JonALA here, Austin-Lehman’s website manager and travel guide. I’ve lived in Montana for six months now and have seen a good part of the state so far, Yellowstone, Beartooths, Glacier National Park and now the Pryor Mountains.
The Pryor Mountains distinguishes its self from the other parts of the state and leaves you with a feeling of nostalgia for the past. Inspired by the era when Native America’s roamed these lands in search of survival, I returned to the Pryor Mountains this past weekend to test myself, dubbing the weekend, “The Man Test.”
In survivor man fashion I only brought a hammock, a firesteel 2.0 (just like a flint), the clothes on my back and an empty water bottle.
No water, no food, no tent, no sleeping bag and no jacket.
I drove from Billings to the Pryors, which is about an 1 1/2 hour drive and then you have about 3-5 miles of serious off roading to get up to Bear Canyon where I decided to start my challenge. I had started out with the idea to hopefully find some water within the canyon, unfortunately it was too late in the year and there was no water to be found.
I quickly found myself with a real dilemma
, do I continue going knowing that there was no water ahead of me or do I turn back. It only took me a second to decide that I came out here for a reason and that reason was to test myself, so I pushed on deeper into the canyon. I thought to myself, “well now it is a survival situation”
and at that moment I walked directly over a rattlesnake sunbathing
) on the trail. Being late in the day, the snake was lethargic and didn’t move. I got real lucky I didn’t step on him and get bit.
Once I got past the rattlesnake, I hiked about a mile into the canyon before I ascended the steep canyon side to get to the top of the cliffs. The climb consisted of very steep and rocky terrain coupled with the hot sun and no water made it all the more challenging.
Once I got up the first cliff I decided I wanted to camp on the highest plateau I could find, so I hiked a bit further to the next cliff bend (picture
). This climb consisted of actually climbing the cliff, but it gave me piece of mind that I probably wouldn’t have any visitors disturbing me during the night.
Once I got to the top I took some time to digest the breathtaking landscape in front of me. After a moment of retrospect, I set up camp for the night. Which consisted of setting a hammock up in the trees (picture
This is where the lack of food and water started to play a factor on my psyche, setting up my hammock should have been a simple task. But first I had a tree branch break and then I struggled to level my hammock out. Nothing that should have been a problem, but without a clear head I caught myself getting more frustrated then I should have been.
Once I conquered my accommodations for the night, I ventured out to find some cactus to eat, I thought that if I could just get a little bit of water and nutrients from the cactus it would help. Once again I got to the Pryors too late in the year and the cacti were dried out and useless to eat.
Once I got back to my campsite from the cactus patch, I took some time to take some photos
and enjoy the sunset that was unfolding all around me. The old juniper trees made for some great shots.
Moments like this don’t happen all the time, being out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but yourself. Everything seems to come together and you feel like you’re one with nature.
These mountains and canyons really do make you feel like you stepped back in time. The canyons are filled with beautiful caves in which you can picture Native Americans and early settlers surviving in. It was privilege to be able to share my own survival situation where so many have done before me.
I decided to build a fire with my little firssteel 2.0, (It is a neat little steel stick to get a spark going) and call it a night.
My hammock was a comfortable place to sleep, but with no protection from the wind that stirred up during the night and nothing but a shirt and pants, I got pretty cold around 4:30am. I decided to get up and get a fire going, I ended up trying to get some sleep next to the fire.
I awoke to a grand sunrise over the Pryors and took some time to see how my body was handling the no water or food. I felt pretty good for a few hours of sleep and knowing that all I had to do was hike out gave me some confidence to finish what I started.
That’s it, I made it back to my car in one piece and couldn’t wait to get to the nearest gas station and get some water! I got home and ate an entire pizza!
Just so its crystal clear! I don’t recommend anyone go into the backcountry without food or water. It is so important to always be prepared anytime you go into the wilderness. That includes bringing extra food, water and clothing just incase you do find yourself in a REAL survival situation.