Add: The stories are piling up over on the BPL forums. As ever some fantastic stuff, with maybe a bigger dose of happy suffering than usual. Massively inspired; thanks everyone.
With 18 starters we did set a record for participants this year, and beyond that we certainly set a record for the number of kids, dogs, and significant others camping the night before, which given that the confluence of the North and West Forks of the Teton is one of my favorite places was fun to see. Plenty of folks asked me if I had regrets at not doing the hike myself, which I didn’t and don’t. For one, I was and am still quite tired and was glad to spend two nights in a cabin hanging out. For another, I’ve crossed the Bob over a dozen times now, which makes it ever harder to find routes where I haven’t majorily done. For yet another, the weather and conditions took a drastic turn for the better which removed some of the novelty from the particular course. But most important I was able to step back, chat (when I wasn’t chasing the kid), and see everyone’s eyes as they were getting ready. Which was really fun.
Participants in the 2017 Bob Open are making their way west towards the Clearwater River this morning. Some may finish today, but it is looking like 3 days and change will be the mean for this longer and tougher course.
Mike M spent last night near Basin Creek along the Danaher, and has been moving well this morning and indeed all weekend. Especially with the rivers being on the large side, how to get across the South Fork of the Flathead is far and away the biggest pinch point. Only one person I know of brought a packraft this year, and I assume almost everyone if not everyone else will use the Big Prairie pack bridge. Depending on what route he chooses over the Swan Crest, expect Mike to cross the river late this morning and camp up high this evening. His route down the North Fork of the Sun and over Stadler Pass is a bit longer than a few other options, but by far the surest in terms of minimizing miles on snow
Dan Durston started with ski gear and not much else, and a bold plan to match, hoping for ~50% of his miles on snow and a 48 hour finish. Early yesterday afternoon he was at Big Prairie and his 48 hour aspiration seemed within reach, provided he avoided significant errors skiing up and over the Swan. Instead, due to injury, fatigue from his first 36 hours, or snow conditions less than expected, he continued hiking south along Youngs Creek and took a ~6 hour camp this past night. Dan started with only 6000 calories, and a sleeping bag but no shelter of any kind, so he has to be feeling fairly well out there this morning. Depending on how hard the climb over the crest into Grizzly Basin proves, he ought to finish mid to late afternoon today. And I would imagine be quite hungry. He and his wife are starting the Great Divide Trail Thursday, and for that reason he declared Friday evening that he couldn’t get too beat up on this traverse. I don’t think he succeeded.
It appears that Chase, and ones assumes his partner Derek, bailed out Benchmark late yesterday. They were going well Saturday, camping near the forks of the Sun, but it seems that something went wrong yesterday afternoon.
Tyler, Jon, and Justin (of Missoula) have left a track with sparse points, but what evidence we have suggests they’ve been going quite well. The first day saw them make the patrol cabin up Rock Creek, a solid day with a long and rather monotonous push up from Gates Park. One assumes they tackled the scenic and on a snow year like this quite difficult crossing of Larch Hill Pass yesterday, and this morning they were closing in on Big Prairie. Provided all goes well a finish later this evening seems quite possible.
The weather east of the Continental Divide has this weekend been exceptional. Friday had a hard freeze, which should have made for good snow conditions, and the past three days have been sunny, mildly windy, and if anything a little too hot. The sunny days brought rivers up a bit, but not as much as might have been expected. I expect most folks will have had a pleasant time out, at least insofar as conditions are concerned.
The absence of any outstandingly fast time this year I put off partly to Dan having taken a route gamble and lost, but mostly on only one packrafter, and a route which avoids big stretches on the South Fork. For me the likely fastest route certainly involved floating the North Fork of the Sun, which probably would have gone from Wrong Creek to the takeout near Sun Butte in around 4 hours, as well as either the White River or Danaher Creek. I meant for the finishing stretch to present the most difficult route choice, and on that front it will be interesting to see how folks do on their various routes this afternoon and tomorrow.
Many people have asked what is next for the Open, and when if every it might travel beyond the Bob complex? It is time for that to happen, but options that provide comparable diversity and wilderness character are hard to find. Two of the best options I’ve all but discarded for legal obstacles; the Greater Yellowstone due to the impracticality of going across a national park, and the Colorado Plateau due to the difficulty of both including bikes and making a bike non-essential without all but asking everyone to break the law (you can’t possess a bike off trail in Glen Canyon Rec Area, though it is done often). I need to know more about the Selway-Frank, and other places in the northern Rockies I worry about being too roaded. Introducing some variety while maintaining the same character, will be my big challenge for next year. An earlier Open in the Bob certainly would not be out of the question.