My alarm broke the silence of my deep sleep as my eyes opened to the 4am darkness. It's been almost two weeks since I said goodbye to Joe until the end of August. Now here I was back in Bozeman, Montana with our good friend Laramie, waking up for the next adventure.
I’ve been in Kalispell working at the largest 3 day event in the country called Rebecca Farm. After ten days I made the five hour drive south to Bozeman to spend time with Laramie. She had briefly ran the idea of the Bridger Range Traverse across me while thinking of things to do while I was visiting. After some research, I quickly became obsessed with the idea.
I watched the virtual tour on google earth (a rare luxury for most hikes), and read that the trail traveled 19.5 miles, summited six peaks over 9,000 ft, all while ascending around 5,000 ft, and with a descent of more than 7000 ft. With the steepest grade being 50%, I knew it would be an absolute sufferfest but a must do and hopefully enjoyable experience.
The morning of our adventure we woke up to the early hours of darkness with the goal of being on the trail by 5:30am. With this hike being across a mountain range we had to caravan and drop my car off at the College M trailhead, that marked the end of the hike. We hopped into Laramie's truck and drove parallel to the Bridger Range and watched as the sun lit up our days objective. We arrived at the Fairly Lake Trailhead and ended up starting our hike 45 minutes later than planned. With the cool morning air and barely any clouds in the sky we were in no rush.
|Pre Climb Photo|
We began our hike up and quickly arrived at our first summit. Sacajawea Peak marked our high point for the day at 9,612ft. Feeling strong and with about 18 miles ahead of us we took a quick summit photo and were on our way. We descended down and were surrounded by the colors of thousands of wildflowers. We each picked yellow daisies and placed them behind our ears, and tasted the drops of sugar water from Indian Paint Brushes.
|Summit of Sacajawea Peak|
We walked around the base of Ross peak and admired the sheer cliff faces that towered above us. The trail slowly went back up and as we gained Ross pass we placed our packs on a stump and enjoyed a quick break. At 7,650ft we made it to the pass. With Ross to our left and Naya Nuki to our right we were in a beautiful saddle of green, alpine meadows. The world of work and responsibilities seemed to float away as we indulged in the euphoria that was around us.
The trail quickly climbed up as we came to our next summit of the day. We stood on top of Naya Nuki while thousands of bugs clinged to our sweaty skin. The photo on the summit seemed to take forever as our arms flung in every which way to try to relieve ourselves of the annoying pests.
|Summit of Naya Nuki with our Ross and Sacajawea Behind us|
In front of us lied the never ending miles of the Bridger Traverse and our accomplishments behind us already seemed so far away. At this point the trail stayed on top of the ridge as the city of Bozeman looked like a town of toys to our west and to our east the distant mountain ranges filled the horizon.
|Miles to Go|
Before we knew it ahead of us the clouds started to darken. That little voice inside of us started to make us keep an eye out for possible threats. With us being the highest thing for miles our pace quickened as we walked passed the chair lifts above Bridger Bowl.
|Trying to stay stoked even with a storm ahead of us|
The deep rumbling of the clouds made us stop. With metal trekking poles in each hand I knew I was my own personal lightning rod. With miles and miles of hiking behind us and what seemed like less distance ahead of us, nature made the decision for us to push on and try to get off the ridge before the storm rolled in. Our pace was now demanding our breathing to keep up at an exhausting pace. My heart pounded in my chest but was silenced by the thunder ahead of us.
|Hiking towards the storm|
We climbed to the top of Baldy and started to descend back down to the forest below. Feeling now relieved to be in a safer zone my gut started to make me question our direction. I stopped and called out to Laramie that I thought we were going the wrong way. We climbed around a rock outcropping only to see our trail on the other side of the mountain. We ascended back up a vertical 500ft to the summit of Baldy and towards the ever looming clouds.
|Beautiful just a few hours before|
Our pace stayed in a quick metronome as we climbed another peak, then another one and just as we thought we had climbed our last summit we were once more disappointed to see three more ahead of us.
Luckily the storm stayed to the east of us and our pace slowed back down as we tried to catch our breath. The feeling of trying to race nature dissolved and the pain of my blisters reemerged back into my brain. I thought to myself that the descent must be close. Finally we saw the road from which the trailhead was connected to. If you squinted your eyes you could see the cars driving along it, not exactly the best sign… But we ate our crackers, drank our water and pushed on.
|Ready to be done.|
The edge of the storm sent wind and rain into us from the east. Laramie looked at me, threw her hands in the air and hollered with encouragement. Adrenaline fueled me to our last peak as we saw the trail descend down the ridge. Our feet moved like mountain goats to escape the wind. Once back into the forest and in the protection of the trees we rested. Our legs felt like they had chains connected to the ground. The pins and needles in our feet made the last 3 miles to the trailhead seem forever away.
The descent was slow moving, but before we knew it we were starting to emerge back into civilization. We passed hikers who seemed to notice our apparent exhaustion. Each leg flung out in front of us to catch our bodies weight as the trail grade subsided. As we stepped onto the pavement, rain drops welcomed us back to the car. After 12 hours and 45 minutes of hiking, I turned around to smile with success at Laramie as she threw her hands in the air and yelled out for the whole trailhead to hear.
|Post Climb photo|
We sat on the pavement and high fived. Its as if our bodies knew that the day's excursions were over and stopped suppressing our muscles fatigue. The pain from my blisters radiated throughout my feet and Laramies shook with exhaustion. But with the feeling of exhaustion came the feeling of happiness, success and being thankful to have achieved such a great accomplishment.
The Bridger Range Traverse was hands down the hardest hike I've done. The idea that people run the entire thing in a race is absolutely mind blowing and hats off to them. I feel so lucky to have been able to share such a big day with such a great friend. There's nothing better than to spend time out in a beautiful place with a great person.