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Max Lowe shoots from above the road as Dylan Layman tucks through a straightway riding off of the Beartooth Pass; Photograph by Graeme MacPherson

Montana by Dirt: Longboarding the Highest Highway in the Northern Rockies

In most every adrenaline sport, there is some exposure to the possibility of death as a result of participation. Watching friends Noah Clarke, Mike Dembek, and Dylan Laymen riding longboards off the pass on the Beartooth Highway, the highest paved highway in the Northern Rocky Mountains, seemed like the far side of that risk spectrum. They could speed around switchbacks in the road going 45 miles an hour—and close to 60 mph on the straightaways while cars in the other lane sped past mere feet away. Just watching from the lead safety car was almost scarier than the idea of jumping in and trying to partake in the high-speed game of wind and asphalt that these young athletes seemed so calm and willing to play.

The Adventurists blog series is sponsored by Toyota, which provided a Toyota 4Runner Trail vehicle.

Watching from the back of the 4Runner with my camera in position, we struggled at times to keep enough speed to stay a safe distance ahead of the riders. It was obvious how tried and practiced our friends were at this high-risk, high-consequence sport. Riding in pairs or three with the lead rider watching for environmental hazards—gravel in the road, an oncoming car, or maybe a stray tourist crossing the road to take a picture—was taken into account and translated to the following riders by a clap of the plastic palmed gloves which were also used to drag a hand when power sliding to slow down.

As an outsider looking in on this sport, it is absurd to even consider the learning curve. But for those who take it to the level we witnessed off the Beartooth Pass with Noah, Mike and Dylan, it’s apparently just another run and round of fun. “This is relatively slow for us,” says Dylan. “In some of the races we compete in we’re getting up to 70 miles an hour.”

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Dylan Layman, Mike Dembek, and Noah Clark link hands to conserve speed on a straightway, moving faster and more aerodynamically; Photograph by Graeme MacPherson

The following day we would be climbing with my dad and professional mountaineer, Conrad Anker, outside Bozeman, Montana. I had grown up climbing with my family and to this day high exposure, hanging on the side of a cliff is where my adrenaline levels peak, but compared to riding off the Beartooth Pass on a long board, climbing sounded tame.

For Montana by Dirt, Max Lowe, Brody Leven, and Graeme MacPherson take on 400 miles of dirt roads to find extraordinary adventures from Yellowstone to Glacier. See all the Montana by Dirt posts.

The Adventurists are driving a 2014 Toyota 4Runner Trail.

Video “Rolling and Rock” music credits: “Blinded” featuring Michal Madeline by Onomono; “Loops” by Leon Sommer