It’s time to start planning the 2019 Bob Open.  If you want to cut to the chase, click here to take a 1 minute survey.

Until recently the process of picking a route across the Bob has been simple; I pick out a few places I haven’t been and want to go (often this had to do with the list of un-run or scouted creeks and rivers), identify the nice or at least decent place to camp at the start, and call it good.  Today, I’ve crossed the Bob 12-20 times, depending on the rigor of your definition, and my eyes naturally drift elsewhere.  Here moving to Helena has been a huge blessing, without the singular lure of Glacier and the Bob it’s been easy to look in all directions, and in each case I’ve only found more reasons to go back and go deeper.

The Bob is singular amongst areas in the Northern Rockies.  It is big, it lacks the logistical issues inherent in a National Park, it has lots of floatable rivers and the terrain is complex enough that facilitating multiple options is easy.  The downsides of the Bob, aside from the fact that we’ve all been there for the last 7 years, include long shuttles between trailheads, a relative lack of sustained alpine terrain and thus more technical routes, and an again relatively large amount of extent planning information.  And it lacks personal interest for me.

But this isn’t just about me.  I’ve gotten immense satisfaction out of teaching by proxy, putting people out in the Bob during the spring.  I want to keep doing what will benefit and interest the most people.  Problem with the Bob specifically include that as spring keeps getting warmer faster, the snow factor remains lower than optimal, and rivers tend towards high enough that I worry about accidents.  I also worry that as the Bob becomes more “known” in the internet sense, the probability of woefully unprepared folks showing up and not making good choices increases.  On the other hand, I worry that the other options would just not be as cool.

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For instance, the two options above.  The first goes across the Little Belts from SE to NW, and would cross a bunch of big canyons and high ridges which get a lot of snow and, once things melt out just enough to keep the sleds out, get very little traffic.  Lots of dirt roads, as any perusal of maps will tell you, which raises the spectre of both mountain bike routes, and lots of road walking.  The second option, starting on the West Fork of Rock Creek and running SE across the Pintlers, crosses some big elevation, but requires a paved road crossing, and more significantly, some dancing around private property to do so.  This last is a major issue in parts of Montana; it’d be awesome to for example end the first route by crossing the Smith and traveling through the Big Belts to York, but the west bank of the Smith River is almost impossible to manage for a diffuse event like the Bob Open.

A larger question is what kind of event the Bob will become.  Will it be something locals and semi-locals can integrate into a long weekend, a keystone events for backpackers looking to step up to the next level, or will it be a destination endeavor, a major undertaking out of which most anyone is lucky to emerge without carrying entrails and eyeballs in one hand?

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Like this one.

Making the Bob more of a ski and snowshoe affair has also been a longtime thought of mine, along with doing something in the southwest.  Those are also options I’d like feedback on, from past and prospective participants.

So fill this out, please.  Three questions only.