July 26 - August 1, 2013
Participants: Amber McMinn, Michael McMinn, Aaron Cornes
Day 1: Drive to Golden, BC
Friday, July 26
|Not really how we envisioned the beginning of our 3-week vacation...|
Today we left Vancouver at 7am to make the trek to Golden, BC. The majority of the drive was uneventful, with a quick breakfast stop in North Van and a lunch break in Salmon Arm. As we were driving through Roger's Pass enjoying the view of the mountains we noticed that the truck was heating up and every so often we would lose power when we tried to accelerate. Uh oh, we really shouldn't take an unreliable vehicle 2.5 hrs down a logging road..... We milked the truck into Golden and hit the first mechanic's shop that we spotted - OK Tire. After a couple hours of waiting and diagnostic tests we found out that our fuel pump was done. Luckily, we were traveling with a third person, Aaron Cornes, who offered to drive for the rest of the trip so we could leave the truck at the garage to be fixed. We met him at a hotel in Golden and spent the night organizing gear and chatting about our plans for the week over a few beers before hitting the sack to rest up for our upcoming adventure.
|Econo Lodge, Golden, BC (aka, last night this week in a real bed)|
Day 2: Drive to Trailhead & Hike in to Applebee Dome Campground
Saturday, July 27
|Trail Head Beers and Chicken-wired cars|
After loading the car and enjoying a leisurely breakfast at ABC, we hit the road for Brisco, BC. The drive took about 2.5 hours from Golden to the Climbers trail head for Bugaboo Provincial Park
; 80 km to Brisco and then ~50km down an active logging road. We arrived at the trail head at 1030am, organized the final bits of gear, wrapped the car in chicken wire to keep the porcupines away from our brake lines and enjoyed a beer before hitting the trail. We ran into an acquaintance of Aaron's in the parking lot who was in the Bugaboos to climb for 5 weeks! crazy!
|Views on the hike; Hound's Tooth and Bugaboo Glacier|
The first 1.5 km of the hike in was not too bad, its fairly flat and even with heavy packs (60+ lbs) it was reasonable. That all quickly changes when hit the climb. The next 3.5km are fairly torturous. With hot weather, heavy packs and a constantly climbing trail, it made for an exhausting hike. We stopped for a break at the top of the ladder and ledges (about half way) and again at the Conrad Kain Hut.
The stop at the hut was necessary to register and pay for our campsite ($10 per person, per night) and it was a nice place for an extended break.
|Ladder of Doom|
|Conrad Kain Hut|
The last km to the Applebee Campsite is the most technical and steepest part of the hike. It feels like the longest km on earth. After a 5 hour suffer-fest we arrived at camp, set up our home for the week and enjoyed a well-earned pasta dinner. It's a good thing the area has such great climbing and amazing views to make the hike worth-while. The Applebee campground is in a beautiful location and is nicely equipped for a backcountry campsite with stocked outhouses, hanging racks for packs (to keep the pack rats away), food caches and even a water tap and grey water dump.
Day 3: Bugaboo Spire
Sunday, July 28
|Our Home for a week|
Kain Route, AD, 5.6
13.5 hours (tent-to-tent)
Weather: mixed bag - highs of 24c, lows of 3c, sun, wind, clouds, snow, hail
|Bugaboo Spire; Kain Route (Left hand Skyline)|
|Mike climbing 3rd/4th class rock|
For our first climb we opted to go for the longest and most difficult objective on our list while we had a reasonable weather window and reasonable energy levels. In hind-site, it may have been a better idea to get a taste of the area on a shorter route first, but it all worked out regardless. We got up at 5am (again, in hind-site, we should have been up at 3 or 4) and we were on our way by 6am.
|Aaron on the 2nd/3rd Class Rock|
We crossed the basin to the Crescent glacier where we roped up for the glacier crossing and the climb up the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col (B-S Col). The climb to the col was in reasonable shape on the way up with frozen snow bridges and a packed trail over the Bergschrund, any later in the year though it may be impassible. Once on the col we ditched our crampons and ice axes and put the rope away for the 2nd/3rd class ledges.
|View of Snowpatch Spire|
We scrambled up mostly 2nd/3rd class ledges for about 2 hours, sticking to the ridge as much as possible, steadily gaining elevation. We started to get into some some steeper 3rd/4th class ledges for the next couple hours where we still scrambled, mostly unroped, until the pitches began to steepen again.
|Almost at the Gendarme|
At this point we pulled out the rope, built some anchors and began to pitch out the exposed 4th class/low 5th rock. We climbed 4-5 pitches of blocky rock until we reached a 4th class ridge leading to the gendarme. We climbed the ridge in two pitches and then Aaron led the next two pitches up the crux of the route, the gendarme, with its infamous airy 5.6 traverse. Once past the gendarme, we climbed two more easy pitches the reach the summit of Bugaboo spire at 1:30pm.
|Views from the Kain Route - looking at Cobalt Lake|
It had been snowing lightly on and off over the last couple hours, so we did not linger on the summit. After a couple quick photos we set our rappel to make our way down. The first rappel and down climb went smoothly, but on our second rappel our ropes got stuck off-route, so Mike had to unjam the ropes and climb back up the ropes using a prussic, which ate away at some valuable time. Luckily, we had just completed a rock rescue course where we had learned how to deal with stuck ropes. Thanks Squamish Rock Guides!
After 2 more rappels, simu-climbing back over the ridge and another 4-5 rappels with some down-climbing in the 4th/low-5th class rock we were back into the 2nd/3rd class section and finally back to the B-S Col.
The climb down from the B-S col was less than ideal in the evening with the soft steep snow and the softened snow bridges over the bergschrund. It was do-able, but slow going. We finally dragged ourselves back into camp at 7:30 pm, 13.5 hour after leaving that morning.
Day 4: Eastpost Spire
Monday, July 29
|Mike: Summit of Bugaboo Spire|
|Hiking to the Col; Tarn reflections|
|Mike and Aaron Climbing the summit tower|
Northwest Ridge, F, 4th Class
2.5 hours (tent-to-tent)
Weather: highs of 20c, lows of 3c; sun, clouds; some hail while climbing; lightning storm, rain, hail once back in camp.
|Roping up for the summit tower|
After a long day yesterday and a questionable weather forecast we opted for a shorter day today. We got up at 7am, had a leisurely breakfast and hit the trail at 9am. From camp we hiked up past the tarns and scrambled up the sandy gully to the Eastpost-Cresent Col.
|Amber: Summit Shot|
From the col we moved quickly over blocky, mostly 3rd class terrain with some 4th class steps. When we reached the summit tower, we traversed along a ledge system below the tower onto the Northeast Ridge to gain the final step to the summit.
We roped up and Simu-climbed the exposed 30m of 4th class\low-5th climbing to reach the anchors on the summit of Eastpost Spire. We enjoyed the views and some lunch on the summit before completeing one rappel and scrambling back to camp the way we had come.
|Back at Camp - Weather's turning|
We were back at camp by 1130am and spent the rest of the day relaxing, reading and napping to wait out the lightning storm that blew into camp and to rest up for the next big day.
Day 5: Pigeon Spire
Tuesday, July 30
|Mike resting up|
|Pigeon Spire; we climbed the right hand (West) ridge|
West Ridge, PD+, 5.4
12.5 hours (tent-to-tent)
Weather: highs of 15c, lows of 2c; sunny, cold in the shade
|Mike on crossing the Vowell Glacier|
Today we got up at 4am to attempt the Classic West Ridge of Pigeon Spire. We were on the trail by 4:45am and navigated the Crescent Glacier by headlamp. We were the first party up the B-S col which was a bit challenging as we had to kick in steps the whole way up. Once on the B-S col, we climbed down the backside and onto the Upper Vowell glacier which climbs gradually, but steadily to the Pigeon-Howser Col. We started climbing the route at 730am and ended up simu-climbing the entire route both up and down.
|Amber and Mike on the 4th Class ridge|
The route is broken down into 3 distinct "sections" the first section involves all 3rd/4th class scrambling up blocky ledges to the first summit. A majority of the route was shady and was quite cold early in the day. From the first summit the second section of the route looks incredibly intimidating; steep and exposed. We almost talked ourselves into turning back but decided instead to descend the easy slabs to the notch between the first and second summit. From the notch the second section looks much more reasonable with blocky groves and crack systems to follow all the way to the second summit.
|Aaron approaching the second summit|
|Amber - Au Cheval|
The climb to the second summit is quite enjoyable with sustained 4th class climbing and the infamous "Au Cheval", where you straddle the rock ridge and ride it like a horse for about 30 feet. It feels very solid, but has tons of exposure and is one of the highlights of climb. From the top of the second summit (where we were finally in the sun and could feel our fingers again) we lowered/down-climbed a low-5th crack system to the final notch below the main (3rd) summit tower.
|Mike, Au Cheval|
From the notch we climbed in a upward, spiral to the back side of the summit tower. There we encountered the 5.4 hand rail traverse which was easily negotiated with great hand holds and good friction for your feet and then we scrambled up a 3rd/4th class ramp to the anchors on the true summit of Pigeon Spire. We arrived at the summit at 1130 am (4 hours from the col) and took some photos and enjoyed the views.
|Another party down-climbing the second summit|
From the summit we completed two rappels back down to the notch between the 2nd and 3rd summits. From there we climbed the low-5th cracks back to the second summit and then simu-down-climbed most of the way back to the col. Slightly above the col we encountered a steep pitch of 4th class climbing where we rappelled off of a slung block down onto some low angle slabs, which we down-climbed the final few meters to the col.
|Aaron nearing the summit|
We were back onto the Vowell Glacier by 3:30pm and we made quick work of the downward slopping glacier slog and were back at the B-S col by 4pm. From there we once again grovelled through the B-S col down climb, over the softening snow bridges and were back at camp by 5:15pm; 12.5 hours after leaving that morning.
|Aaron - Summit Shot|
We had an interesting interlude while returning to camp. A couple of climbers were descending the B_S Col slightly after us, one partner decided to hike, the other did not want to cross the Bergschrund solo, so he rappelled. Why didn't they rope up and cross together? who knows?!? The solo hiking partner was well below the col, on the flats of the glacier while we all watched his partner have a neat epic/meltdown while trying to rappel. He did 2 of the 3 available raps without issue (a forth was still buried under the snow) but on the 3rd he discover his ropes did not reach past the bergschrund. So he sat on his ropes for at least 20min before final deciding to anchor himself to the steep snow, pull his ropes and walk solo over the 'Schrund, exactly what he had been trying to avoid. We were all glad that those guys weren't our climbing partners. We like to climb with the rule that as soon as someone wants a rope, it's out. No arguing, no negotiating; the least comfortable person dictates the use of the rope. Period.
|Amber and Mike - Summit Shot - Howser Towers in background|
Day 6: Crescent Towers
Wednesday, July 31
|Sunrise on Crescent Towers|
Lion's Way, Central Crescent Tower, PD+, 5.6
8.5 hours (tent-to-tent)
Weather: highs of 20c, lows of 2c; Sunny
|Aaron on Lion's Way|
|Mike on Lion's Way|
On our last day of climbing in the Bugaboos we opted to try a route that had more rock climbing and less scrambling. We opted for Lion's Way a 6-8 pitch 5.6 rock climb. We got up at 6am and it was quite cold, with the route still in the shade so we took our time with breakfast and didn't leave camp until 8am. We hiked above the tarns, on some sketchy snow slopes above a lake/tarn and did a bit of easy scrambling to reach the large gully leading to the base of the route.
|Amber Climbing Lion's Way|
After some more steep, hard snow climbing up to a talus field we reached the base of the route. We met a guided group here that was not happy to see us. The guide was worried about us scooping his route and kicking rocks on him and although we made it perfectly clear that we would wait so they could go first and get some distance between our groups, he still talked to us with a incredibly obnoxious attitude. We were less than impressed and were happy to see them on their way and no where near us for the rest of the day.
|Aaron topping out on Lion's Way|
The first two pitches climbed were 4th class/low 5th and then we reached the corner system where the real climbing begins. The 3rd pitch was the crux of the route in an awkward corner system giving away to some fun stemming moves. From there we climbed some more low-5th blocky pitches followed by a fun slab pitch. Once on top of the slab we followed some steep broken ledges to the final scramble to the summit. We reached the summit at 2:30pm and enjoyed lunch in the sun.
|Amber - Summit Shot|
From the summit we down-climbed the sandy descent gully on well work trails until about half way down the gully we reached a vertical wall and a rappel station. We did one rap back onto the lower scree slope where we scree bashed for a while until we could retrieve the gear we had left at the base of the route (ice axe, crampons). From this point we got onto the now-soft snow slope and boot skied/plunged stepped quickly down the rest of the gully. With the soft snow we made quick work of the descent back to camp by cruising over the mellow snow slopes and we were back in campo by 4:30pm. A fun and leisurely day.
|View from summit of Central Crescent Tower|
Day 7: Hike out
Thursday, August 1
|Aaron Rappelling off of Crescent Spire|
|View of Snowpatch from Lion's Way|
|Applebee Dome Campground (From Eastpost Spire)|
On our last day we were up at 6am to the sound of rain. We quickly packed up and ate a breakfast of granola bars on the trail. Thankfully the rain stopped for the hike out. We stopped again for breaks at the hut and at the ladder and were back at the car in about 2.5/3 hours. We enjoyed a round of celebratory beers at the car and then loaded up for the drive back to Golden.
Aaron dropped Mike and I off at the garage to pick up out truck, which was now ready to go with a new fuel pump (leaving us $1100 poorer). We said our goodbyes and Mike and I headed into Vernon for a few days of relaxing and catching up with family and friends. A fabulous end to a wicked trip!
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