For several years, dedicated outdoors enthusiasts have helped raise funds to plow Hyalite Canyon. This mountain road south of Bozeman has long been a summer draw, but with winter plowing in effect, skiers and ice climbers now have near-instant access to world-class terrain. While most skiers head toward History Rock or Mount Blackmore in the lower and middle parts of the canyon, the upper reaches around Divide Peak offer relatively quick access to astounding terrain. From the upper trailhead, follow what will likely be a well-beaten path past the ice climbing routes and into the alpine. Divide Peak, which is just over 10,000 feet, is the prominent peak to the north; it’s not the highest peak in upper Hyalite but it is one of the easiest to climb. Note very real avalanche concerns here, and note too that although it’s plowed, Hyalite Canyon can still be icy and snowy. The road is closed during April.
I met the French in downtown Bozeman. Being French, and being in Bozeman, they were quite easy to spot. We had been conversing for several months and finally they were here – here to ski in Montana. They had a van, and a few got in my truck, and we motored up Hyalite Canyon slowly on the icy road. In the parking low, we geared up. They had small, light European skis, while I had wider, bulkier American skis; they had bright bags and bright jackets, I had a grey bag and black clothes. Despite the differences, they were in fine shape, and we made short order of the canyon, emerging into the cirque below Hyalite Peak in dense fog and cold temperatures. Up on the saddle the clouds parted briefly, and we dashed for the summit in a short window of clear skies before cloud once again descended. 10,298 feet is high for Montana, and we did not linger long, but instead downclimbed a bit over rocks before hitting the top of the cirque, laying big beautiful turns in the snow.
Arriving to Beehive is quite the sight – and I’m not talking about the mountains. The trailhead here is a small parking lot and a sign which tells hikers to stay closely on the trail for the next mile – the millionaires don’t want you tramping through their backyards. Yeah – big homes, widely spaced, thick beamed, luxurious. Past the homes, though, the real nature of the place takes over. The canyon bottom is wide and mellow, but heading up the ramparts of upper Beehive gradually grow to fill the skyline. Nice place.