The Bob Marshall Wilderness Open

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

The 2019 Open will start Saturday May 25th at 0800 MDT at the Swift Reservoir TH.  It will finish at the Swan Lake Campground (at the north end of Swan Lake townsite).

-This is not a race.

-You must be entirely self-supported and self-contained.  Take everything you need, and leave nothing behind 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.  No therapy llamas.

-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 in advance by each individual.

Results:

2012: Teton River Bridge to Hungry Bear

2013: Benchmark to Bear Creek

2014: Marias Pass to Monture Creek

2015: Holland Lake to Swift Reservoir

2016: Bean Lake to Cedar Creek CG

-2017: West Fork Teton to Lake Inez

-2018: North Fork Blackfoot to Marias Pass

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100 thoughts on “The Bob Marshall Wilderness Open

  1. 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…

  2. If flying in from Los Angeles, CA is Missoula the closest major airport? (Don’t know MT at all, sorry…)

    Cheers, hope this goes off well, maybe I can get out.

  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. I would LOVE to do something like this.

    One of these days….

  5. 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.

  6. 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…

  7. 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: http://cairncarto.com/home/maps
    The south half is available now and the north half is due out before the race.

  8. This sounds amazing! We’ve done work with the Patagonian Expedition Race (http://www.patagonianexpeditionrace.com/index.php) and
    http://raxacollective.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/patagonian-expeditions/ But your trek sounds really intense! Your photos are fabulous, what a privilege to live in such an amazing place. Congrats!

  9. 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.

    thanks,
    Les

  10. Seriously thinking of doing this.

    1. I keep asking myself “If not now, when?”

        1. Will be there!

  11. 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…

    1. 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).

  12. Route decisions and map daydreaming begins in 3 hrs…

  13. 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.

  14. If I knew how to paraglide, an approach like that used in The Red Bull Alps race (http://www.redbullxalps.com/) might come in handy if the winds were favorable.

    1. 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 packrafting.org, which will prove useful.

      1. Thank you.

        Google Earth is coming in very handy!

  15. A strong possibility that I would attend pending work related responsibilities.

  16. I’m in.

  17. I want to do this.

  18. I’ll be there in spirit – sounds great, and I love the guideline re: be prepared (my wife did too!).

  19. 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

  20. I’m planning to be there. Already bought my map!

  21. Psyched by the interest everyone. Will have more news in the new year.

  22. 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.

    1. Dan, I’m not sure of another event like this (aside from the AMWC). Where do you live? Organize another one!

  23. I might be able to make it after all….I won’t know for a couple months but I’m hoping.

  24. 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.

    1. Can’t go wrong with Alpacka, whichever model fits. A deck is essential. As far as packrafting paddles go, my thoughts are as follows:

      -For basic and bomber get an Aquabound (nylon blades, carbon shaft nice)
      -For just light get the Sawyer (the adjustment feature is nice)
      -For best performance and lots of $$ get a Werner (touring blade for non-gorrillas, WW blade for the burly and abusive)

      210 is a very versatile length, and a mid sized blade is best.

      1. that info definetely helps me Dave. Looking at the Alpacka web site I am now having a hard time deciding which spray skirt design to buy the 2012 or the 2011. Some decisions are so hard to make…
        Do you have any plans to post your Bob Marshall crossing route from last year?

  25. Rich Schreckengost February.2.2012 — 18:42

    Dave, is there an email list or a registration form? Anything like that? I’ll be there!!!!

  26. 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.

    1. 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.

  27. I’m hoping to setup a forum to discuss logistics and such soon. When I do, the details will be posted here.

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

  29. Rich Schreckengost March.7.2012 — 22:21

    Awaiting approval from a staff member. Staff member….APPROVE me! rps876.

    1. You’re set Rich. I do sleep occasionally.

      1. Hahaha. I was anxious. Cannot wait for this! Route and gear list is set.

  30. 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.

    1. Greg. Where in Colorado are you located?

      1. Denver, near DU

  31. I am seriously considering this. Not very far from me.

  32. Dave, are you planning on starting a new string for the 2013 event?

    1. No. Proboads was a bit of a nuisance. I’d like to see discussion evolve organically at another venue.

  33. Has a venue for discussion been considered/determined?

  34. 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

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  35. …looking forward to the announcement.

  36. Whatever you decide, it’ll be awesome. I’m hoping for a snow year that facilitates a ski route.

  37. Looking forward to participating in the 2016 open, Dave! Please include me in any outreach that you put together. Thanks!

  38. Excellent. Just need to plan the logistics. Thanks for the advance notice.

  39. Dave, is there any data out there on Straight Creek south of Benchmark? I’m going to invest in a packraft for 2016. Derek

  40. Historical Map of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Open: http://caltopo.com/m/ND5U

  41. Any word on what the new start and finish locations will be for 2017? Wasn’t sure when that normally gets released.

    1. Historically its been around now. Due to a variety of things it will be another month or so until I get the finish sorted definitively.

  42. as before, very much looking forward to this 🙂 it has become one of the biggest highlights of the year for me; thanks again for organizing this- was a little worried that with your move that the Open might have moved off your plate

  43. Any word on the 2018 start/finish?

    1. Expect word the first week of December.

  44. that’s a long traverse, not that the others haven’t been 🙂 I’m ready to go right now with a tough elk season under my belt, hopefully ready to go come May!

  45. Last night I dreamt I checked this page and you’d cancelled the 2019 Open with an announcement you were moving to New Jersey. Waking reality is much better.

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