Skiing the North Twin Couloir on Beehive Peak
Location: North Twin Couloir, Beehive Peak, Spanish Peaks Unit, Lee Metcalf Wilderness, Madison Range, Montana
Trailhead: Beehive Basin Trailhead – 7900 feet
Distance: +/- 8 miles round trip
Time: 5-7 hours
Top Elevation: 10500 ft
Vertical: 3650 ft
USGS Maps: Lone Mountain
The North Twin Couloir sits on the northwest aspect of Beehive Peak. It was first skied by Tom Jungst, Jim Conway, and Marty Bleck in August of 1981. The North Twin is longer, steeper, and more popular than it’s spicier neighbor, the South Twin Couloir.
Ever since I first read about Beehive Peak in Turiano’s book, Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone, I have wanted to ski this line. The North Twin Couloir always intrigued me because it’s so close to home, yet it drops you down into Spanish Lakes – an area that seems so remote.
After a few days of weather turmoil in SW Montana, I had my opportunity to ski the North Twin Couloir with my splitboarding buddy, Jeremy Wood. He’s always up for a May adventure ski.
At 6am, we hit the trail leaving from the Beehive Basin parking lot. At 7900 feet, there wasn’t much snow to be seen, but the temps sure were cold. We hoofed it up the summer trail with skis and boots on our packs. As we topped out of Beehive Meadows at about 8500 feet, we found consistent snow.
It always feels good to be skinning in the morning light – especially in May. The snow had a solid freeze and we enjoyed the views of cool ski terrain while we made good time toward Beehive Peak. In right at two hours we were standing underneath the 4th of July Couloir with crampons on ready to start bootpacking.
A half hour later we were standing on the welcoming, but windy col below Beehive Peak that separates the 4th of July Couloir and the North Twin Couloir. Starting at 10500 feet, the line looked a little wind loaded so we dug a quick pit to assess snow stability. Two thumbs up later, we clicked into our skis, ready to go.
The North Twin Couloir drops down steeply to the northwest directly below the towering cliffs of Beehive Peak. As you peer down the line, it rolls over steeply in the distance and it’s hard to see what waits below. Above you a steep gully of rock, ice, and snow leads to the Hanging Garden. The entire zone is breathtaking. It’s a very aesthetic place.
Jeremy dropped in first. The snow up top was firm. Then it softened up nicely. Then as the couloir choked, it got very, very firm and icy. Once Jeremy reached a safe zone, it was my turn. On my second turn, I popped out a small wind slab, but knew more stable conditions existed further down the couloir. I aggressively sideslipped the icy choke and continued down to the moraines near Beehive Lake. The couloir definitely qualifies as adventure skiing, but the apron offered up soft and enjoyable snow.
The entire North Twin Couloir runs about 700-900 feet – depending on where you stop. You can ski it farther if you want to, but the terrain becomes less interesting. It didn’t appear that the South Twin Couloir would go in current conditions without a fair bit of rope work, but the other terrain in Spanish Lakes Basin looks amazing. What cool faces!
Our original exit strategy was to circumnavigate Beehive Peak and climb to Peak 10602, where we can easily ski back down into Beehive or tag the Peruvian Face or Bolivian Face. Instead, we opted to bootpack back up the North Twin Couloir to ski the nice soft snow in the 4th of July Couloir. Plus, it would be quicker and who doesn’t like a couloir linkup.
We made good time up the booter. I was glad to have my crampons on and my Whippet/Raven Ultra ice axe combo through the icy choke. Back at the col, we clicked back into skis to ski the 4th of July Couloir.
The snow in the 4th of July Couloir had soften perfectly in the overcast May weather. Corn turns for 1000 feet back to the basin floor. Surprisingly, we found nice soft snow the rest of the way out of Beehive Basin. At the top of Beehive Meadows, we switched back to approach shoes and about 20 minutes later we were back at the truck.
Our adventure to ski the North Twin Couloir on Beehive Peak took just under six hours. We covered 8 miles and 3650 vertical feet. I’m stoked that I finally got to ski the North Twin Couloir. It’s a classic, short and sweet, aesthetic line in the Madison Range.
Here are some additional images from skiing the North Twin Couloir On Beehive Peak:
View our route on HillMap.
The North Twin Couloir on Beehive Peak was skied on May 11, 2015.