Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hyalite/Blackmore traverse, version 3

Previous Iterations
The Hyalite to Blackmore traverse is my favorite tour in the Hyalite range.  I originally did it in reverse on April 24-25, 2004.  During that effort, I spent the first half of the first day skiing the north face of Blackmore with Ben and Nick, so I was excited when both of them were keen to return this year.  The second iteration was December 27, 2010 with Kyle.  It was a great day, and I will never forget skiing off the summit of Blackmore at sunset with my best friend.  Although if I recall, Kyle almost died from exhaustion.  With good stability, fast conditions, and a great crew, everything seemed aligned for another memorable traverse.
Kyle and Me on a cold summit of Mt. Bole a year ago during the
Hyalite/Blackmore traverse, version 2.
The Tour 12/30/2012
The Hyalite/Blackmore traverse can technically be done as a ridge traverse, but skiers usually find it most attractive to ski runs along the way.  There are many options, and we chose a route which hit all the high peaks except Mount Bole, minimized ridgeline traversing, and avoided heavily windloaded east aspects.

After enduring snide comments about my speed suit at the trailhead, we started skinning by headlamp at 6:30 am.  Conditions were fast, and we were on the summit of Hyalite Peak by 9 am, enjoying misty views down into the Paradise valley.  It was discouraging to see illegal snowmobile tracks in the basin.  The next few hours proceeded smoothly, climbing Divide peak via its southeast ridge, and traversing a windy ridge to the headwaters of Maid of the Mist Creek, which we accessed by an aesthetic couloir.

Heading up Hyalite Peak.
Spring weather in December.
Got wind?
Nick escaping the wind on his way down to the
head of Maid of the Mist Creek.
I had hoped to climb straight east out of the Maid of the Mist Creek, but heavy wind loading convinced us to proceed straight north over a small ridgeline and down into the Twin Falls basin.  We were way ahead of schedule, so we climbed and skied a nice couloir at the head of the basin before re-climbing the couloir and dropping into the head of Cottonwood creek.  At this point, the weather had deteriorated, and we took refuge in the trees before sending Nick out to probe a skin track up the south face of Blackmore.  Without goggles, I stumbled around high on the ridge in the full conditions, but fortunately Nick and Ben had goggles, and they guided me to the summit.  We skied the standard northeast snowfields before schussing out to the car.  We arrived at the reservoir in good spirits even though it was raining (rain at 7,000 feet in December.  Really?).  We had a great day, and I am excited to see Ben coming into his own as a solid, super strong backcountry skier.  Stay safe out there Ben!  Also, no one was exhausted at the trailhead, so next time we need go faster or do more runs.

Nick styling his way into the Twin Falls basin.
We climbed, skied, then re-climbed the aesthetic couloir above me.
Ben pondering a whiteout.
Total elevation gain (based on topo map):  8,000 feet
Accomplices: Ben and Nick
Put in:  Grotto Falls trailhead
Take out: Hyalite reservoir
Trip length: 9 hours, 45 minutes ctc
Number of ski runs: 6.25 (only partial credit for the northwest ridge of Divide Peak)
Ski equipment:  Dynafit Manaslus with TLT speeds, TLT 5 boots and a lycra speed suit (Brian), Dynafit Stoke skis with Dynafits (Ben), and Black Diamond Verticts with Dynafits (sorry you had to haul those clubs around, Nick!)
Number of people encountered: 0
Trailbreaking effort:  Minimal
Avalanche conditions:  Stable except for pockets of fresh wind slab, and pockets of depth hoar in thin areas.
Fatigue factor (1-10): 6
Stoke factor that the Hyalites are skiing well as all other ranges around Bozeman languish in a snowless, avalanche prone mess:  10
Number of sexually charged comments (approximate):  Brian: 2  Ben: 5 Nick: 135
Memories to suppress:  Poor kicker skin advice, no goggles, rain at Blackmore lake in December.


  1. Very nice!

    Great trip data and sounds like a trip to put on my to do list...