Bolivian Face, Madison Range, MT

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Skiing The Bolivian Face on Peak 10602

Location: Peak 10602, Spanish Peaks, Madison Range, Big Sky, MT
Trailhead: Beehive Basin Trailhead – 7900 ft
Distance: +/- 7.75 miles round trip
Time: 4-5 hours
Aspect: SE – E
Top Elevation: 10602 ft
Vertical: 3200 ft (2700 to Peak 10602)
USGS Maps: Lone Mountain, Gallatin Peak

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It snowed about 20cm in the latest storm cycle. Due to rapid warming and high wind loading, Jeremy Wood and I took it easy yesterday and skied low angle pow turns in Beehive Meadows. After a day of warm temps and bluebird skies, we were ready to head back out. This time Ben Werner, author of Backcountry Skiing Bozeman and Big Sky, joined us and we were heading out to ski the Bolivian Face on Peak 10602 – a line I first heard about from Mr. G. Downing.

Looking Down the Bolivian Face
Looking Down the Bolivian Face

With plans to hit the trail around sunrise, we were a bit behind schedule. Once on the trail, we enjoyed the cold temps and beautiful light on Beehive Peak and Peak 10602. We followed an erratic skin track through some crusty snow toward the head of the basin. It was amazing at the number of point release slides on South through West aspects that occurred yesterday.

Point Releases in Beehive Basin
Point Releases in Beehive Basin
Point Release Avalanches
Point Releases on Beehive Peak
Heading toward Beehive/Mirror Saddle
Heading toward Beehive/Mirror Saddle and the face of 10602

We made great time to the saddle between Beehive Basin and Mirror Lakes – arriving there in just under 2 hours and 2100 feet. The final approach to the saddle offered up some very firm snow. This encouraged us to transition to crampons at the saddle as we enjoyed the scenery.

Gallatin Peak
Ben Werner at Saddle with Gallatin Peak in background
Gallatin Peak
Looking Toward Gallatin Peak
Big Sky Resort
Big Sky Resort. It’s still open!

Donning my Black Diamond Sabretooth crampons, Whippet, and Raven ice ax we started booting up to Peak 10602. The thin crust was unsupportable and the booter was softer than expected.

Boot packing
Booting Up the Face of 10602
Bootpacking up 10602
Bootpacking up 10602

 As we summited Peak 10602 after 2700 vertical feet, there were smiles all around – especially when we had a wildlife spotting – a wild pika amongst the moss spotted granite!

Summit of Peak 10602
Summit of Peak 10602. Can you spot the pika?
Smiles at the summit
Smiles at the summit

The views were outstanding – Gallatin Peak, Spanish Lakes, The Blaze, Beehive Peak, Mirror Basin, Big Sky Resort, and so much more. How can you not love a bluebird April day in the backcountry of SW MT?

Beehive Peak and Beehive Lake
Beehive Peak and Beehive Lake

Before we could drop in and ski the Bolivian Face, we had one final ridge walk/down climb. There was no boot pack set and we were all happy to have crampons and ice axes for this section. Exposure on all sides and stunning scenery all around.

Ridge Above Bolivian Face
Ridge Walking
Down climbing above Bolivian Face
Down climbing above Bolivian Face
The final steps to the sub peak
The final steps to the sub peak
Ben arriving at the sub peak
Ben Looking Down at our line

At the sub peak, it was time to transition from crampons to skis. As we switched over, we all appreciated the views. Beehive Peak and the Hanging Garden Couloir looked extra steep. That’s an intimidating line.

Beehive Peak and part of the Hanging Garden Couloir
Beehive Peak and part of the Hanging Garden Couloir

We were all keen to ski the Bolivian Face. The Bolivian Face is a SE-E facing line. It’s the next door neighbor to the Peruvian Face. It’s shorter and not as steep as the Peruvian, but still super fun. The line drops from the sub peak approximately 1000 feet to the valley floor of Mirror Basin. It’s possible to milk this line for another 400 feet farther down valley, but it seemed unnecessary today.

Skiing the Bolivian Face
Ready to ski the Bolivian Face?
Jeremy Wood in Bolivian Face
Jeremy dropping in

We skied the line one at at time and found decently creamy conditions. We regrouped about half way down and then ripped the apron down to the bottom.

Regrouping
Regrouping
The Apron of the Bolivian Peak
Apron Turns
The apron of the Bolivian Face
Jeremy on the  apron
Derek
Derek Skiing

We quickly put skins on for the skin back out of Mirror Basin. It’s about a 400-500 foot climb. We all applied some Glop Stopper to our skins and hoped for a glop free ascent through the south/east facing oven. It was hot. Super hot. The snow was starting to get a bit sloppy. We’d timed our day perfectly. After about 20 minutes, we reached the Beehive Basin/Middle Basin saddle. It was time for the final transition of the day – back to ski mode.

Skinning back up to the Beehive/Middle saddle
Skinning back up to the Beehive/Middle saddle
Skinning up he Mirror Basin
Almost back to the saddle
Skinning Back to Saddle
Skinning Back to Col

The ski out was a mix of decent turns, heinous breakable, and low angle creamy goodness. It wasn’t even noon yet, but the temps were rising rapidly. The south facing Beehive Basin was getting sticky as we worked our way back down the skin track toward the parking lot.

Beehive Basin Skiing
Skiing variable snow conditions in Beehive Basin
Skiing in Beehive Basin
Beehive Basin

With a bit of sidestepping, a couple of falls, and a bit of dirt walking we made it back to the Beehive Basin trailhead in about half an hour.

Sidestepping through the meadows of Beehive Basin
Sidestepping through the meadows of Beehive Basin
Sometimes you just have to walk on dirt.
Sometimes you just have to walk on dirt.

Our mission to ski the Bolivian Face in the Madison Range was a complete success. At the end of the day, we covered 7.75 miles and 3200 vertical feet in just under 5 hours. We were home in time for lunch. Good times were had by all. Got to love skiing in Montana.

What’s next?

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View our route on HillMap.

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Here are some additional photos from skiing the Bolivian Face:

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The Bolivian Face was skied on April 17, 2015.