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The Climbing Club • View topic - Bugaboos - West Ridge Pigeon and NE Ridge Bugaboo Spire

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 21, 2010 12:21 am 
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After I came back from the Dakobed Traverse, my wife and I were suddenly inspired to do a trip to the Bugaboos. She'd had the trip planned for three years, and pulled out a manila envelope with about 50 pages of beta on routes, approach, hostels, and porcupines. So, that was good enough for me, and after going to Adam and Amelia's wedding, we headed off to the Bugaboos!

Day 1:

We took a full day to drive up to Golden, BC, which is just north of Bugaboo Provincial Park, stopping along the way at Deals Only to pick up cheap snacks and Christmas themed batteries. We ate dinner at a neat park in Revelstoke on the Columbia River, and ended up camping in the car alongside Highway 1, serenaded by passing trains, cars, and mosquitos.

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Day 2:

After a horrible night of 'sleep', we drove south on 95, carefully watching for the turn-off to the Bugaboos. We stopped at a convenience store to organize our packs, cook breakfast (in retrospect, a good choice since the parking lot was dusty and buggy). The packs were really heavy for this trip, probably because of the fresh vegetables we brought, cans of tuna, 2 ropes, and full rack.

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Looking at the surrounding scenery, we couldn’t imagine where the granite spires could be hiding, but we drove up the dirt road anyway, looking for obscure signs that read ‘BUGABOO’ and dodging potholes and cows. An hour later, we arrived at the parking lot and armored the Subie. Horse flies and mosquitoes chased us up the steep trail, which was short but strenuous with heavy packs. Emerging views of wild glaciers and spires spurred us onward.

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Arriving at beautiful Applebee Camp, we snagged the “primo” site from a couple that was just leaving. The camp ground is now $10 per PERSON per night, but they installed a faucet with running water, a gray water disposal, food lockers, gear hangers, and 2 primo out houses with TP, hand sanitizer, and fine views. Definitely worth it. The climbers were friendly and eager to share beta and trade food. We cooked a delicious dinner and went to bed, excited about the next day.

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Day 3:

We decided to acclimatize and familiarize ourselves with the landscape by climbing the West Ridge of Pigeon, a 5.4 climb that is really popular. We got a leisurely start and headed up the steep snow of the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col, the most dangerous and heinous part of our trip. Many climbers have had bad accidents here from falling rock, and we heard a number of stories from people about near misses with rock fall. Once on top of the BS Col things really opened up (including my bowels, for which there was a convenient toilet) and we got our first tase of the heart of the Bugaboos. Views were a bit smokey due to forest fires.

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We quickly made our way to the base of the West Ridge and enjoyed another pit stop (it is amazing the amenities you find in the Bugaboos).

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The rest of the climb was just awesome. The exposure, the views, the solid rock, the easy simulclimbing...it was just that good.

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On the descent from Pigeon Spire we decided to go the long way down Bugaboo Glacier to see some more of the park and avoid the notorious BS Col. This was a great choice, and we were treated to incredible views of the South Face of Snowpatch Spire and the broken Bugaboo Glacier. This was very easy snow descent on a somewhat crevassed glacier and would be more problematic later in season. After cutting below Son of Snowpatch you can stay high and do some easy scrambling back to camp without losing elevation. Surprisingly, we arrived back at camp at the same time another party that had descended the BS Col around the same time as us. Total, the whole trip took us a leisurely 8 hours to do.

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After getting back to camp and pigging out on couscous and veggies, a long-haired Californian climber decided to barter bars for some dinner food. We delighted him with a giant organic zucchini we had gotten from the food bank. He and his partner ecstatically chomped it down raw, grins splitting their faces. "Santa Claus is coming to your food locker," he announced as he dumped handfuls of energy bars into our hands. This was a highlight of the trip for us--and since we'd underpacked on energy bars, it was also crucial to our success on the next day's objective: the NE Ridge of Bugaboo Spire, the 50 classic climb everyone does in the Bugaboos. As the sun set, we drank hot chocolate and read the route description again, discussing possible timing and listening to some nearby climbers gripe about the "50 crowded classics" and how it ruins climbing areas. As we lay in our sleeping bags, we heard climbers coming in and leaving at all hours of the night.

Day 4:

We awoke at 4:40 and were moving 20 minutes later. At first, we had that "50 classics off to the races feeling" - the hurried hike to the base of the route, the hope to be 1st in line, worried watching for other headlamps, anxiety about getting stuck behind a slow party. As the sun rose, we realized that no other parties were approaching. In fact, we would have the entire spire to ourselves that day. The scramble to the Bugaboo-Crescent Col is slabby with loose rock; a few 5.4 moves and low 5th terrain. We decided to rope up for it, although the guidebook mentions that it is frequently soloed. Little pro was available, but my wife appreciated the top rope since she still had her boots on. Soon we were at the rope-up ledge, the start of the real climb.

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Pitch 1 was a spectacular and sustained 5.8 finger and chimney pitch that moved up hollow flakes, a wake up call for sure with heavy packs on. Right then I knew why this climb was a fifty classic.

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Pitch 2 ascended a system of flakes up and left at 5.6. The next pitch, pitch 3, was one of the most amazing pitches I have ever done in the alpine. Wildly exposed face climbing with fun moves and decent pro traverses climbers right to the crest of the NE Ridge.

On the 4th pitch I think we unintentionally started on a more difficult 5.8-5.10 variation of the NE Ridge. The tip off was the supposed '5.6 hand and fist corner crack' that had me grunting and got my fingers all bloody from shallow-flaring finger jams.

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To avoid this, climb further to the right of the ridge! Above this pitch I kept moving up on increasingly difficult terrain, going a full 60 m until I was almost clean out of gear and really running it out. I decided to belay here and considered my options. We were getting worried about our time since we still had a long way to go and a lot of descent, so I escaped out right on committing and delicate moves to what we should have been climbing, easy low 5th chimneys. We quickly ran up the chimneys with some 5.7 thrown in to make up some time and reached the North Summit around 2:30. Next we had to traverse from the North to the South Summit, a long and extremely exposed climb.

The traverse looked something like this:
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We stared out with a very exposed 20' rappel:
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Easy class 3 scrambling led to this airy traverse (we stayed roped up for the entire traverse):
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On one au cheval part of the traverse this was the view down the left:
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And down the right:
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Soon we were at the South Summit, ready to descend:
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What followed was a long and complex descent that involved 6 rappels and endless downclimbing that we did blind. I recommend scoping out this descent by climbing the Kain Route on Bugaboo Spire first. The most important advice is to stay on the crest when downclimbing. There are many deceiving trails that go down the face, DO NOT GO DOWN THESE OR ELSE!

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Rapping off the Gendarme:
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Endless downclimbing that we did unroped in rock shoes:
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Pigeon Spire, what we climbed yesterday. And it is getting dark:
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After this we rapped down the BS Col via a new bolted route. This was the most horrible rappel I have ever done. Dirty, wet, insanely dangerous, and rope destroying steep dirty ice. My right hand got pegged with a fist size rock on the way down, and we lived in fear of more rock the rest of the way. Rap stations were hard to find, especially in the fading light. Finally, we down climbed steep snow and stumbled our way to camp, totally spent and exhausted. We didn't stop moving the entire day and as a result ate only 5 energy bars plus some gummy bears, always trying to beat the clock. In total this was 18 hours and tested nearly every alpine skill we know.

Are we done yet?
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If we did this again, we would do much better knowing the descent route, and also not to rope up on the approach. Also, aluminum crampons, lightweight ice axes, and a very early start are musts for this climb. We were lucky to have perfect weather for this climb. Had there been thunderstorm activity, we could have run into serious trouble. We trudged up to camp and cooked dinner in the dark, then collapsed into bed. We were starving for the next two days.

Day 5:

We rested in camp, ate as much as possible, watched people ascend the Bugaboo Spire, and watched some dark clouds roll in. Since we had climbed what we wanted to and had not brought enough money for more camping (we didn't know that the fees were per person, not per tent), we decided to pack up and head out. Reluctantly, we hiked away from the beautiful views, stopping at the hut to stay dry during a brief rain shower. In the hut, I found a guidebook and began perusing more big routes that I'd like to do when I come back.

I found that the Bugaboos are a very difficult range of mountains that are not to be taken lightly. Although a route like the NE Ridge of Bugaboo Spire may be 5.8, this rating does not take into account the lengthy approach and descent, which are the true cruxes of the climb. In my opinion the best way to have a good experience in this area is to start out small, scope out the approaches and descents, and get in really good shape. These are hard, and amazing mountains.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 21, 2010 9:12 am 
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Longshanks
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Awesome! :drink:


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 21, 2010 9:20 am 
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giving spoon
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Jon you are a beast. I could barely walk for the next couple days after Glacier Peak - you were heading out for the Bugs. Nice work you two. It does seem that you trip was entirely lacking in suffering/bush swacking though.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 10:27 am 
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Dr. Crevasse
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Nice work on the long/challenging climb! :rock:

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 11:13 am 
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One Armed Wonder
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Awesomeness Jon! You up for some more adventures next weekend?

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 23, 2010 8:59 am 
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Well done on both climbs! Both routes were still out of climbing condition in early June, but they looked awesome. Descending the Kain route is a bugger, I couldn't really imagine doing it after the whole NE ridge. I found the combination of alpine grades and normal yosemite grades in the guidebook helpful for indicating the seriousness of otherwise potentially sandbagging adventures. Generally I found the combination of crag-like density of alpine rock climbs up there awesome, but slightly disconcerting in that the each route is still a serious alpine endeavor, despite the proximity of lovely wilderness toilets to camps and col.

Where's the faucet with running water at Applebee? It wasn't visible while we were there, but there was still nearly a metre of snow...


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 24, 2010 8:37 pm 
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I think the faucet at Applebee is new this season (along with the gray water disposal). It probably lowers the impact on the stream and tarn near camp and is pretty convenient. We didn't filter and had no adverse affects (so far, 1 week after the trip we are just fine).

Can't wait to go back!!


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 6:58 am 
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experienced hiker of the climbing club
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Very nicely done Jon and Lisa!


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 8:54 am 
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The Shepherd
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Well Done, great job putting all the skills to use! Sounds like any travel in the B-S col is dangerous, but I can imagine it must have been particularly bad after already being tired from a day of climbing.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:38 am 
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Alpine Slogger
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Looks like a great trip! Always wondered...where did you get the chickenwire? Bring it from seattle?


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 1:33 pm 
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The bugaboos look awesome! Sounds like a great trip.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 4:57 pm 
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