Lat 45 is a grassroots, faith-based organization whose goal is to share the Gospel with youth. To fulfill this goal, Lat 45 founders Ryan Brown and Chris Armstrong look to challenge young people physically, mentally, and spiritually in an outdoor adventure setting while experiencing the wonders of creation.
Originally from Spokane, Washington, Brown’s job with Bureau of Land Management ended in October. Without a job lined up in the Ennis area, he thought about moving his family out of the area but stayed and found a few odd jobs to fill the time between. He and Armstrong had been meeting at Bible study for about nine months before the idea of Lat 45 was formed. Armstrong, owner of a local construction company, is originally from Virginia and adds to Lat 45’s business side.
“I shouldn’t have stayed. Now it’s clear why I stayed,” Brown said. “We really wanted to have an impact on people, and feel God put us in Ennis.” He and Armstrong researched similar organizations and began pursuing their own adventure in December.
Six young men went on the first Lat 45 trip June 24-28. The group hiked in Grand Teton National Park’s Jenny Lake, Cascade Canyon, and Paintbrush Divide areas. Lat 45 has enough gear for eight kids on each trip. All the kids need to provide right now is boots, clothing, and rain gear.
Armstrong said they want the boys to be good functioning members of society and to learn not to cut corners. Brown added that the kids learn outdoor skills that coincide with the spirituality aspect of the program.
“They learn what they can do physically and what God can do for them,” Brown said.
Ice ax training came in handy on the first trip. The boys trained with the axes the day before they ended up using those skills when a trail was covered in snow. Eventually both the guides and boys had to slide down an embankment into a snowfield.
Each trip is five days long and includes a lot of hiking. Armstrong and Brown figure each trip has about 20-25 miles worth of hiking with a pack. There is one rest day that includes day hikes without a pack. Mornings are personal devotion and reflection time and evenings are set aside for student-driven group Bible study.
Four more trips are planned this summer, including one starting July 8 that has three open spots for young men ages 13-19. Trips will be in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park. Participants’ outdoors and religious knowledge run the gamut, and that is what Brown and Armstrong want.
“We want to provide young people, from all different walks of life, an opportunity to experience outdoor adventures,” Lat 45’s Facebook page states. It goes on to say that these adventures will encourage participants in their faith.
Brown and Armstrong together have years of professional and personal backpacking experience. Details are yet to be finalized, but Lat 45 will offer a snowshoe trip this winter. Whitewater and rock climbing are on the to-do list too, as are weekend trips during the school year.
More than $10,000 in funds has come in from the public since March 1. Brown and Armstrong said they are thankful for the local support. They said every cent will be put back into the kids and creating opportunities for them.
“A lot of things happened that were out of our control,” Armstrong said of Lat 45’s beginning. Guided by a higher power and inspired to keep going one step at a time, Armstrong and Brown met a number of people who donated their time, skills, and resources to further Lat 45’s progress and it has been growing ever since. Legal knowledge, van usage, and backpacking gear were all donated.
All the trips this year will be free. A small fee, based on what an individual can afford, will be added next year. Armstrong and Brown hope that the participants feel invested and have a sense of commitment to the program. Also new next year will be trips for girls. Armstrong and Brown said they hope to double the number of boys trips and add five for young ladies.
For more information about Lat 45, visit www.lat45.org or contact Brown and Armstrong at 682-3545 or P.O. Box 63 McAllister, MT 59740.
“It’s been a real change of pace for me,” Armstrong said. “I never could have planned it. It’s completely worth it.”