Maggie Carr and Yve Bardwell of Choteau’s Dropstone Outfitting were recently named by Outside magazine as two of the top 10 mountain guides in the country.
“I was really flattered that we got that nomination. I wasn’t expecting it,” Bardwell said. “When I saw the other businesses highlighted in that article, it was humbling, really.”
“We didn’t even know about it until after the article was published,” added Carr. “I had been back in the mountains, and Yve hadn’t seen it when someone told us about it. It’s a really cool thing to be a part of.”
Carr said she suspects the nomination came from the Montana Office of Tourism. “The office has really been trying to put Montana on the map, and we really appreciate that,” she said. According to Carr, approximately 65% of Dropstone Outfitting’s clientele are from Montana, with large numbers of people coming to the Choteau area from Missoula, Kalispell and Bozeman.
Dropstone Outfitting specializes in stock-supported hiking trips into the Bob Marshall Wilderness. They offer some basecamp setups for long-distance hikers and some shorter backpacking trips with limited support, but they mostly focus on providing guided hikes ranging from four to 10 days in the wild.
“We really excel at our hiking trips. That’s what we’re known for,” said Bardwell. “We’re really fortunate to be able to change up our routes each year. I love being able to spend time back in the mountains and always see something new.”
Their most popular trip is a hike to the famed Chinese Wall, a large escarpment in the Bob Marshall Wilderness that makes up part of the continental divide and takes multiple days to hike to.
Four staff members accompany each guided hike: two guides and two more people to help pack the horses or mules. With that crew, they can accommodate groups of up to 11 people. (There is an area-wide limit of 15 people per party in the wilderness.) The staff also does all the cooking and route planning for the trip, so the clients can focus on enjoying their hiking trip while carrying just a small day pack.
“We’re unique in that we’re the only outfitters in the area who exclusively do foot travel into the Bob Marshall Wilderness,” said Carr.
The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex — which encompasses more than 1.5 million acres in Montana including the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Great Bear Wilderness and Scapegoat Wilderness — is special to Bardwell and Carr for multiple reasons.
Bardwell said the most special qualities for her are “its vastness, its ecological diversity and the significance it holds as far as public lands are concerned in our country.”
“It’s one of the largest wilderness areas in the lower 48,” added Carr. “Combine that with the Rocky Mountain Front, where the prairie meets the mountains, and the beauty around here is amazing. The beauty of the landscape comes from it being so naturally intact.”
Those interested in planning a trip with Dropstone Outfitting can call 289-0863 or visit dropstoneoutfitting.com.