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The Climbing Club • View topic - Bugaboos 7/7-7/12

The Climbing Club

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 Post subject: Bugaboos 7/7-7/12
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 4:42 pm 
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UW Climber
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My first ever trip report. Warning: it gets a bit long. Too many days of fine climbing, and once I start writing a report I just can't stop! If there are no photos in parts, it's because I was too focused on climbing.

I just returned from a week's trip to the Bugaboos where I met three English climbing friends. In short: 5 nights camping high, 4 days climbing, 2 summits (one twice), 1 17 hour aborted attempt, 3 stuck ropes, gear eaten by rats, lots of sun, tiny ice water pool bathing, hot springs, and 'scrambling' which required hand jams...

Basically, 3 of my friends (two of whom were my most regular climbing/exped partners in the UK) flew out to Calgary on last Tuesday, while I headed out Tuesday afternoon, having mostly recovered from an illness which assailed me while climbing with Brian the day before. Wednesday morning a pleasant drive up from Idaho was interrupted by the realization that BC is not all one time zone and I would struggle to make our arranged rendezvous time (none of them had cell phones that worked). Some aggressive RV passing later, I made it to our rendezvous outside the Horsethief Creek Pub in Radium Hot Springs, B.C.

Under a scorching sun, gear was coordinated, food was packed with little thought, and a massive pack constructed in lightning time, only for me to realize had packed all my climbing clothes leaving me with little to wear on the walk in, resulting in a fine outfit of skirt, tanktop, and mountaineering boots.

A long and confusing drive along 47 km (+ wrong turnings) of BC forest/logging roads soon commenced. New roads have been added since the guide book was published... Finally we reached the trailhead, where more packing and repacking happened, chicken wire unrolled and wrapped around the cars weighted with rocks and pinned up with posts. Apparently porcupines relish gnawing through brake cables and tire rubber, not a few unfortunate souls have come down from the Bugs to find themselves 'porked'.

Eventually the inevitable could not be avoided, and with great difficulty and mutual assistance we shouldered our bags for the punishing ascent. The walk up to camp involves a seemingly easy 4km hike to the hut, and then another 1+ km to the our target of Applebee Dome camp. While the first 1 km is mostly flat, the rest swiftly and unrelentingly ascends 1000m via forest switchbacks, talus staircases, and ladders. While only 3-4 hours to Applebee Dome, this was one of the most miserable carries I've done, rivalling in strenuousness, if not duration, some days spent in the Himalaya. The stunning views along the ascent are only barely enticing enough to convince us to keep taking steps upward.
Starting out:
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Getting higher:
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Due to the late onset of summer, Applebee Dome (2480m) was nearly entirely covered with more than a meter of snow. We found a couple of flattish boulder platforms sticking above the snow and set up camp and ate dinner as the sun set, with a suggested plan to start with some of the 'easier' climbs in the morning. The Bugaboos are notoriously undergraded, and after a few days up there, I'm inclined to agree. The climbs are made more serious as they are all alpine climbs with complicated descents, in an environment with notoriously unstable weather, and only the foolish or very confident climber sets up not carrying some emergency bivy gear.

View of camp from a nearby climb. Our tents are tiny and green in the middle on boulders.
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Day 1: My partner Steve and I decide to climb 'Ears Between' (6p, 5.7, AD) on Crescent Towers (2830m). The other pair start out aiming for a 5.6 'Lion's Way', but follow our steps across and up the snow slope to the start of our approach traverse, and decide to follow us to let us continue the route-finding. To access this climb, you have to edge along an exposed ledge system that girdles most of the spire, which sharpens the mind somewhat. Eventually, we identify the black flake and lichenous section of granite that marks the start of the climb, change into rock shoes, and rope up. I cunningly allow Steve to take the first lead, thus avoiding the chimney in Pitch 5 further on. The climbing is easy enough for the first couple of pitches, just hard enough to make us aware of the size of our boot and bivy laden packs and their effect on our balance. Our friends have disappeared by now; finally we see them appear at the bottom of the climb, having pitched the exposed traverse. Getting into the rhythm of things, we continue swinging leads as the climb gets increasingly tricky. I start up pitch 4 (5.7) suddenly moving onto steepness and cracks; I struggle to haul myself and my massive pack up through the crux, and then wander through loose rock up a series of steep broken slabs to the tiny hangingish belay stance which is topped by an awkward overhanging chimneyish thing. Steve looks skeptically at it, takes the gear, and moves up over my head in what would be an acrobatic display in a circus. The pull-up + mantle on chockstone move proves difficult with packs, but he pushes through and into what ends up being some of the most improbable moves I've done in a while. This pitch (also 5.7) is a remarkably sustained long 'chimney' which for the most part consists of two off-width cracks with occasional chockstones. At one point Steve (an experienced climber who regularly puts up fairly hard routes elsewhere in the rest of the world) is hanging on gear repeatedly shouting "I can't get in the chimney with this pack!" He eventually finishes the sustained awkward climbing, I follow with expressions of incredulity and awkward entertaining moves. As I approach the top out between the Donkey's Ears, I'm greeted with the comment, "don't pull on anything up here, it's all loose". The views from the cleft between the ears are a sudden treat, and the last easy pitch to the ear-top summit goes well, and the summit is solid and offers stunning views and perfect blue skies. Off go rock shoes, on go boots, and down we start on one of the worst descents ever. There is no rappel route back down the route; instead there is a combination of freehanging rappels down a long overhanging wall, followed by down-climbing and a long long tiptoe down steep scree and loose rock back to snow at the bottom. Our friends, meanwhile, have backed off the climb after pitch two, after one of them is overtaken by nausea and light-headedness, vomits on route, and suffers the collapse of a belay as a seemingly solid flake. (Ava will appreciate when I mention that a another pair, men, climbing the route after them informed us that this random sickness means she must be pregnant) This experience naturally has a dampening effect on her enthusiasm for heavy activity and trusting the rock later in the week. I took no photos on this day, too focused on climbing, and Steve was filming at the summit, but did photograph the route the next day from our next climb, it climbs up a series of ramps and walls to the thin dark line in the corner (chimney) that finishes between the ears and round the back to the right hand summit:
Image
longer view:
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Day 2: After a punishing day of carrying 5 days worth of gear up, and a long day of climbing and illness, we decide to take it easier. Steve, Caroline (the non-ill partner), and myself aim for a 450m 4th class scramble up the Northeast Ridge of Eastpost Spire (2728m), directly overlooking the campsite. Ascent of a snow and talus gully takes us to the col and the start of the ridge. Very fine, engaging scrambling commences immediately; the rock is more solid than not, the exposure just enough to be interesting, and we cover ground quickly, eventually curving round to the top of a surprise snow slope offering a delightfully alpine aspect to the day. We carefully move across the snow, stepping along the ridge at the edge of the moat. Across the snow, we stash our axes, and start the very fine final steep rock (15-20 metres, probably). We sign the summit register, enjoy more good views, and pull out the rope for a rappel from fortuitous chains back down to the axes and snow.

Scrambling up the ridgeline:
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Negotiating the top of the snow:
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Camera man (Steve likes filming trips):
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Views from the summit:
Caroline:
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Image

Snowpatch Spire on the left, Bugaboo on the right, Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col in the center. The Kain route goes up the left hand skyline of Bugaboo:
Image

The descent goes swiftly, and we're back at camp around 1pm. Steve and I decide to find a better water source than the dirty snow; moving down the snow slopes from camp, we find a pocket of grass(!) with a tiny crystal meltwater stream, a tiny pool, numerous boulders for lounging, and a very fine 12m slanting granite crack. The remainder of the afternoon is spent lounging at the pool, climbing the crack, and (for two of us at least) trying to submerge ourselves in an icy pool barely as big as our bodies.

Climbing the random crack:
Image
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Day 3: We had hoped to climb the West Ridge of Pigeon Spire (5.4 PD), a very classic and very alluring climb.
(Photo of Pigeon taken from base of the Kain Route on Bugaboo, the West Ridge is the right hand skyline):
Image

However, reports were coming back that it was still "full on winter" up there, and no parties had yet successfully summitted. Instead, we decided to go for the also classic, long Kain Route (south ridge) up Bugaboo Spire (5.6 AD, summit at 3204m). Several parties had reportedly been successful in the past few days. We went to bed with the sun still shining, in preparation for the morning's 4am alpine start. At 3:30, our tents are shaken by one of the Bugs notorious thunder storms; at 4:00 our alarms go off. We can't see the stars, but the clouds are high and the weather feels more settled, so we decide to set off in the pre-dawn darkness, prepared to turn back if the weather turned bad. Crossing the snowfields in a torpor of sleepiness, we eventually arrive at the steep Bugaboo/Snowpatch col. The gateway to many of the spires up in the Bugs, this col appears vertical from the camp, but is 200+ meters of steep snow, around 50 degrees for the last 100 m or so. Topping out on the col, we immediately start up the broken ground leading onto the ridge.
Group after climbing up to the col:
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View from the col:
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Persistent late season snow makes things interesting with boulder traps and loose rock, and the group moves more slowly than anticipated. The scrambling steepens, and we begin moving up more than across, and occasional cracks and jams sneak in.
Scrambling across a comparatively level part of the ridge:
Image

The big boots handle the low-5th terrain well, but the exposure, snow, and unroped movement begin to wear on part of the party. Steve begins to belay the nervous climber, but loose snow and rock, combined with less familiarity with this kind of mountaineering and fatigue from the previous days' illness has its effect and the pair decide to descend. Meanwhile, Caroline and I decide to carry on, facing the entertaining challenge of a blocky chimney incompletely filled with melting out snow. I set off up it with a single tool (we'd stashed our second tools where the climbing steepened lower down), placing occasional nuts and enjoying myself inordinately, as being on belay for the first time in the day made it feel comparatively safe. Emerging from the difficulty, route-finding becomes challenging. We can see tracks from previous parties moving across snowy steps and blocks rightward; however the hot weather had made the snow so soft that the normal route and its bad runout looked too dangerous - a day or two earlier before the heat wave it would have been quite pleasant. We moved up a more stable snow slope straight up toward rocks and the ridge crest, finding an alternate way with harder climbing but less objective danger. This was some of the best leading I've done in big boots and a pack, I was quite pleased not to freak out. Eventually we move right along the ridge and back onto the route and some of the hardest climbing yet. Not given a grade in the guidebook, the next two pitches are straight up a steep wall, including a 3 ft section of in situ rope in a crack that provides a welcome point of aid; Caroline changes into rock shoes and leads up both these pitches, I follow both in boots to save time. The weather, which had broken up quite beautifully earlier in the afternoon, was turning bad again, and a party just ahead of us turned back, rappelling past us with comments on menacing thunderclouds approaching. Caroline and I top out from the final steep section on to a mini-summit back on the ridge crest where we find a welcome set of chains. For the first time since starting the climb, we can actually see the summit - after a section of easy angled ridge followed by the technical crux (the negotiation around a gendarme immediately below the summit). We can also see black clouds bringing rain and possibly lightning, With the prospect of a long involved descent in front of us, we decide to emulate the preceeding party and turn back, briefly enjoying the views from our high point before turning to the series of long double rope rappels and downclimbing.

Obligatory 'summit' shot:
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Looking up to the real summit:
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Caroline at the top of the second full-length rappel (no stuck ropes yet).
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Two stuck ropes lower down required reclimbing before we ridged the lower ridge crest and began the long scramble back to the col. Two rappels brought us over the crevasses in the col and the steepest snow, and careful step kicking swiftly turns to some fine glissading down. We return back to a quiet camp which had been beginning to consider our possible benightment.
Sunset in camp:
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After dinner, dessert, and whisky, we consider plans for the next day. At this point, I've had 3 excellent days out, and tell Steve and Caroline to go climb something together the next day. While Buckingham Route (5.8, 8 pitches) on Snowpatch Spire (3000m)with its clean rock and classic reputation looked great, tiny belay stances and rappel stations mean it can't be done as a three, and I decide to stay in camp and see what the sleeping Flick is up for the next day.

Day 4: I wake up with Steve and Caroline at 6 as they set out for their climb. To make a long story short, Flick and I go for a wander across the snow looking at climbs, and decide in order to guarantee at least one stress-free summit for her we return and climb the same scramble I did two days earlier, using rope to protect the deteriorating snow slope. Steve and Caroline return in good time from their climb with tales of excellent climbing, a '5.8' crux which was definitely harder than that (experienced American climbers climbing near them reckoned it closer to a 5.10 slab) but graced with two well-spaced shiny bolts to supplement that non-existent trad placements which made it doable with less conviction of imminent doom. More dinner, dessert and whisky is consumed.

Bright white clouds after sunset:
Image

Day 5: We wake up to a real change in the weather, pack up, and start heading down. The packs are nearly as unwieldy as when we set off, with the food weight replaced with wet gear. Nevertheless, with gravity as an assistant rather than enemy, we can enjoy a bit more of the walk and revel in the return of greenery, running water, and thicker air, at least until the weather finally breaks open and rains and then hails on us, erasing the last regrets we had to be leaving such a remarkable alpine environment. The last 1km of flat ground seems to go on forever, and Steve and I prematurely try to race to the finish. Returning to the cars, we're delighted to see no sign of porcupine attacks, and after a bit of a rest, pack up and head down the long road to Radium and its hot springs and beer. A long swim in hot pools washed away both our smelliness and soreness, and beers and burgers in the Horsethief Creek Pub finished off an excellent week!

I definitely want to go back!! I need to climb the West Ridge of Pigeon, and Steve and Caroline came back far too happy from Buckingham Route for me to not try it myself.

A note for anyone who heads out there - the rodent problem is serious; while the chipmunks will just gnaw through stuff to get to food, the fluffy-tailed pack rats will just gnaw on everything - packstraps, boots, tents, helmets, everything. We thought we'd cleared everything up during the first night we encountered the gnawing, only to be awoken by a rat eating Steve's helmet in the porch of the tent!



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 Post subject: Re: Bugaboos 7/7-7/12
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:08 pm 
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Longshanks
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Joined: Wed Jan 25, 2006 7:47 pm
Posts: 927
Location: Denver
Oh, the jealousy. Looks like an awesome trip! I will get out there one of these days.


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 Post subject: Re: Bugaboos 7/7-7/12
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:29 pm 
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UW Climber
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 9:05 pm
Posts: 146
Beautiful!! So glad you were able to get out there and get some badass climbing in with friends from the UK. The crack formations look tantalizingly fun!


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 Post subject: Re: Bugaboos 7/7-7/12
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 8:03 am 
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experienced hiker of the climbing club
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Joined: Wed Dec 04, 2002 6:39 pm
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Location: Bashing Brush
Sounds like good times to me (excepting a distinct lack of brush, of course!). :drink:


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 Post subject: Re: Bugaboos 7/7-7/12
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 8:51 am 
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Joined: Thu Oct 02, 2008 7:34 am
Posts: 324
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
That looks amazing! Great job on the TR, nice pictures, can't wait to do some alpine climbing with you! :drink:


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 Post subject: Re: Bugaboos 7/7-7/12
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 9:28 am 
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Dr. Crevasse
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That place looks awesome. I hope to make it there some day.

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 Post subject: Re: Bugaboos 7/7-7/12
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:02 am 
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Raging Alpoholic
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Looks like some great climbing! It's Ok to leave a few super classic routes unclimbed for now, it's a great reason to get back there soon!


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 Post subject: Re: Bugaboos 7/7-7/12
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 1:56 pm 
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The Shepherd
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Location: Ravenna
Another reminder that I need to get up there. Looks like an awesome trip!


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