The Claw, Madison Range, Montana

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Skiing The Claw Couloir On The Bear Hump In The Madison Range of Montana

Location: Claw Couloir, Bear Hump, Spanish Peaks, Lee Metcalf Wilderness, Madison Range, Montana
Starting Point: Beehive BasinTrailhead (7900′)
Aspect: Northeast
Distance: 9.5 miles
Time: 6.75 hours
Top Elevation: 10,450′
Vertical: 4150′
USGS Maps: Lone Mountain


May is a crazy month for weather in Montana. Last week the Madison Range got 30 inches of snow in a mid-May storm. Then it was windy. Super windy. Then it rained. Then it was overcast and miserable. And now that the weather improved, Jeremy Wood and I decided to get back out and do some skiing. This time we had our eyes set on the Claw – a NE-N couloir-esque line that drops off of the Bear Hump in Bear Basin and ends at the bottom of Mirror Basin. Anyone else have a name for this line?

The Claw Couloir
The Claw

We’ve attempted to ski this line several times, but today we finally ticked it off. I picked up Jeremy at 6 AM and we were hiking down the Beehive Basin Trail by 6:30 in the morning light. It’s always fun to be dirt walking down the Beehive Super highway  hopping from snow patch to snow patch. After about half a mile, we managed to find enough snow to start skinning.

Beehive Basin
Beehive Basin
Mainline Chute, Beehive Basin
The Mainline hiding in the morning light

Following the standard Beehive skin track we eventually found ourselves below Mainline Chute. Mainline Chute is a clean line that drops in to Beehive Basin from the Bear Basin/Beehive Basin saddle. It’s one of the most straightforward routes back from Bear Basin. I’ve always called it the Mainline. If this line has another name let me know in the comments below. We skinned as high as we could and topped out at the Beehive/Bear saddle at the top of Mainline at 9915′.

Uphill travel in Beehive Basin
Uphill travel in Beehive Basin
Mainline Chute, Beehive Basin
Skinning Up Mainline
Mainline Chute, Beehive Basin
Looking Down Mainline Chute

Our plan was to traverse high and then climb the South couloir (aka the Grizz) on the Bear Hump. From here you can drop off the other side into the Claw. Unfortunately, we were unable to traverse high due to exposure and snow conditions, so we dropped down to the valley floor at about 9500′ and transitioned to uphill mode. The turns down to here were corn-tastic.

Bear Basin - Bear Hump on Left
Bear Basin – Bear Hump on Left
The Bear Hump - Our Ascent Route To The Top Of The Claw via the Grizz
The Bear Hump – Our Ascent Route To The Top Of The Claw via the Grizz
Nice tracks in Bear Basin
Nice tracks in Bear Basin

We made good time up the south couloir (the Grizz) on the Bear Hump and we were almost able to skin all the way to the top, but ended up booting the last 150′. At the top you, can make a sketchy scramble to the summit of the Bear Hump or make a move and  ski. We did the latter due to the warm temps, but the views were fantastic.

Bear Hump, Spanish Peaks
Bootpack Time Up The Grizz
Bear Basin (Back of Middle Basin on left, Bear on right)
Bear Basin (Back of Middle Basin on left)
Gallatin Peak
Gallatin Peak
The Spanish Peaks
The Spanish Peaks

The Claw Couloir starts at 10450′ and quickly drops 1000′ feet. It’s easy picking down to the Mirror Basin floor at 8900′ or so, but at 9500′ we dropped into a short couloir that I call the Fiddler’s Fury. This line is about the width of a winnebago for about 350′ and then the apron opens up down to the floor of Mirror Basin.

claw couloir
J. Wood in the Claw Couloir
Skiing the Claw Couloir
Skiing the Claw Couloir
Jeremy Dropping Into The Fiddler's Fury With Peak 10602 in background
Jeremy Dropping Into The Fiddler’s Fury With Peak 10602 in background
The Fiddler's Fury
The Fiddler’s Fury

Before we dropped into the Fiddler’s Fury, we soaked in the views of the east face of Blaze Mountain, aka the Hummingbird Face. The view of Peak 10602 is also impressive with excellent eyes on the Peruvian Face and the Bolivian Face.

The Hummingbird Face, Blaze Mountain
The Hummingbird Face, Blaze Mountain
Peak 10602 - Good View of Peruvian Face and Bolivian Face
Peak 10602 – Good View of Peruvian Face and Bolivian Face

The snow was getting warm quick, so we boogied up to the Beehive/Mirror saddle at 10050′. Then made a high traverse and dropped back to the basin floor. The snow was slow, heavy, and wet. It didn’t make for fast travel. Once we passed the main Beehive Meadows, we finished with a strong dirt walk back to the car.

Climbing out of Mirror Basin
Climbing out of Mirror Basin – Beehive/Mirror Saddle on Right
Mirror/Beehive Saddle
Mirror/Beehive Saddle
Beehive Peak
Beehive Peak
dirt walking beehive basin
Dirt walking

Overall another good day in the backyard. We covered 9.5 miles and 4150′ in 6.75 hours. I would definitely ski the Claw Couloir again.


View our route from HillMap:


Here are a few additional photos from our trip report for skiing the Claw:


This trip report for skiing the Claw Couloir is from May 18, 2016.

  • Kasey Hutchinson

    Your blog is amazing! Thank you for the beta!! Definitely trying to bag this one sometime this week ????

    • Glad you like the blog. Have fun skiing. The conditions are great right now!