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Obituary: Travis Mitchell Swanson, 1985 – 2019

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PHOTO COURTESY OF GALLATIN COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

By Blair Speed

The mountain moved this past weekend and our love, Travis Swanson, did not survive. 

Travis Mitchell Swanson was born on November 6, 1985 in Havre, Montana, with a golden heart and a propensity to buck the system. Raw, passionate, thoughtful, hardworking, strong, adventurous and filled with an unfathomable well of love. Always dependable, he was the man you called when things got tough. And, he was always there for you.

Trav loved to learn but hated school. His early years in Churchill, Montana, with his family were marked by his rebellious and independent spirit. Early mornings before high school, he would drive out to Weber Mandolin where he built his own mandolin to play. Many years later, his hound dog sang when he played. His formal education could not be found within any walls. He learned to play mandolin, guitar, saxophone; read every climbing and climbing history book. He taught himself to invest, to better understand the stock market, build his own companies. He studied search and rescue techniques and knowledge continuously, and how to move in the mountains safely. Recently, he was learning German. He forewent a degree in search of experience. 

Travis began working with his dad when he was 14 years old. What began as an art and expertise in drywall with his first company, Hollowtop Drywall, grew exponentially every year with his persistence to work days, nights and weekends, and a refusal to be bound by society’s standard of work ethic. Travis never knew a 40-hour workweek. His was much higher, and he felt lost when he wasn’t pushing work. In recent years, he created The Norse Company, expanding into properties, excavation equipment and work, and independent contracting. 

Travis saved many good people on their worst days in the mountains as a longtime member of Gallatin County Search and Rescue, helicopter and alpine teams, and was a friend to Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department. He has carried people out on his own back, helped fly them to safety and returned those lost to their loved ones. Of course, he was also known to throw a dog on his back to get them to safety, too. He was the perpetual big guy teddy bear. Participating in search and rescue for 15 years gave Trav a deep sense of purpose and his friendships with his team brought him joy, laughter, love and men and women to move through the mountains with. If SAR helped you within the past 15 years, chances are high that Trav was on the call. 

It’s hard to imagine how he had time to move in the mountains, but this is where he found his greatest joys, conversations and time within self. His goal was to climb The Grand Teton 1,000 times. He made it to 7 successful summits up there and many more attempts. He climbed countless local, American and international summits. It took three tries to learn the mountain, get a weather window, and make it up Denali, but Trav and Joe Wagner summited in 2017. The art of persistence, training, learning, communication and patience with the mountain. 

Travis was big and strong and a beautiful natural athlete. Climbing, weightlifting, running, yoga and hiking fit into small pockets of time throughout his week. He built a large and beautiful home gym in his garage where he welcomed and trained friends with his wife, Blair Speed, and played death metal loud, biweekly. Sköl. 

But, in the midst of this expansive life he built, Trav was the most gentle of giants. His kind and completely humble heart would be the last to tell you about any of his work or extraordinary experiences. 

Like his sweet, short word proposal to Blair (finally), he was not a man of many words. He was too busy taking action. Every action he took, he thought of Blair first. From making her coffee and a fire every single morning, building her the house they lived in by hand, getting her friends to move next door, working on an early retirement, guiding her up mountains, looking up spots to travel the world, spoiling her and her family and friends—he always thought of her first and then their fur children, The Great Catsby and Miss Charlotte Ray. Travis and Blair spent 10 years building their lives and their loves together. They spent 10 years exploring the world and their own hearts together. Neither knew that a love could be so big, so sweet, grow infinitely each day, or what better people they would become alongside of and because of one another. Blair has always and will always love Poppi Oso. 

Trav’s death on Sunday, July 14, 2019, on Mount Cowen is such a tremendous loss for our sweet Gallatin County Community, his family and his friends. Trav was recovered quickly and brought home by his Gallatin County Search and Rescue and Sheriff’s family in a challenging and an incredibly impressive effort. We are all thankful for their hard work and loving care to get him home. 

Trav is survived by his wife and lover, Blair Speed, their children, The Great Catsby and Miss Charlotte Ray. His oh so sweet mother, Kelly Swanson, and father, Dan Swanson. His little sister, Amanda Dooley, and her husband, Dade Dooley. 

Burn the Boat: A Celebration of Travis Swanson’s Life will be held at The Rialto, 10 W Main St, Bozeman, Montana 59715, on Monday, July 22, from 2-6 p.m. followed by a gathering at Dry Hills Distillery, 106 Village Center Lane, Bozeman, Montana 59718.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to help cover the cost of the services at blairspeedcreative.com/poppi-oso. Or, please consider making a donation to Gallatin County Search and Rescue in Travis Swanson’s name. 

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