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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Montana Uncertainty Quantification: A Math Conference at the University of Montana

The subset of the group on the hike, Day 1. 
 This past week was a big one for me. I put on a conference here at the University called Montana Uncertainty Quantification (MUQ). A few people had been bugging me to do this it for a while, and I finally did. It turned out to be a fantastic three days, with great talks and fun social activities. 
Hiking the trail up the south side of Jumbo.
I organized the talks to last from 9am-2.30pm each day, with the remainder of the afternoon free. On the first afternoon, a group of us hiked the M, then grabbed beers at the Southside Kettlehouse, and finally, had dinner at the Dinosaur Cafe in Charlie B's, where the regulars and seedy ambiance provided good entertainment. On the second day, a few of us hiked to the top of Mt. Jumbo, and then we all met at Dinner in the Park, where the band was better than usual. And finally, on the last day, we had a barbecue at my place, where spirits were high from a great three days. Here's a link to the conference web page. 
TC, Lucas, and Jim on the summit of Jumbo.
People came from all over the U.S. and the globe: from two different universities in Finland, U. Otago in New Zealand, MIT, NC State, Oregon State, Montana State, U. Montana, NSTec in Las Vegas, and the National Renewable Energy Lab in Denver. And the talks were uniformly good and interesting. It was a truly inspiring three days, giving me new and much needed inspiration.

Heading down from Jumbo.
The core of the group that attended MUQ was also at Southern Uncertainty Quantification (SUQ) 2+ years ago in Dunedin, New Zealand. We all like each other, enjoy a good time, and are serious about what we do. The group, if I do say so myself, puts out high quality work. I didn't speak myself, since I was organizing, which allowed me to sit back and observe a string of top notch talks.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Father's Day, Quartz Benchmark, Northern Bitterroots

I think that's Crater Mountain, looking south from the off trail portion of the hike.
On the morning of Father's Day, Jen was off to race in the Hair of the Dog Enduro here in Missoula, Alex was out in Deep Creek working on his '720 jump', and Ellie was just a few hours into sleep, having had stayed up until 4am the previous night. The thought of sticking around the house alone was depressing, so I decided to go hike Quartz Benchmark, which is located north of Heart Lake in the Northern Bitterroot/Great Burn, about 20 miles out of Superior. Quartz Benchmark is the high point of the Northern Bitterroot Mountains in Montana (the actual range high point is in Idaho). 

The hike ended up being a bit more than I bargained for, at nearly 20 miles, 6000 feet of gain, and 8 hours of near continual walking. The first half of the walk was on the heavily used trail to Heart and Pearl Lakes, which are popular destinations for Missoulians. The second half of the walk however, from Pearl Lake to Quartz, goes through rarely visited, rugged, and lonely country. This is a place to go if you really want to get away from it all. Here's my GPS route, which follows Cedron Jones' Peakbagging Montana.

I admit that I found the walk a lonely one, even with Pudge along, but the upshot is I thought a lot about my own father, who's been gone since 1999, something I rarely do for any extended period. He kept me company, and I thought about what advice he'd give me at this stage of life, given my struggles. He wasn't big on advice (a strength of his) and was just nice to be around, but still I'm sure he'd say something along the lines of: "Just relax, John, and enjoy your blessed life." 
Looking north from the ridge above Pearl Lake, along the ridge I walked to Lightning Peak (left) and Quartz Benchmark (middle back).
Looking south along the ridge, back at the summit (the one with trees on it) from which the last picture was taken.
Pudge taking a rest.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Leota Peak, Marshall Mountain, Pyramid Peak Loop: Swan Range/Bob Marshall Wilderness

Pudge on Pyramid Peak looking off at the Missions, nearing the end of a long day.

If you're like me, the Bob Marshall Wilderness is synonymous with long backpacking trips and deep back country that requires several days to access. Day trips into the Bob weren't really on my radar, but a few things came together to give me the impetus and idea to do this trip. First was Leota Peak's presence on the Rocky Mountaineers Swan Peak List and my corresponding desire to bag it. Next was Leota's proximity to the Pyramid Trail head (about 8 miles, mostly on trail), making it doable in a day. And finally, I had some inspiration from Brian Story's blog on a more ambitious but similar outing, and from Dan Saxton's suggestion to bag Leota via this loop. 

The loop has a lot going for it, especially for Missoulians who enjoy a rugged and strenuous outing: a large portion of it is within the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the trail head is less than 65 miles from Missoula, and the route is clean (requiring not-much bushwacking), gorgeous, and is doable in a day at 16.5 miles and  6700 feet of gain (it took me 8:40 without much stopping). Here's my GPS route.

Here's the basic route beta. Follow the Pyramid Pass trail over Pyramid Pass, and continue a couple of miles beyond the pass to where the trail crosses Youngs Creek, at the base of Leota Peak. Just after crossing Youngs Creek leave the trail and climb to Leota's summit. Then walk the nice, though at times rugged, ridge to Marshall Mountain. From Marshall to Pyramid, follow the ridge until things get too technical. At this point, I left the ridge to the east and then climbed Pyramid from the northeast. Finally, rather than hiking back to Pyramid Pass to gain the trail, follow the much more direct summit ridge southwest, eventually dropping left into a large grassy bowl. You can see the trail far below from near the summit, but it's a long strenuous descent down through rock, scree, bear grass, and some brush. Again, here's my GPS route.
The ridge to Leota from Marshall. Goat and Puma Peaks (also on the Rocky Mountaineers Swan list) are in the background. 
Matt Benchmark, the Missions, and Crescent Peak from Marshall Mountain
Pudge and Pyramid Peak from Marshall Mountain, Seeley Lake on the right.
Yours truly from Marshall Mountain, Goat and Puma Peaks on the left.
Goat and Puma Peaks. I'd like to climb these two beauties.
Count Peak, also on the Rocky Mountaineers Swan list and another one I'd like to climb. Looks challenging!
Pudge heading down the ridge from Marshall Mountain on the way to Pyramid Peak.
Looking back from Pyramid Peak at most of the connecting ridge to Leota Peak. Marshall Mountain is out of view to the left. Note Count, Goat, and Puma Peaks behind.
Last Balsam Root on the endless downhill heading south west off of Pyramid Peak back to the trail.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Glen Lake Peak, Bitterroot Range

From left to right: Bass Peak, Heavenly Twins, St. Joseph (in the distance), and St. Mary
If you don't have a ton of time, or have young ones, and want to get up on top of something in the Bitterroot, this trip is a good one. Glen Lake is known as a good introductory hiking/backpacking trip for families, as the lake is only a few miles in from the trail head without much elevation gain. If you continue on from the lake, following the inlet stream upwards, you'll come to two more small lakes that are less-visited and would make for great camps. At the head of this upper basin is Glen Lake Peak (8608 feet). It's only about 4 miles from the trail head with 2500 feet of gain, which is about as mellow as it gets for a peak in the Bitterroot. The views to the north from the summit of the St. Mary/Heavenly Twins ridge are the best that can be had. 

Excellent directions to the trail head and the summit can be found in Michael Hoyt's, Bitterroot Summits, and Michael also has a Summitpost page here with roughly the same information.
Ranger Peak ridge.

Pudge and Gash Point

Pudge again and the Heavenly Twin/St. Mary ridge. 

Chasing sticks

Friday, June 5, 2015

Alex Graduates

Alex's first ride without training wheels. I ran with him holding his seat and then let go without him knowing and off he went.
I've got a long layover to write this jet-lagged post. I'm heading back to Missoula for Alex's graduation tomorrow, arriving at midnight tonight. It's hard to believe, for sure, that he's 18 and leaving us. Wow! 

Alex has always been a Buddha kind of guy: mellow and not one to worry much, though during this past year, the weight of his plans and dreams has been sitting heavy on his shoulders. Becoming an adult is not easy or quick. 

On the other hand, Alex is intense and single minded. So far it's been with biking, but I'm guessing it will be one his defining characteristics through life. One of Kadin's old girlfriends once said, "Alex has the Bardsley vibe." Meaning he's like Kadin and I, quiet and intense, but he's also very different.

Athletics has been a main focus for Alex, always. He's a gifted athlete, and it's been a joy to watch him become a great skier and biker. The most memorable moments I've had with him have been while doing physical things: days on the water while surfing in New Zealand, backpacking trips, skiing, etc. One day that's been coming back to me recently was at Warrington Beach with big surf, paddling out beyond the waves on rough water and a big swell. Alex was scared, but we made it out. Actually so many amazing surf days in New Zealand: Murdering Beach and Karitane on those few NE swell days, Kaikoura, Hokitika, Australia, St. Claire beach -- lots of time together on the water. I'll never forget it.

It's been cool to see the transformation that has started to occur with Alex over the past year: working as a dishwasher, going to school, training on his bike. He wants to define himself on his own terms. As a parent, it's hard to let go of the influence you had when your kids were young. Some parents never do, and the result is a strained relationship. I keep telling myself that since I wanted out of my parents' sphere of influence (and still do), Alex is going to want that too. It's a hard gift for a parent to give, letting go. 

Anyway, I'll miss Alex terribly, but I think he's headed in the right direction, which is toward his passions. Life will teach him the rest. I just pray that I can show restraint (not give too much advice) and support, learn to say less and just be there when he wants someone to talk to. But also let him make and learn from his mistakes. I also pray that he'll stay safe. Godspeed Alex.
High school done.