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Columbia Falls senior profile: For Soyland, the mountains are calling

May 29—By CHRIS PETERSON

Hungry Horse News

The summer between his sophomore and junior year at Columbia Falls High School, Anders Soyland figures he climbed about 40 peaks in Glacier National Park.

More than a few of his classmates haven't even been to Glacier, or if they have, only a handful of times, and then on school field trips.

But Soyland is made of a different cloth, for sure. At 18, the senior already has sponsorship deals from Spyder Outerwear and Blizzard Tecnica and about 3,200 followers on Instagram. He loves the mountains. They're his home away from home.

While crowds in Glacier may make newspaper headlines, Soyland notes that 90% of the park is remote and rarely visited.

"And it's in our backyard," the senior said during an interview last week.

Soyland's first taste of Glacier came when visiting his father, Jeff, who had a summer job as the water manager at Sperry Chalet — the backcountry destination perched at the base of Gunsight Mountain. His mom, Natalie, is also an avid hiker.

While the summer jaunts were fun, Soyland, who is also also a raft guide, is big into winter sports, particularly ski mountaineering and competitive free ride skiing, where skiers test their skills bombing down lines on cliff faces. The better the line and fluidity of the run, the better the score. Soyland is a member of the Flathead Freeride Club, where he skis with locals from Columbia Falls and Whitefish, like Liam Byrd and Townsend Reed. Reed won the International Free Skiing Association's Junior Freeride Championship earlier this year.

Soyland and Reed are planning a trip in September to South America to compete in events in Chile and Argentina. College, at least for the time being, is on hold, Soyland said.

Soyland also climbs with Columbia Falls brothers Kai and Noah Golan and their father, Alon.

While many first ascents and other feats in Glacier were done years ago, the challenge now is speed, in what's called "The Fastest Known Time."

One climber recently did all of Glacier's 10,000-foot peaks in six days, Soyland noted. Soyland and a friend think they could do it in five days with proper planning. Still, it would be a grueling experience, with thousands of feet of elevation gain and loss, miles of bushwhacking and about a 100 miles on trails.

Soyland and colleagues have also been doing winter excursions, skiing the Flathead Range off Highway 2. They summited Gunsight Peak in the winter and tried the 10,000-foot plus Mount Jackson as well, but came up just short. They also climbed 10,000-plus foot Stimson in a day, dodging a grizzly sow with cubs on the way down.

Soyland said he'd eventually like to be a mountain guide, but he wants to travel as well, including trips to the Alps in Europe.

He noted that with all the mountains in the Flathead Valley, this is a great place for a non-traditional athlete to hone their craft.

"Find what you want to do and pursue it," he said.

You can follow Soyland on Instagram at anders_soyland

Soyland and about 140 other classmates will graduate Saturday at Columbia Falls High School at 11 a.m.