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Bugaboos Trip 2014

Alpine Climbing (Crescent Tower: 4th, Bugaboo Spire (Kane Route): 5.6, Pigeon Spire (West Ridge) 5.4
Friday, July 25, 2014

With summer conditions starting to be in full swing it was time to take a break from snow climbs to go for some more technical rock, and there are few places better for technical rock than The Bugaboos! Steven and I were joined by Ferenc for a hastily planned two and a bit day trip to the Bugs with the goal of climbing Bugaboo Spire, and Pigeon Spire. After meeting up with Ferenc in Calgary not too early in the morning we ended up getting to the Bugaboos parking lot just after noon (and I must say the approach road was in much better condition than when Steven, Eric, and I rambled that way a year prior to get to Rockypoint Ridge). The parking lot was pretty packed but thankfully there was still a mountain of chicken wire set up to fortify the car against any unsavory snafflehounds that might be lurking around.

The approach to the Applebee Dome campground was on good trail the entire way and took a bit less than three hours from car to camp leaving us with a lot of time for the rest of the day. Consequently we chose to ramble up Crescent Spire (via the normal climbers descent route) which turned out to be a very loose rubbly mess up to the col (i.e. normal Rockies scrambling terrain!). From the col getting to the summit had some enjoyable 3rd and 4th class moves and excellent views. Particularly impressive was the looming bulk of Bugaboo Spire’s north east ridge occluded in cloud above us. Climbing that ridge at some point is a long term goal of mine, some day, some day. After summiting Crescent Spire we looked over to Crescent Tower and through we might as well try to get up there too. The guidebook seemed to suggest that the ridge connecting the Spire/Tower col to the summit of Tower was rated 5.6 but it certainly didn’t look that difficult (and ended up being only some enjoyable 3rd and 4th). Views from Crescent Tower are quite similar to Crescent Spire but it is worth summiting both peaks if in the area for a head on view of the lovely nearby Brenta Spire. Descending back down to camp via the col got us to our tents in short order and on pace for getting a surprisingly reasonable amount of sleep (what luxury!).

Waking up just before sunrise we gobbled down some breakfast and joined the horde of people making the trek up towards the Bugaboo/Snowpatch col to start out ascent of Bugaboo Spire, via the Kane Route. Given a dump of fresh snow from a couple days before conditions were pretty slippery (with the western side of the ridge being almost entirely covered in ice) which made for careful footwork heading up the lower slopes. Ascending the lower mountain saw a pleasant blend of 3rd and 4th with an occasional 5th class move thrown in for flair. We ended up roping up for the two 5.4 chimneys described in the guidebook route description which were slippery with the snow/ice but still a great deal of fun! After the chimneys, we met up with a climber named Tony from Invermere who was planning to solo the entire mountain but didn’t like the ice on the gendarme. After a short discussion we agreed to join forces and belay past the gendarme as a four-man rope team. Big thanks to Tony for leading up the crux pitches and helping set up a few of the raps! The gendarme (much like the rest of the mountain) was pretty icy but did have decent holds to cling to. While our rope team was passing the gendarme a group from Colorado had also started up, and we ended up overlapping on the traverse across the gendarmes slabby face. After the gendarme, there was another short chimney between us and the summit which we didn’t rope up for. Clouds had been ebbing and flowing all day and by the time we reached the summit views were certainly not far reaching but thankfully the rest of the Bugs nearby were still visible. Knowing that there were still a great number of raps to contend with on the descent we didn’t stick around the summit too long. The raps on the way down went as described in the guidebook (with the 3rd rap station being somewhat difficult to find unless you knew approximately where it was) and in short order the rope was put away for the last time that day and we were scrambling down the lower mountain back to the BS col. Snow conditions in the col were still decent even in the early afternoon and after crossing the ‘shrund facing outwards and plunge stepping down made for a quick and easy descent. After some well-earned grub back and the exceedingly busy campground it was time to get some sleep to ramble up Pigeon Spire the next morning.

After summiting Bugaboo Spire the day before we were less worried about the technical climbing on Pigeon Spire’s West Ridge and more worried about traffic. The previous day talk around camp was that six groups turned around from Pigeon due to excessive ice, many groups would try it again today so we made sure to get an early start. We ended up being the second group on the mountain (just behind the guys from Colorado we met on Bugaboo Spire the previous day). The guys from Colorado were roping up from the base of Pigeon’s ridge which made for a somewhat slower pace. We soloed closely behind until reaching a good place to pass just above the ‘au-chevil’ section before the first summit. The fabulous grippy rock on Pigeon made for good progress and phenomenal scrambling in places. Before we knew it we were past the second summit, descending down to the crux (with some brief frosty rock shoe on snow travel). The crux pitch was a large chimney almost entirely covered in ice (thankfully though a few patches of bare rock allowed for excellent friction holds) which Ferenc comfortably led. Past the crux its only a short walk up to the summit which had one of the most excellent summit views that I had seen. Bugaboo Spire and the Howser Towers likely dominate the views from the summit but all of the other spires, and further away peaks add together to make this a phenomenal viewpoint. We spent a fair bit of time up on the summit and ended up joining forces with the Colorado group for a double length rap back down to the col between the 3rd and 4th summits to save some time. While free climbing back down the ridge we ended up passing 6 other roped parties. Pigeon’s West Ridge was certainly a popular place today! The descent back down to the camp and then back down to the car was long and kind of sloggy, but at least we were filled with memories of fun climbing and great views to keep our spirits high. Can’t wait to head back to the Bugs and try some of the more technical lines (and head up other impressive peaks like Snowpatch Spire).


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