Forums Trip Reports Crazy Peak, Montana: Southwest Couloir
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  • #578679
    700 Posts

    Here’s a little more Montana spring stoke for everyone.

    To celebrate the end of my semester, I spent a wonderful night alone at the Half Moon Campground revisiting Jack Turner’s Teewinot, a favorite from my formative high school years and still remaining as such. I arrived to clouds, wind, and flurries but fell asleep under a starry sky.

    The path to the Southwest Couloir of Crazy Peak is rife with opportunity for lots of “en route” ski opportunities, both sunny or shady depending on your inclination (and conditions). Perhaps the longest, if you’re traveling the path of least resistance, is the one into the Crazy Lake basin, a nice treeless alpine bowl.

    The couloir itself is a straightfoward, aesthetic affair. Despite the sun, conditions were classic alpine buff pow, my favorite.

    Though I’ve expected to many times, I have yet to boot a couloir in truly firm conditions this season. I consider myself lucky/blessed (you decide- I can’t ).

    I strapped in at the last point of good coverage. The descent was glorious.

    To my surprise, rapid warming was kept at bay and climbs/descents were still possible on all aspects after my descent. I had a “safe” Plan B in mind should things have warmed too drastically, but it involved booting up a rock ridge way off my intended route, so I was happy not to have to employ it.

    View of the couloir, post-descent, from the opposite side of the basin:

    Another fun, long (relative) north-facing descent saw me back into the Big Timber Creek headwaters.

    A couple more climbs and descents saw me back to the vehicle and another bumpy ride out Big Timber Canyon. The Southwest Couloir tour, at least the way I did it, is a true classic on par with Gallatin Peak for the skiability and easy, natural linking of descents en route. And of course, the scenery on days like yesterday is unparalleled.

    Random notes: Possible to make it to Big Timber Canyon trailhead in a Subaru (or maybe even lower clearance) currently. There are still a couple sizeable drifts that will take a little while longer to melt, but they’re pretty firm and rutted out. Also, the snow coverage is consistent after the 1st bridge, looks to stay that way for at least a little while longer.

    2486 Posts

    Really nice looking line. Looks like a pretty big mission for Solo

    87 Posts

    looked like a perfect day. beautiful chute!

    570 Posts


    How did you approach that SW couloir? Up through Grosfeld’s or over the top from Big Timber Cr? I’ve tried an approach up the long SE ridge but my route lead me through the worst manic bushwhack through deadfall ugliness I’ve ever attempted. I’m sure there’s better ways. Snow looks stable….I was guessing the Crazies had the same snowpack as last year since they missed almost every early storm and figured it to be facet city. Did you dig a pit? Results?


    700 Posts

    Thanks for the comments guys.

    Lew- I came over the top from BTC. I don’t really know any other access point in the Crazies so I figured BTC would be as good as any. Seemed like if there was public access (& a trail) up the South Fork of Rock Creek (to Crazy Lake), that would be the direct route. The Southeast Ridge you talk about looks wild and long! Sounds like a crazy adventure. What trailhead did you use to access that?

    My route involved skinning to small basin just beyond the Northwest Face of Crazy Peak, then booting up a ridge that brought me to a divide between the North and South Forks of BTC. Here, you get a sweet descent that terminates literally right beneath the apron below the southwest couloir. Repeat for the way back. You get a bunch of fun N and E aspect descents via minimal booting on the way back (if the snow is still in shape by that time, anyway. I got pretty lucky in that regard).

    My main stability concern was new snow and solar warming (which is always the concern this time of year). The prior couple of days didn’t bring much, but what has was being loaded on a variety of aspects by the ever-present wind up there. On the approach, this wasn’t much of a concern as new snow didn’t really start to load until >9000′. I avoided snow completely by booting up a rock ridge on my final climb out of BTC. Didn’t dig a pit on the face above Crazy Lake but gave it a couple of good cuts right off the bat and nothing moved.

    I dug two pits in the SW Couloir, one on the apron @ 9600′ and another about 1000′ higher just to check the old/new snow interface. Didn’t go below that (and I don’t usually this time of year, once things have gone through a couple of decent melt/freeze cycles). There had definitely been some good crossloading, depositing a foot (more in places) of new snow in the couloir. My pits, along with everything else I’d seen that day, suggested good bonding (both were ECTX, no result). The couloir starts to get sun @ 10AM, so I was thankful that temperatures didn’t skyrocket that day.

    Compared to last year (I was in there about two weeks later for the NW Face), there seemed to be better coverage, though I can’t say if that’s because I was there a little earlier or just a better late season. I would suspect you’re right about the ground-level faceting. I doubt melt-freeze has affected that too much yet (maybe though?), but hopefully as long as things freeze overnight and you’re off them early before free water starts percolating down, there’s enough of a bridge that it shouldn’t be a concern.

    1490 Posts

    Thanks Nick, looks like you had a great day there! I totally agree on that alpine powder, would not mind finding some of that myself…

    “Though I’ve expected to many times, I have yet to boot a couloir in truly firm conditions this season. I consider myself lucky/blessed (you decide- I can’t ).”

    I would say both lucky and blessed! And, perhaps with good timing on your part. Snowing here now above 9,500′ (all lines are above 11K this time of year) and still waiting for spring to actually arrive, maybe by Sunday…

    700 Posts

    Indeed Barrows, timing is everything.

    wasatch surf
    979 Posts

    what a great looking couloir. awesome solo work.

    270 Posts

    +1 on the sweet line and nice work!!! awesome.

    never summer snowboards
    phantom splitboard bindings
    dynafit touring
    atomic boots

    4149 Posts

    Such a sweet looking line!

    christoph benells
    717 Posts

    @nickstayner wrote:

    Indeed Barrows, timing is everything.

    getting the timing right is a skill in itself!

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