pre 00 hours No entry fees, no t-shirts, no aid stations, no trophies- just a badassery annual trek across the Bob Marshall Open Wilderness Complex in May. Not too many rules- it has to be under your power (rafts, snowshoes, skis or feet) and everything has to be carried on your back and fully self sustained; the start and finish points change each year, the routes you chose on how to get there is up to you. The typical distances range from 90-120 miles depending on the year and the routes you choose- the shortest route frequently doesn't translate into the quickest route. This was my fifth Open and quite frankly is typically the highlight of my year. I train year round, but this is a good share of my motivation for training. In addition to a year's investment in training, there is months of work looking at different routes, coming up with multiple alternative routes, figuring out bailing points (if needed); deciding on what gear, how much food to take, etc. One of the key factors in finally settling on a route and deciding what gear to take is the weather. This year we had above average snowpack, but not a lot of warm weather to melt it out- that translates into more time on snowshoes/skis, but could ease concerns on fording the numerous streams/rivers you have to cross. I was teaming up with John (four prior Opens), Thad (two prior Opens) and Andrew (one prior Open). It's always understood that someone(s) will make a change in a route and go their own way, could be someone has to bail, someone wants to go slower/faster. Andrew was bringing a raft, so there was some obvious divergence on his route. The starting point this year was Swift Dam, which drains Birch Creek- basically in the northeast corner of the Bob Complex, finish was the Swan Lake campground on the far west side. We had chosen three routes- one based on lower stream flows where we would have to ford the Middle Fork of the Flathead (big water!), one based on average stream flows where we would have to ford a couple of larger drainages (but not as large as the MF Flathead) and one based on high flows which meant longer (and more snow covered) miles, but avoided most of the more hazardous crossings. We watched the flows (via the USGS site) diligently and watch the flows drop with the cool weather and finally settled on option one, which entailed a cross of the Middle Fork. The weather forecast was rather dire, lots of precipitation rain lower, snow higher and unseasonably cool weather. The cooler weather isn't a big issue, lots of precipitation is. Friday night my wife and I (and Tiny Elvis) headed north to the East Front of the Rockies. We stopped in the little town of Dupuyer to meet up with some of the other participants and enjoyed big burgers and a few beers. Even the drive is awfully easy on the eyes. We got to Swift Dam and got tents setup, fires going and some story telling We woke early to one of the most enthusiastic coyote choruses I've ever listened too; Tiny E was impressed! I made a big breakfast of eggs, chorizo, cheese wrapped in tortillas, washed done with copious amounts of pressed coffee. No rain yet, things were looking up. Five minutes before the 8:00 AM start we posed for a picture, 24 participants this year- a record. Tiny Elvis made it into the picture, but didn't go- much to his chagrin!