The Musical Mountaineers carry a violin and piano up trails to perform in secret wilderness locations.
Imagine hiking along a remote trail, snowy mountain peaks all around, and suddenly you think you hear the faint strains of a violin, the soft chords of a piano. Impossible! You keep walking, confused by the sound that is getting slightly louder, and then you see it – a duet, set up by the side of the trail. A pianist and a violinist are serenading the wilderness, and you just happen to be lucky enough to stumble upon it.
These are the Musical Mountaineers, Rose and Anastasia, who take great pleasure in performing their music in remote settings. Since 2017, the two friends have performed in over 40 locations around the Pacific Northwest and only a lucky 30 people or so have witnessed their concerts in person.The pair does not reveal the locations of their performances for a few reasons. As explained on their website, "We want to abide by Leave No Trace ethics, which includes no group size in a wilderness area of over 12 people." They also like to perform at sunrise, which means leaving from the trailhead at night, and the concerts are very spontaneous and weather-dependent.
How do they lug their instruments up mountains? They've got it down to a fine art. Anastasia is a former park ranger, backpacking instructor, and a wilderness first responder with two decades of experience climbing in the Pacific Northwest. She carries her fragile violin in a case that's stuffed into a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 3400 pack. Rose has completed a Mountaineers course and hauls her 45-pound battery-operated piano and bench in an Osprey backpacking pack.
As you can imagine, there are many funny looks and comments from fellow hikers:
"Our favorite guesses include: an ironing board (this is the most common), a massage table, and a ladder... because who doesn’t go into the backcountry to iron clothes, get a massage or climb a ladder? Then again – this begs the question – who else carries a piano into the wilderness in a backpack?"
But jokes aside, the two are quite philosophical about it: "There is something incredibly satisfying about hauling a violin and a piano into a remote location – it’s a beautiful juxtaposition of delicate and emotional music with the very physically demanding act of carrying a heavy pack."
Oh, and they carry recital dresses – formal gowns that they change into prior to performing, as classical musicians usually do.
Those lucky hikers who come across their performances are often overwhelmed with emotion. Anastasia told Outside Online,
"I'll look up and see this person with tears streaming down their face," [she said], thinking of one man in particular who found the duo at Sahale Arm in Washington’s North Cascades while hiking with his daughter. "People say it’s particularly emotional because they aren’t prepared for it. I love that — I live for moments that feel like an unpromised gift."
Because it's so unlikely that any of us will ever hear these women perform live, it's good to know that they post videos on their YouTube channel and Instagram page. You can see them fighting frozen fingers in a snowy landscape, fending off blackflies on a spring morning, and playing as the sun awakens.
Last word goes to the musicians: "Really, when your concert hall is an entire mountain range, does it get more special than that?"