Mountain Yarns: Where Mountain Tales Come To Life

Sarah May

As the snow begins to hint of a winter to come, the town of Bozeman begins to take on a new life. One free of tourists crowding Main Street and local watering holes. Trails quieted with a blanket of snow. Skis are dusted off and given a fresh coat of wax in hopes of fresh powder to be near. Familiar faces are seen around town as we take to Main Street shops and eateries for happy hour. A Montana Summer is fun, but winter belongs to us.

Snow begins to fall, and the tourists pack up their bags and head south for the winter, giving us free reign of the mountains we call home. The mountains paint the backdrop for our greatest stories and the narratives are waiting to be written. Stories full of epic fails and great defeats which can only be written up among the clouds. The winter mountains bring a host of characters to our stories, and we embrace each of them in their own unique way. Legends from the mountains keep us going back for more. We live here for the mountains and seek out their companions around the world. 

If you stop by the Mountain Project just north of Main Street, most days you’ll discover those with a passion for the mountains working out with hopes of conquering his or her personal goal up on the mountains. The clinging of weights mesh with an upbeat playlist filling the gym with sounds of hard work and a little bit of laughter. Some training for Patagonia and the likes, others just hoping to not be sore after a day on the slopes. However, if you time it just right, you’ll walk into a gym where the exercise bands have been rolled up, weights pushed to the side and treadmills gone silent. White plastic chairs replace exercise mats and a cooler of beer and soda replaces a collection of water bottles in the corner. A projection screen is erected with an epic mountain photo setting the backdrop. As the doors are unlocked a flood of mountain enthusiasts file in, making a small donation to a local nonprofit as they enter the gym.  

It’s here in a gym full of dumbbells and jump ropes, where epic narratives written up on the tops of mountains are shared. In what can only be described as a cross between a Ted Talk and open mic night at an indie coffee shop, Mountain Yarns comes to life with a bold, mildly psychedelic painting of Patagonia on the back wall while friends congregate on the padded gym floor. The word “Yarn” is often thought of as a string-like substance used for knitting, but the word “Yarn” can also be defined as “a narrative of adventures.” A perfect descriptor of stories birthed in various mountains around the world, all by the people who call Bozeman home. From conquering fears to falling short of goals, the stories we live in the mountains are shared with a community who love to hate the mountains.

It’s here at Mountain Yarns where people such as Jason Tanguay share about his first attempt at summiting Mount Everest. Tanguay recalled his 2001 hike up Mt. Everest where a perfect day on the mountain was quickly upended by a  much-needed rescue mission. Tanguay and his team were an hour away from summiting Everest, when the team’s plans quickly changed to rescue another team of hikers. The second team unable to make it safely down the mountain due to ill health and little oxygen. Tanguay and his team stepped in. While a wide-eyed crowd listened to his tales of Everest, Tanguay’s heart for the climbing community was evident. It wasn’t the stories he logged while hiking Everest, but the one he hopes to change. After sharing his epic rescue mission detour, Tanguay shared his desire for the hiking community to lend a helping hand when up above the treeline. He aims to change the hiking culture to be one where being self-absorbed and stopping for nothing is erased by the desire to be a good human, and help where help is needed. Had Tanguay not stopped, the second team of hikers would have not made it home. It’s stories such as Tanguay’s epic mountain rescue fueled by being a decent human that are shared at Mountain Yarns. 

The team at the Mountain Project isn’t aiming to build a gym to win various fitness competitions, but to build a place in Bozeman where it feels more like home compared to a gym. Where people feel inspired by others living life out in the mountains. From epic stories of successes and failures to stories of two guys’ human-powered ascent of Denali by various means, such as bikes and skies. The Mountain Yarns event is a place of storytelling because no two days in the mountains are ever the same. The narratives written in the mountains give us a perspective of life’s deepest questions and also make us question our sanity. Getting to share those stories around a crowded gym knits the Bozeman community closer together. It’s time where you meet new people and get to have a few minutes to catch up with old friends. Mountain Yarns isn’t just for those who attempt to climb Everest; it’s for everyone. 

Once a month during the winter, storytellers gather as a community and relive their most memorable moments all in the name of mountain adventure. Mountain Yarns takes place on the first Thursday of every month. While there is no entry fee, a $10 donation is encouraged. Door open at 7 and the story telling begins at 7:30 p.m.  

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