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′)
Distance: 9.5 miles
Time: 6.75 hours
Top Elevation: 10,450′
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?
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.
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′.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.