On October 11th, 2009 Matt Lutz and Sam Haraldson drove to the Continental Divide along the desolate Montana Hwy 200. Arriving at the 5,610 ft trailhead and finding just shy of a meter of snow paired with temperatures around 10 deg F the duo put on their hardmen game face, snowshoes, backpacks, and began climbing from Roger’s Pass to the Crown of the Continent – the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.
For the previous months Matt and Sam had been planning a route across parts of the Helena National Forest comprised primarily of the Bob Marshall with the expectation of traveling between 130 and 165 miles as part of the loosely-organized wilderness adventure race Parcour de Wild. As the date for the trip grew nearer the snow began to fall in NW Montana and Sam and Matt’s chances of making 150 miles along the Continental Divide grew slim. Much planning had gone into the route and little time was left to create a Plan B so when Matt arrived at Sam’s house in Bozeman after driving from Minnesota the two stuck with their plan.
Even with the first steps from the highway, over the five foot embankment of plowed snow, up the switchbacks to the top of the first ridgeline Sam was doubtful of the teams ability to complete their route. Being the perservering type he kept his mouth shut and mentally determined his mindset would be that of forward-progress with no particular end-goal intent. Sam and Matt discussed their plans in ongoing dialog as they walked for the first and second day. Sometime during the second day after having only made less than a dozen miles they knew the focus of the trip should change from fast and light adventure race mode to an enjoyable winter camping trip.
After a decision to hike out-and-back rather than push on toward the finish was determined – a decision which did not negatively affect either hiker – the lightness of step that is found in any fun backcountry excursion continued with each snowshoe placed into the glistening white powder. Matt and Sam hiked until a pre-determined time, had some lunch, melted some water, and then began back-tracking their steps toward the trailhead and waiting automobile.
Although we set out to do a light and fast adventure race both Matt and Sam decided to themselves and openly to each other that this sort of pursuit would be better suited to them in summer months. Matt is an ultramarthon runner with multiple races under his belt and Sam is a thru-hiker with a couple long trails to his name. They both enjoy hikes in the 20 to 30 mile range and if this race had taken place one or two weeks earlier the duo felt they would have been in contention.
Only two other racers opted to participate in the event and they were successful, completing their intended route with smashing success. Dave Chenault and Kevin Sawchuk’s race report can be viewed with a subscription to BackpackingLight.com at Parcour de Wild 2009. It was rewarding to both Matt and Sam to hear the other two had participated and completed the route for it added a legitimacy to the event. The four men who were out in the cold that snowy week in October may not have all finished but they could be certain they had planned, prepared, and set-out to do it. There were eight other individuals who originally intended to race the Parcour de Wild that ultimately did not. There is something to be said for at least giving it a go.
Video Trip Report:
The full set of photos for this trip can be seen at: