Sunday, July 31, 2016

Alpine Paradise - Bugaboos Part II

Day 3 - Kain Route, Bugaboo Spire, III, 5.6

After our awesome time on Pigeon Spire we decided to head up another classic route, the Kain route up Bugaboo Spire. Originally put up in 1916 by legendary guide and climber Conrad Kain, at the time it was a tour de force, and the most difficult climb in the world.

Kyle poses in front of the hut, and the namesake of our climb. Conrad Kain
The climb involves about 2000' of climbing, mostly on low 5th class terrain. So we ended up simul-climbing the majority of the route. There was a seriously exposed ridge traverse followed by the crux, a 5.6 crack and slab system. It would have been rated 5.7-5.8 in California. My respect for Conrad Kain was foremost on my mind while following the crux pitch. I can't imagine leading that pitch in boots, with hemp ropes, and no modern rock protection. Props to an alpinist from times, he must have been a bold climber.

Kyle poses midway up the Kain route
Snow patch spire from the Kain Route
The Kain Route

Kyle negotiates the ridge traverse on the Kain Ridge.
We reached the top, and began the complex descent. It involved 6 rappels, and a lot of down climbing. Truly a classic route. We took about 10 hours hut-to-hut to ascend the col, the climb the route, descend the col, and hike back.

Summit Shot

On the way down
 Day 4 - Rest Day

We needed a break, so we hiked out, drove to Radium Hot Springs, got a delicious (veggie) burger, some beer, talked to my beautiful wife on the phone. A good recharge.


Day 5 - MacTech Arete, III, 5.10-

Kyle wanted to crank out something more challenging and technical, so we chose the ultra-classic  MacTech Arete which ascends Crescent Spire. We stopped at the cool boulder bathrooms on the way, and then traveled through the tent camping spot. 

Boulder Bathrooms
On the way to MacTech Arete
Tent camping at Bugaboos
The approach to Crescent towers is much shorter than the other areas we climbed, no crampons, no ice axes, a nice change.


On route

Kyle being the crack climbing guru led the whole thing. I followed, grunted, swore, but made it up. The 4th pitch was particularly spectacular. A 50 meter hand crack, amazing climbing. 

5.9 Hand crack.
Crack climbing stoke.

We fished the 6 pitches, and rapped the route. All the pitches were perfect cracks, unbelievably good climbing. Kyle sent the crux 5.10 pitch with no issue, I huffed and puffed but made it through. Pretty proud of sending that steep crack, not exactly my specialty. 

Kyle cruises one of the upper 5.8 pitches on MacTech Arete
Looking back at MacTech Arete
We headed back to the hut for some chill time. One of the very cool things about hanging out in the hut is the many cool climbers you get to meet. Legendary alpinist, Barry Blanchard was there guiding a couple from Miami up Pigeon Spire. We picked his brain about Mt. Athabasca, and he shared many of his stories about climbing in the Rockies and the Himalaya. So cool to meet one of the greatest living mountain climbers. 

Also present was Steph Abegg, an enthusiastic alpinist whose blog I have used many times for beta in the Sierra's and John Walsh, a pro climber with an extensive alpine resume. Very cool to be among a community of such strong alpine climbers. Very humbling. 

Day 6 - Crescent Tower, Lions Way, III, 5.6

We needed an easy day, and since I had been mostly a weinus on the trip, we decided to climb something easy, with a moderate approach. I wanted to lead every pitch, and off we went on another beautiful alpine climb.

Climbing Lion's Way
About 8 pitches of moderate climbing on immaculate granite. Honestly, does life get better than this?

Steep section on Lions Way
We walked off the top, and then back towards the hut. While we were chilling in the hut, a chopper landed to pick up the hut keeper as part of a rescue operation. Another reminder that despite the relaxed atmosphere we are in a serious alpine environment.

Heidi hops in the rescue chopper

Day 7 - Eastpost Spire and Hike out.

On out last day we had planned to climb a 11 pitch 5.8 on Bugaboo Spire, but I was not feeling that well, so instead we zipped up the West ridge of Eastpost spire (class 4), a short easy scramble. 

Glacier on the way to Eastpost

Looking down to the campground from Eastpost Spire

We then hiked out, and headed to Radium to have a flat tire fixed.

Tire repairs
Then off to Canmore for a couple of days rest, and a shower! The first stage of our trip is over, and now we have about 7 days to climb some peaks in the Rocky Mountains.

The Bugs were an amazing place, really surreal and perhaps the best climbing I have ever done. I think I will need to come back soon, maybe next year with Teresa. I think she would love it. Now that I feel comfortable with the place it would be nice to climb some of the harder, longer climbs on Bugaboo Spire, Snowpatch spire and the Howser Towers. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Alpine Paradise - The Bugaboos - Part I

Part I of our astounding trip to Bugaboo provincial park. I will try and write up the rest of this part of our trip in the next few days when I have time. So many pictures to go through, and still so much climbing left to do in the Rockies over the next few days.
 The Bugs were a mind bending experience. 

The most beautiful mountains I have ever seen, the Bugaboo group of the Purcell Range. This place is surreal. An alpine playground with perfect rock, solid protection, amazing cracks; all with astounding views.

Day 1 - Arrival.

The night before we dove from Calgary to Radium Hot springs, and then headed down the 50 Km dirt road from the logging town of Brisco to Bugaboo provincial park. We found a nice loggin spur to set camp. We stayed the night, and in the morning set about the task of organizing 7 days of food and climbing gear.

What should we pack?

 After a couple of hours of organizing we hit the road and grabbed a spot in the parking lot. There is an issue with marmots and porcupines eating car tires and hoses, so you have to protect your vehicle with chicken wire.

Sweet, the car is protected
Then the brutal hike up to the hut. Its only about 5 km, but gains more than 2000 feet in that short distance. Its steep, and with 40 lb packs a bit of a slog. Luckily the views are nice, so its not so bad.

The hike up, the Hounds Tooth in the background.
Approach ladder

 After about 2 hours of hiking we arrived at the Bugaboo ACC hut, our accommodations for the next 6 days. It has electricity, hot water, a full service kitchen and room for 50 climbers, luxury. 

The ACC Hut. Our home for 6 days.

Sleeping arrangements

Kyle consults one of the many guidebooks in the dining area of the hut
Kitchen facilities in the hut
 We hung around the hut, relaxed, enjoyed the views.

Day 2 - West Ridge of Pigeon Spire

The thing with the Bugaboos is the weather is bad. It is often really nice in the morning, but then in the afternoon thunderstorms move in. This means alpine starts. So we woke up at 4:30 am to climb out first objective, the west ridge of Pigeon Spire. Sometimes called the best 5.4 on the planet.

The approach involved a 1000' hike up a glacier moiraine, then another 1000' feet up a very steep snow slope to gain the Bugaboo-Snowpatch col. After that, a couple of Km across a glacier to reach the base of the route.

Kyle starts up the Col in the dawn light

Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col, the steep snow between the two peaks
We crossed the glacier and made out way towards Pigeon Spire. The views once over the col, were out of this world.

Approaching Pigeon Spire (left)
Early morning views on the approach
We got to the base of the ridge, and despite very frigid temps, we started climbing. The climbing was very easy, on perfect immaculate granite, so we decided to simul-climb most of the ridge, rather than pitch it out.

Kyle on the climb

I pause to enjoy the view
 We did some down climbing from a false summit, then onto the highlight of the route. A section of knife-edge ridge. A thousand foot drop off on with side, the ridge is just a couple of feet wide. Spectacular. 

On the knife edge
Another money shot of the knife edge
We pitched out a short section of 5.4, then we were on the summit proper. Beautiful. The route really lived up to its reputation. Perfect rock, with an unsurpassed situation. So good. 

Summit glory

Does life get better than this?
 We reversed the route and headed back to the hut

Reversing the climb

Heading back to the hut after a great morning
We were back to the hut after about 8 hours round trip. Much faster than I expected. We relaxed and prepared for the next day of climbing.....

Monday, July 11, 2016

LIfestyle Changes

A quiet blog post not about climbing, but about lifestyle changes I have made, changes I want to make. 

Its difficult to make changes in lifestyle. We become stuck in patterns and routines that can be difficult to shake off. Change is difficult because of habit, and lack of imagination. We lie to ourselves all the time. We can convince ourselves of all kinds of falsehoods: 
"I could never give that up", 
Its not that bad for me" , 
"What I 'm doing is not hurting anyone"

Why make changes? For health, for our families and for society at large. 

When I was a younger man, I made many poor life style choices, I was inactive, I ate poorly, I smoked. In my 30s I have slowly been trying to change those things. 

First thing I gave up - smoking.

Rock climbing smoker. Sheesh, what was I thinking. 
Giving up smoking was tough. A prescription for Champix, a couple of short relapses, but its been about 8 years since I stopped smoking. The only thing good about the experience was that it was so difficult to quit an ultra-addictive substance, that other life style changes don't seem so hard. 
Whenever I hear someone say something like " I could never give that up" I think to myself, try quitting smoking, it physically hurts to give it up. 

Next thing, eating habits. When I was in my early to mid-20s I ate garbage, and stayed thin for the most part. When my late 20s and early 30s hit, and all came back to haunt me. 

Young and skinny. But not for long....

Early 30s - I got so chubby that I would eat anything. Even large snowballs. 

Weight watchers, some discipline, improved eating habits and then eventually I was able to lose about 70 lbs over the course of 10-12 months. I never want to gain that much weight again! Compared to quitting smoking, losing weight was easy. The first couple of months were hardest, adjusting to new eating habits, but then you just feel better and better, so it becomes easier with time.

I do have to watch myself here, its easy to let old habits come back. 

Post weight loss. 

So what's next? Something that has been bothering me for a really long time, slowly eating at my inside. Its something that I have been able to lie to myself about for as long as I can remember. 
Eating meat.

I love animals, I always have. My whole life I have had pets, and to me they are more than "pets", they are friends and companions, part of the family. 

I love wild animals, I love domestic animals. It does not matter how smart they are, we all know that they have feelings. Look into the liquid eyes of any animal and tell me that they are somehow less than us? Its insane. 
I see squirrels on the road and I swerve to avoid hitting them, I see cows in the field and smile. There is not a single animal I don't like.

I'm a hypocrite. I love animals, I respect animals, but I use them for food. 
I've been lying to myself, telling myself that its ok, but its not. 

You wouldn't eat me? Why would you eat a cow?
My next lifestyle change - End my hypocrisy. Stop eating meat. Its time to walk the walk. My first two lifestyle changes were about me this one is for every sentient animal who suffers because of my lifestyle choices. 
This seems like its going to difficult, I have a lifetime of habit behind me that needs to be changed. 

Its the violence, it gnaws at me. We all know how monstrous farm animals are treated. There is no humane way of harvesting animals for food. You can't exploit compassionately. 

The absolute, unquestionable truth is that vast majority of farm animals are kept in conditions that we would not wish on our worst enemies. They are treated worse than we treat murders, they are treated on par or perhaps even worse than prisoners in a concentration camp. Imagine your favourite pet living their life in conditions like this in this horror?

I have found its easiest to make lifestyle changes by starting with small steps. So as a first step, Teresa and I are giving up meat and eggs. Its been about 6 weeks, I have slipped a few times usually on climbing trips where its easy to fall into old eating habits when tired and hungry. 

This might be my hardest challenge yet. We'll see how it goes.