The Bob Marshall Wilderness Open

An unsupported traverse of a big wild place in the tradition of Bob Marshall and the Alaska Mountain and Wilderness Classic.

The 2016 Open will start at the Bean Lake campground near the Dearborn River, at 0800 MDT Saturday May 28th.  It will end at the Cedar Creek campground on the Swan River.  Course area is any public land which drains into either the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans.


-This is not a race.

-You must be entirely self-supported and self-contained.  Take everything you need, and leave nothing but footprints.  Any pre-planned assistance of any kind is forbidden.

-Any form of human-powered locomotion is allowed within the identified course area.  No linear travel on the surface of paved roads.

-You are responsible for you.  Come prepared for challenging conditions which can easily, with improper luck or preparation, turn life-threatening.  Any and all contingency and emergency plans must be arranged by each individual.


2012: Teton River Bridge to Hungry Bear, Bob Marshall complex

2013: Benchmark to Bear Creek, Bob Marshall complex

2014: Marias Pass to Monture Creek, Bob Marshall complex

2015: Holland Lake to Swift Reservoir, Bob Marshall complex

84 thoughts on “The Bob Marshall Wilderness Open

  1. Pingback: The reality « Bedrock & Paradox

  2. Dave:

    Immediate thought: Badass that you are putting this together!

    I may be interested, but it all depends on how much I can train this winter in the Front Range of the Rockies with a newborn. This is certainly something that I will daydream about all winter, and I look forward to seeing how many others express interest as well…

  3. We have an airport here in Kalispell. Missoula is also fairly close, as is Great Falls. Not sure which might be cheapest. It might be complicated, but my hope is to help coordinate transport as best as possible, especially for folks from far away. I know flying here is damn expensive. More specific stuff will be arranged closer to the start to get folks to the beginning and from the end.

    To answer (publicly) some other questions which have come up:

    -You can do this without a packraft. It will limit your route choices, and you’ll want to exercise some serious discretion with a few creek/river crossings.
    -You will most likely want skis or snowshoes.
    -Temps could be anywhere between 20 and 80 F. Maybe colder, probably not warmer.
    -It is totally irrelevant how long you take. This is not a race. Times will be recorded for posterity as a measure of experience, which is the greatest end. I expect times between 48 hours and 7 days.

  4. Spent a couple hours when you first posted this poring over digital maps and the straight line distance (measured on the ground) is around 57 miles. The distance from point A to point B using only roads and trails (with the exception of one possible 1/4 mile offtrail near the end) is around 100 miles. Nearly double! How beautiful is that? A landscape so rugged and diverse that a trail system must swerve over and around such a mosaic as to nearly double it’s length to get from one point to another.

    Anyway, I have posed the option of this event to my roommate and we will be discussion entry over the coming months. I for one would be very excited to participate as would he but it will ultimately come down to drab work and / or school related factors for each of us respectively.

  5. If this winter is anything like last winter (another strong La Nina predicted…), it’s going to be SNOWY! I couldn’t believe how low the snow line was in mid-June when I rode to the west and then south of the Bob! I doubt I’ll be in this year, but perhaps next year if it happens again…

  6. Cool idea! ..and an amazing stretch of country. If spring 2012 is anything like 2011, better pack the galoshes!

    If you’re looking for a map of the Bob, and happen to be interested in accurate trail mileages, consider the new ones from cairn cartographics:
    The south half is available now and the north half is due out before the race.

  7. Count me in ! I’ve done some trips in the Bob in the fall and May is the new element snow or no snow?? Ultra light or expect winter oooya bring it on.


  8. Please sign me up. I will be driving from Minnesota for this one and could help with shuttling people from one side to the other.
    I am curious as to what parts of the route would be best traveled by packraft.
    Looking forward to it…

    • Welcome aboard Cyrus. There’s no “sign up,” just come. We’ll facilitate an online forum of some kind closer to the start date for folks to discuss the route and logistics (without a reply-all email orgy).

  9. This will be quite the “on-sight” challenge because I have never been there before. Too long of drive from Minneapolis. I am expecting more of a ski mountaineering gig at that time of the year.

    • I don’t know anything about paragliding, but it’d be interesting.

      I intend to provide enough info on conditions to make things good for folks who are going onsight, but not so much that all fun is spoiled. There’s some good beta on this blog, as well as, which will prove useful.

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  11. I’d love to do this sometime. Would give me a good excuse to ride my KLR down Canada. I attempted the AMWC race in 2010, and made 57 miles in 24 hours, but pulled out from hypothermia. And with the timing of this would make a great strength/endurance test for the AMWC race

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  13. That’s awesome that you’re planning this event Dave. The hiking community needs more stuff like this. I really hope this can continue on as a multi-year event.

    I wanted to experience the AMWC this year until I found out it falls in the middle of my set-in-stone 3 weeks on, 3 week off work schedule. Seeing this event briefly pumped me up until I checked and it’s also smack dab in the middle of another one of my 3 weeks on work rotations (May 17 – June 8). Disappointing…anyone one know of any other similar events? I love the small community vibe this one is going to have.

  14. Dave,
    I am ready to jump into packrafting and make the purchase. I think I have settled on the alpaca model with a spray deck. Do you have any opinions on what works or does not work for packrafting in the Bob? I have no clue what to buy for a paddle…
    Any direction would be appreciated.

  15. This trek looks like it’ll kick my tail. Perfect.

    First question: Would a few of you mind sharing your training plans with me? Currently I’m hiking/running a 2000 vertical foot ascent in the Rockies every day during my lunch hour but I’d like a bead on where most participants are at, physically speaking.

    Second question: Any new info on transport to and from the start and end points. I realize it’s still pretty early, but I was wondering if anybody knows if they’ll be available as a shuttle to a nearby airport. I’d be willing to chip in for gas, of course.

    • I expect that this event will draw some really hard-core endurance junkies. The types that go 72 hours on 2 hours of sleep and call it great fun.

  16. Please note the creation of an event-specific discussion forum at Further discussion of logistics, route planning, and so forth is encouraged there. Participation is not required.

  17. Thank you Dave for creating the posting board and for your efforts in getting this thing off the ground. Looking forward to my first time in that area of the county. I’m planning for similar weather to what we had in Alaska last summer but who knows, it could be all sunshine and clear skies! :) From the looks of this web site the snow has arrived as it has here in Colorado.

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  24. Dave,
    Please keep me informed of any updates. I found your blog while using “packraft” and “Glacier National Park” keywords, as I have been researching a trip to do with a friend in that area next Summer.

    • Derek, you can follow updates at the BPL discussion thread. General conditions discussion, as well as ride sharing from finish to start, will take place there.

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    • Mulling options. The question comes down to moving to new places to keep it entertaining for me and you, or keeping it roughly the same w/r/t time, place, and distance to keep growing it and serving the more aspirational crowd. At this point I’m leaning towards option 2.

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