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. 

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