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Mountain High



Missoulians were reminded of the dangers inherent in climbing the world’s highest mountains this week as two Montana climbers, Luke Casady of Stevensville and Ansel Vizcaya of Missoula, perished in a massive avalanche on Mount Rainier’s famed Liberty Ridge. Both men were respected climbers, and the 29-year-old Casady—a familiar name to readers of this column—had long served as a mentor to budding mountaineers, leading trips for the New Rocky Mountaineers and more recently for the fledgling Alpine Club of Missoula, a group he formed. Vizcaya and Casady were the third and fourth alpinists to die on the route this month.

Here in Montana, on-again, off-again precipitation has combined with hot-then-cold-then-hot temps to give whitewater aficionados a wide variety of rapidly fluctuating water levels. Still, both of Missoula’s prime whitewater options, the Alberton Gorge and the Blackfoot River, have already posted peak flows, cresting at about half their normal volumes.

Fortunately, there’s still plenty of whitewater to be had this year, and Montana River Guides are hosting a free kayak clinic for ages 11 and up this Sunday on Frenchtown Pond from noon to 4 p.m. They’ve got the boats and instructors, so call 240-8060 to get on board.

Glacier Raft Company in West Glacier has started its summertime fly-casting clinics, with flick-wristed instructors casting at 6 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday through the end of August at the company’s trout pond. Call to confirm at 1-800-235-6781.

The multi-sport team and individual races that took Western Montana by storm last year are back again, and if you didn’t have a chance to run, kayak, road bike, mountain bike, canoe, and then run again last year, now might be your time. The Second Annual Glacier Challenge covers more than 50 miles, pitting teams and individuals against each other as they go deep into the wonderful world of endorphins, mud and whitewater. Race day is July 3 at Smith Youth Sports Park in Whitefish, so log on to to get it on!

The smorgasbord of activities served up by the Montana Natural History Center continues to overflow with bountiful summer offerings, and this week the emphasis is on the 55+ crowd. The Elderhostel program is offering a week-long all-inclusive “On the Trail with Lewis and Clark: A Montana Natural History Tour.” As the first session of two, the June 27–July 2 adventure will retrace the empire-building steps of the famous explorers and give participating fogies the opportunity to score “behind-the-scenes looks at the historic sites and natural history right in their own backyards!” Count on guided bird walks, trips to the bison range, high-elevation field trips and visits to expedition sites around the Bitterroot. To register, call the MNHC at 327-0405, and then write a check for $295. (The same opportunity is available from August 1-6.)

Calling all runners! Perhaps more than any other day on Montana’s calendar, Saturday, June 26, packs in more incentive for pavement pounders, trail trotters and fitness fools of all ilks to hit the competitive running circuit. Endorphin junkies not participating in the Glacier Challenge (see above) might check out the Jim Bridger 50K trail run. This booty-kicker will have participants running, falling and crawling through the high-elevation Bridger Mountains near Bozeman. Count on creek crossings, 11,000’ of up/downs, first-aid emergencies, and if you’re lucky, slow-moving bears watching the action. Cost is $50 for indies, $70 for teams, and line-up is slated for 6 a.m. Log on to ~thayes/runs/runs.html to sign up.

The Montana USATF State Road Race Championship (10K) takes place on June 26, coinciding perfectly with the 27th Annual Whitefish 5K and 10K Lake Runs. No race-day signup is allowed, so be sure to call Bill at the Sportsman Ski Haus (758-7411) prior to race day to get on the shortlist. A $15 entry fee is required for adults, $10 for kids.

Runners can get it on at the Celebrate the Swan Road Race, a 1-mile fun run, along with a 5K and a 10K on Forest Service roads near Condon. This also-on-June-26 race will cost you $15, but you’ll score a cool T-shirt and post-race grub, as well as relays and games for the kiddies. Call the Swan Ecosystem Center at 754-3137 to sign up, and don’t forget there’s morels in them thar hills…

Hey runners: Ever notice that there’s always an ambulance hanging out at road races? If you’d like to do your part to help fund the hard-working crews that will be standing by, consider lacing up your runners and heading over to Deer Lodge for the Prison Break Run. This 10K, 8K, 5K and 3K race starts early at the Old Territorial Prison on June 26, with profits going to Powell County Ambulance Services. Get your 15 bones together and call Lori at 846-3472 to make a run for it.

If you’re looking for something brand spankin’ new to try on Saturday, June 26, consider heading to Bigfork for the First Annual Huff and Puff 5K Run and Fitness Walk. Twenty dollars will get you a race number, a T-shirt and a fine reason to huff and puff. Call Jodee at 837-1574.

Now that Montanans can access their State Parks for FREE, consider one or two Fish, Wildlife and Parks programs offered at Salmon Lake State Park on June 25 and 26. At 8 p.m. on Saturday, speaker Dick Solum will talk about the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and their important role in keeping geographically distinct animal populations connected through corridors and habitat. Or, on Sunday at 7:30 p.m., join Jarod Raithel as he talks about the threats faced by elk calves as they grow up on the Garnet Mountains. For more information, call FWP interpretive intern Jay Slocum at 542-5533.

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