On Thursday, May 22, Opie Jahn and I decided to make an attempt at the Hanging Garden – an exposed line off the north side of Beehive Peak. We started bright and early. Actually it was dark and early. We left Big Sky Meadows around 130am and started skinning around 215am. We figured it would take about 4 hours to reach the top of the 4th of July Couloir, then another hour to reach Hanging Garden. After that we would still have to summit peak 10602 and ski back to the Beehive Basin Trailhead. It was going to be a big day. Ultimately we ended up playing with ropes on Beehive Peak and skiing the 4th of July Couloir.
Here’s a good shot of Beehive Peak from a previous trip. The 4th of July Couloir is on the looker’s left of the peak. The Hanging Garden is off the back side.
The temps have been warm. It was about 40+ when we left the trailhead. Crossing our fingers that it would be colder higher up, we continued on the trail. As always during spring skiing in Montana, the bear spray was easily accessible. Luckily we saw nothing, except a porcupine.
We found the freezing level to be about 9400 feet. At this point we transitioned to ski crampons and continued up toward the couloir. Once we hit about 10000 feet we transitioned again to crampons. Only to find ourselves breaking through, which made for hard walking. At least the views were good.
It’s easy to spot cool lines when you’re in this part of the Spanish Peaks. This crescent shaped line looks great. It’s accessible from Bear Basin and drops into Mirror Lakes. I continue to find complete inconsistency with line names in the Spanish Peaks, so it is now called the Chimpanzee Couloir.
About this point in time, the sun began to rise. After a clear night full of bright stars, the sunrise was a welcome view.
Right around 6 am, we tapped out at the top of the 4th of July Couloir. A total time to the top of this line of just under 4 hours.
At the top of the couloir, we had some decisions to make. The snow froze overnight, but it was quickly warming up. We wanted to ski the Hanging Garden, but figured time would not be in our favor. So we decided to play with some ropes and do a bit of climbing. The views were stunning and after soaking in the sights looking north, we went up.
The south facing 4th of July drops down into a north facing line. I have heard this one called the North Twin. Looks super fun.
It’s nearly June and the Headwaters and Big Sky Resort still look like they have mid-winter conditions.
There are two routes up from the col. There is a technical, narrow line and an exposed open snowfield. Both are very exposed. We opted for the technical line and up we went.
Opie’s one happy camper. He described this area as almost “Arpa Quiet”. That’s the sound of silence.
Here’s a cool view of our bootpack in the shade and the view from the first anchor point.
I brought out the new camera today. It’s a Sony WX-300. A very lightweight superzoom. I think it weighs in around 5 or 6 oz. It has a 20x optical zoom. Opens quickly and takes 18megapixel shots. A nice little package all around. Plus, it has panoramic mode. Of course I had to play with that awesome feature. This little camera will be a mainstay in my backcountry jacket pocket.
The North Couloir of Fan continues to tease me. I really want to ski this line at some point.
After a bit of mixed climbing on a thin snowpack, we decided to retreat. We did not summit Beehive Peak (10742 ft), but we will at some point soon enough. We rappelled back down the way we had come.
Then it was time to do what we came here for – go skiing. We put our climbing gear away, clicked into our Dynafits and dropped into the 4th of July Couloir.
The snow was getting unsupportable and grabby. Plus there was plenty of wet slide debris to maneuver through. It was good we left when we did. We took a mellow ski down through Beehive Basin and back to the car before 10am.
The 4th of July Couloir is a fun one. Nothing to crazy, but well worth an adventure if you’re looking for a fun line thats easily accessible.
4th of July Couloir
Elevation Gain/Loss: +/- 2900 ft.
Distance: 7.5 miles
USGS Quads: Lone Mountain