Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Bugaboos

Crossing the Au Chevel on Pigeon Spire. Photo Loren Rausch.

I have wanted to climb in the Bugaboos since I first heard about the park seven years ago. I bought a guidebook about five years ago and since then it has been sitting on my bookshelf waiting to get put to use. Last winter, Sam and I started scheming about adventures we could do during the summer. We both were super excited to check out the Bugaboos and finally a trip to the area was put together!

The place lives up to the hype of an awesome alpine playground. Once at the basecamp, the access is great and amazing climbs can be reached within a 30 minute walk. The rock is generally excellent and there are many bolted rappel stations that help make the alpine terrain feel very safe.

Evening light on Snowpatch spire. Photo Sam Goff.

We packed food for about a week and began our hike into basecamp on July 30. It was hot and sunny and it looked like high pressure weather would remain throughout the week. The trail is steep but is immaculately maintained with lots of stairs cut out of the rock and handlines made from chain that have been bolted into the rock in the exposed areas.

Our packs were really, really heavy. We guessed between 60-70lbs and it took us close to 4 hours to slowly and leisurely hike in to Applebee campground. We were a little taken aback at how many tents there were at the campground. It was quite crowded and earplugs were a mandatory piece of equipment. It didn't exactly feel like wilderness experience. But there is a reason that many people tend to visit this park. It is a beautiful place with great access and quality rock. Sometimes climbing isn't entirely about an isolated, alpine adventure. Instead it can be about sharing the routes and the beautiful places with others. It can be about meeting new people and creating a sense of community at a tiny belay ledge.

The "scene"

On our first climbing day, we went up McTech Arete, a 5 pitch 5.10a on Crescent Spire. There were 4 excellent pitches and 1 short pitch of 4th class choss. There is only a move or two of 5.10 climbing so the climbing goes pretty quickly. It was a great introduction to the area and also a great route for a short, mellow day.

Sam following the first pitch

The second pitch
Topping out on the McTech Arete. Photo Sam Goff.

The next day we work up early so that we could do the Northeast ridge of Bugaboo Spire, IV, 5.8. The first 4-5 pitches were interesting and fun, crack climbing and some face climbing across a dyke. The remaining pitches were pretty low angle and went up through a chimney system that is best climbed by stemming and using the holds on the outside of the chimney. But what makes this route awesome is the amazing setting. The views from the ridge are outstanding and you can see far into the north and south. Views of granite spires and glaciers are endless! The descent for this route is down the opposite ridgeline (the Kain route) and so you end up traversing the whole peak from North summit to south summit and then down the Kain route. We had heard that it is easy to get lost on the traverse and descent and maybe if there weren't so many people descending we might have gotten lost but the guidebook (by Chris Atkinson and Marc Piche) also describes the terrain and descent in quite accurate detail. Or maybe we are just amazing routefinders?!

The NE ridge climbs the right skyline and the Kain route descends the left skyline

Finishing the second pitch

Up high on the NE Ridge. Photo Sam Goff.

Doing some routefinding. Photo Sam Goff.

Somewhere between the north and south summit. Photo Sam Goff.

Our final climb was an ascent of another one of the Bugaboos famous moderate classics, the west ridge of Pigeon Spire, 5.4). We simul climbed up and solo-ed down. I'm not that into soloing but this felt very secure and I would definitely solo it again. The funny part about this climb is that we just brought rock shoes and there was quite a bit of snow on the route (which you could see from the approach, if you were actually looking). So it was a bit slippery and cold climbing the snow with our little rock shoes. Fortunately there were some nice steps and I pioneered my own way towards the summit on the final 100 feet through the undisturbed lichen covered slab instead of remaining on the snow covered steps up the slab. It was entertaining!

Descending down to the first summit.

Sam and myself on top of Pigeon

With this trip, I have gotten a taste of what the Bugaboos have to offer and I look forward to going back and having more adventures in the future!

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