Monday, August 22, 2011

Bugaboos, Canada 2011 Trip Report

Liz & me had finally made it up to the famed Bugaboos of Canada.  I have heard many stories about bad weather, and sitting in a tent for an entire trip.  Needless to say, that doesn't happen to everyone.  As usual on our big adventures, we some how got lucky again.  Perfect weather!  The only time we experienced any moisture was when we were in our tent, either done climbing, or on a rest day.
3 miles, and 3000 vertical brings you to base camp.

During our stay in the mountains (one week) we were able to grab three summits. 
Two of the routes we climbed are some of the "50 Classics of  North America."

North East Ridge, Bugaboo Spire, Grade 3, 5.7 (First climbed  August 18th, 1958 Turner/Isles/Sykes/Craft)

This thing was an awesome line, seen from all over camp.  Being one of the 50 Classics, we had to do it!
It would be our first route in the Bugs, a lovely warmup.  After getting up at the usual pre-dawn hour, eating breakfast and drinking coffee, it was time to go back to bed.  The rain / thunder has just begun!  After hiking in the day before, the extra rest felt really good. 
Our packs had been heavy with a weeks worth food (booze) supply.  After the extra rest, and moisture, things started to move away.  We gathered our gear, and headed towards Bugaboo Spire.  The glacier travel was small, and easy to this climb.  Kind of like home crossing a snow field on the approach.  Next up is some 500 to 800 feet of easy 5th class soloing to access the ridge with the curious snow patch seen from camp.  After gaining the snow, and a bit more easy 5th class soloing, we reach the rope up ledge.

From here it is 10 roped pitches to the north summit.  I carry the pack, and simul-climb behind Liz.
We climb the route in 3 pitches to the top.  Some more easy climbing, and soloing brings us across
the long summit ridge to the higher south summit, and the start or our descent route down the Kain ridge.
Liz starting up pitch 1.

An awesome 5.7 pitch higher up.
Liz heading towards the south summit.
Happy to be on our first Bugaboo summit!
Next up is the South Howser Tower,  West Buttress (aka - The Beckey - Chouinard )  Grade 5,   5,10
(First climbed by Fred Beckey, and Yvon Chouinard August 8-9th, 1961)

This route was awesome.  It is one of the better (top5?) big climbs I have done.  Not too hard, not too easy.  Longer than most, but not too long.  Pitch after pitch of good cracks, good rock!  With perfect weather seeming to be in the forecast, we head out of basecamp.  The idea was to climb this route on it's 50th anniversary.  We did this on the 7-8th (instead of the 8-9th) so pretty much got an anniversary ascent.  I wish we could have done both the original days, but when the weather looks good, it is time to act!  The day after we got back to basecamp (9th) we saw people coming back to camp after a large hail & lightning storm.  Some of the had been on the Howser tower during that storm (which would have been us if we had waited) and experienced about 8-10 inches of hail burying there ropes.  Looking at them rolling into camp, soaked to the gills reminded me that we made the right choices in going up when we did! 

Leaving basecamp about 7:30 am, we ascent the Bugaboo/Crescent glacier, up over the col, across the Vowell glacier to the Pigeon/Howser col, and down towards the West side of the Howser massif.  We are looking to start our climbing route by 1-2pm.  bivy on the big ledge, and finish the next day.  This style makes the climb more casual in some ways (not pushing the body for 24hrs straight - stopping to get rest) but at the same time you have to carry a few more things (1 sleeping bag, 1 bivy sac, 1 jetboil stove, and some meals.)
It was the style the first ascent was done in, and we thought it would be cool to do that style 50 years later.
Although our gear is way more confidence inspiring than what Beckey & Chouinard had. . .
Heading across the Vowell glacier.  Bugaboo(left) & Snowpatch(right) spire in the background.  You can see the Kain ridge that we used to descend the Bugaboo spire down to the col. (flat area between the spires) 
Liz heading down & around the South Howser tower.

The West Buttress (Beckey-Chouinard) approx. follows the left skyline of the tower for 16 - 20 pitches.
Liz feeling good on pitch 1, with perfect weather!

Liz leading us towards the "Great White Headwall" high above. (We slept on the big ledge below it.)
Me leading towards the little 5.10 overhang.

This climbing is so fun! (even with a pack)
What's for dinner?  On pitch 6 ledge.  We found ice on this ledge which we melted in our Jetboil stove to cook dinner, and rehydrate ourselves.  The route had been dry up to here, so we figured we better refill our water bottles here, eat, and rehydrate.  We knew there would be snow on the summit for more water, but were unsure about other ledges..

At our bivy ledge, with more ice to melt for hot tea this evening, and coffee in the morning!
Liz enjoying our perfect bivy in the evening light.

Organizing the rack for the next day.

Liz in the 60meter, 5.8, wet chimney.  I placed almost my entire rack on this pitch. (Way more gear than I placed on the 10) Felt like I might blow out at any moment, but still had such a fun time!

Liz coming up another excellent pitch somewhere on the "Great White Headwall."

Summit of the South Howser Tower!
Eying up the giant bergschrund we are about to rap over.
On the Vowell glacier heading back to basecamp.  We just descended the right skyline of the left most tower.

Liz enjoying the wonder & beauty of the Vowell glacier.
Ice axe air guitar after a successful 50th anniversary  ascent! 

Our final mission, the classic (but not 50 Classic)
grade 2, 5.4 West Ridge of Pigeon Spire (First climbed by Cromwell / Kaufmann, August 1930)

Everyone that had climbed this thing was so pleased by the fun nature of the route.  We had not heard one bad thing about it, so we headed out with only one of our 8mil. ropes, 6 cams, 6 stoppers, and a hand full of runners.  The route is easy, with a bunch of what I would call "fun walking"  which can all be simul-climbed in approach shoes/mountain boots.
Liz heading towards Pigeon Spire(on left) - we climbed the skyline from bottom right up left.  Out to the right is the back side on the Howser massif (left to right south, central, and north Howser)
Fun walking, and steep climbing can be enjoyed on Pigeon Spire!

Fun walking with the Howser's looming behind!
Getting ready to rap from the summit, with the Bugaboo Spire in the background.
Pigeon Spire Summit.

A few other random shots from our trip:

Packing & drinking up before the big hike. . .
Liz enjoying weiner schnitzel, and I have some paprika chicken with  spaetzle!

Yummy Hungarian desert!
 The food, and people who own the hotel we stayed at are excellent!  The owners(couple) and the chef are from Hungry.  The owner & wife left there in 1984.  They had packed the car, saying that they were going on vacation, and never went back. (This was before the wall fell.)   They always fed us well, did breakfast early for us (so we could get out to the trail head in the morning) and gave us free deserts, etc.  In return we took the time to share some of our pictures with them in the evening after the restraunt had closed, and we were back after our adventures.  They were very delighted!  This hotel (Rocky Mountain Springs Lodge)  is in Radium HotSprings, which is about the closest town to the 30mile dirt road leading to the trail head.
At the trail head securing the car to prevent porcupines from eating the hoses & wires.

The Radium Hotsprings town wood carver.  Go take a tour of his unique home, with 32 years of wood carvings, a garden on the roof, with planks high up where his goats roam.  He also has a few cool booby traps that spray water on you.

The wood carver himself!
Nice view!

Snowpatch Spire!

Bugaboo glacier, with the Kain Hut (3 stories tall) in the lower left, by the bottom edge of glacier.  This is another place one can stay.  It sleeps up to 40 people, and a reservation in recommended.  

Ice arch in the Bugaboo glacier.

Rainbow after storm.

If you get the chance to climb in the Bugaboos, GO!