warmed up, my leg started to swell and lock the ankle motion. I fought this and later a left IT band issue all the way to Pentagon Cabin. At the cabin we made the choice to use the bailout knowing that the leg was not going to get better and we were not going to be making the times we wanted in the coming days. With work and worrying family members, we could not afford the risk of not getting out in the allotted time frame.
It was a good choice but a tough one. My Bob Marshall team member Tanner K. was in better shape and physically doing fine so it was a hard decision to make. We made the call to bailout to Spotted Bear Ranger Station another 25 miles away. We headed down the trail to Dean Creek. The crossing was a tough one. The situation only offered one crossing spot with more than a few danger areas. The crossing is just a bend away from the confluence of the now raging Spotted Bear River. We probed the depth as far out as we could reach with the trekking pole and determined it was worth a shot. We crossed again using our two man technique. The current was right at the upper levels of what we could hold off but we made it without incident and continued the route.
Mean Dean Creek
5 miles along we were at the trailhead looking at 15 miles more of gravel road travel to the Ranger Station. My new injury and left IT band made the walking pain extreme. But the pain was relieved after seeing our friend the black bear.
Later in the bailout my right IT started to go out, I think from the added strain of hobbling with the injury for so long. 10 miles from the Ranger Station just after a 10 minute food break my knees locked up and it was over for the night.
Knees and Ankle are Toast
We spent the night at the Beaver Creek Campground. Low temp 40.
Lots of Mule Deer at Campground
With a decent nights sleep and lots of IBuprofen, I was able to get the knees moving again and we pushed on 10 miles to the Ranger Station. We caught a ride out to Whitefish and the trip was over.
Spotted Bear Ranger Station
Two Waters Please
Snowshoes and a raft would not have helped on this route. The snow travel on this route was tough and doubled your work effort but you didn't sink far enough in to make snowshoes a great option.
The route was very doable but one miss step and it quickly becomes a different goal.
Ankle and foot swelling
Bad injury aside, More training on my part was needed. I was a 20 mile back to back man trying to do 40 mile back to back treks. It was doable but there would have been a decent amount of pain involved which gets you to the goal but not the fun way. My friend Tanner was physically ready and could have made the distance but I believe two people were needed on this route to do the streams with relative safety and we had at least 2-3 more to cross to make the finish.
We were burning around 6000 calories a day to make the mileage we did. It was interesting to note that we burnt 120 on an average 1 mile trail but adding snow bumped it up to 270-300 calories per mile.
I am not a trekking pole hiker but they were a must have for me to get out the way I did. I had to borrow them from Tanner. I really saw the benefits of their use, watching him use them. It was a sealed deal after absolutely needing them to hobble out 30 some miles.
All this aside, we can't wait until next year. If no one makes it this year the two points should remain the same. It is an amazing test of skills and training that is not offered in this season set anywhere in Montana. Great opportunity to perform in an environment that is challenging. You dictate the pace so you also dictate the miles per day you think your body can handle.
Logistics would be nice to hammer out to make it easier on other people who are not from the area. Maybe everyone meeting at the end point and a shuttle to the start could be an option. That way your ride is at the end and there is more interaction with the participants. Maybe meet on a Friday afternoon and start on a Saturday morning with lodging options Friday Night near the start. Whether that option is a field or actual cabin / motel it would be nice to gather.
The BMWO must live on. It is a premier event in an amazing place that will really test the skills and abilities of multi-level participants.
We hope to hear from Spelt.