As usual, the Bugaboos feed my stoke. I've been in there four times this year, and so far there have been four highlights. All have been ascents of rarely climbed, somewhat obscure routes, and all have been shared with a different, extremely talented partners whom I feel fortunate to be friends with. And of course it's always good to see all the usual suspects that make annual pilgrimages to Applebee Camp, and share some fine single malts and stories of their adventures too. It's part of what I look forward to when I go to the Bugs. It's funny how some folk you don't see for a year but then see on a regular basis between climibng sessions. Both the comraderie and epic adventures are the key ingredients that make the Bugs my favorite venue. Anyways... THe highlights:
The Midnight Route, East face of Bugaboo Spire:
Jon Simms convinced me to take on lap on this gem of route with him. A couple years earlier, Jon and Chris Brazeau had managed the first free ascent, although they had traversed right to the ridge in a storm, two pitches below the top. A two pitch direct finish awaited, and this was what we set our sight on. Unfortunately, the .12b crux was wet and we had to french free a few moves, but lots of sustained and heady 5.11+ kept us entertained and digging deep pitch after pitch. I was sandbagged into not bringing some pitons, but what are friends for? The intensity was high as I built nests of RP's in sustained 5.11+ sections and ran it out above them, but I was always amazed by the quality of the climbing. We managed one of the direct finish pitches but again, an electrical storm thwarted us with one pitch to the ridge, and we rappelled. This is a route that with a little bit of love in the form of a wee bit of traffic, maybe a bolted station or two to make the a couple of semi hanging belays less rugged, would be world class for those seeking a steep sustained adventure up one of the most looked at yet most ignored faces in the Bugs!
Spicy Red Beans and Rice FFA / Shooting galery / a few new pitches
A couple weeks later, I was back with Josh Lavigne with the remote 900 meter West Face of THe North Howser Tower on our radar. It's the biggest face in the Bugs and Josh is obsessed with it, having previously climbed it six times, four more than me, and likely twice as many as anyone else! Pretty impressive considering it's a five hour approach from Applebee to the base, and requires 4 very committing rappels even to get to it. If you have to bail from the face, it's a very long walk of shame to get out of the remote valley. This time, we were back there looking for first ascents and first free ascents, but got off to a dead end start right off the bat on the route Young Men on Fire which proved to difficult to free, without a ton of preparations we weren't prepared to make! But a quick rappel, then two and a half pitches of the Shooting Gallery went smoothly. A short traverse left around the corner and we were into a virgin ground. A couple pitches of some very nice finger cracks up to 5.11-, gave way to the easier terrain near the halfway ledge. As the upper headwall came into view, we couldn't help but be drawn in by the clean white right facing corner system of the Warrior, a 1974 Hugh Burton and Steve Sutton A3. Hopefully it would go free we though as we gravitated towards it. We easily traversed across the Seventh Rifle gully, dropped off a bit of stuff on some comfy bivi ledges below the line where we'd hunker down for the night as planned. Suddenly a continuous splitter crack system about 15 meters right of the Warrior corner now grabbed out attention and we immediately set out for it, with intents of fixing our two ropes, then returning to the ledge for the night. The first pitch was on the Warrior, but a ten meter traverse right into the crack system on the second pitch brought us into the first pitch of sustained 5.11+ finger cracks that would continue for many pitches to come.
Despite just one tarp and one Thermarest between us, the bivouac wasn't too bad, as the it was calm and mild night. Ascending the two ropes in the morning warmed us right up, and we were treated to an amazing splitter and the best pitch of the route for the first pitch of the day. About four pitches later, we found ourselves back in the Warrior, and followed it to the summit ridge. The rest of the day went smoothly with us swapping leads, and on-sighting every pitch. Ocassionally the seconder would jumar with the not so light pack. We had hauled a few times but the pack was falling apart and on the verge of spilling it's contents. Given the sustained difficulty and the fact we both had work commitments the next day, it seemed prudent to conserve energy this way. Upon returning to civilization and doing our homework, it appeared we had climbed Spicy Red Beans and Rice (Cameron Tague / Eric Greene,1997, 5.12- A1), with a one or two pitch variation to the right. We though it was one of the best climbs we've done, and much better quality than it's popular neigbour - All Along the Watchtower. Definitely a bit more sustained and harder overall, but not such a difficult crux! The A1 grade can now be removed, and the original topo can be found here. The actual line of this route is slightly left of what is shown in the picture in the Bugaboo guidebook...
Photo: John Schurlock
Sweet Sylvia, East Face of Snowpatch
A sweet route indeed. Chris Brazeau and I had climbed this before but we were now back to try and free our variations we had done a few years back. At about mid height, there are two parallel splitters. You'd be blind not to notice them (they stand out from very far away), and they both start off a huge semi detatched flake. The original route heads up the left crack and it gets wide as in off-width. The right one (which we assume we may have been the first climbers up it a few years back), starts out with 30 meters of slightly overhanging hands, before tapering down through the sizes. A short section of purple camelots provides the .12b crux which Chris managed to send this time. A short rest is reached as the two cracks merge, but a mandatory short o.w. guards the anchor so don't forget to bring your #4 camelot (or maybe two of them). Laybacking these last two bodylengths is definitely the easy way, to one of the sweetest belay ledges in Bugs. The next pitch is a real blockbuster, meat and potatoes, wide corner crack. I think I'd want three #4 camelots next time I lead it. Only rated .11a, but very sustained and about as burly as just about any 5.11 pitch in the bugs! Absolutely incredible though!! Another pitch and we ventured off on a variation finish. After a little prep work, our light start disappearing so we gunned it for the chains at the top of Sunshine Crack - our descent route. I led the last pitch as the moon rose in the alpenglow south eastern sky. To make a long story short, we were both stoked and completely destroyed, and will definitely be back for more.
Minataur, East face of Snowpatch - First ascent
Colin Moorhead was back in hood after an absence of several years, and we were stoked to team up again. Not only as old friends, but also because we're both very passionate about putting up our own lines rather than climbing someone else's, and we both have a very creative eye when it comes to seeing passage up big granite walls. Naturally, we started making plans. I'll post more on this later, but the short version goes like this: Minotaur climbs the first four pitches of Labyrinth, a route I authored with Jon Simms a couple of years ago. It then branches off left for eight pitches, three of them part of an aid route call Les Bruines Es Pentinen, and then re-joins Labyrinth for it's final three pitches. The belays we used are marked in yellow on the photo. Over two days, we managed to free it all at 5.12- which there are three pitches of, and much 5.11 as well. All and all, we though it was a great route, we had a great time climbing it, and we'd definitely recommend it to others. It's prepped with 7 fixed pitons, 1 bolt, a couple of fixed nuts in key places, and the cracks have been excavated enough for the onsight now. A few times, we had to clean some crux sections, and then lower down to the no hands rest before sending them from there. Like I said, I'll post more on this route in the near future. I suspect most people should be able to figure out the meaning of the name(s). Especially if you venture into it!
Ahh the Bugaboos. My all time favorite place to crank!! It's been yet another fine summer cranking in there and I'll share some photos and stories soon of a few big wall free climbing highlights. But first of all, a lot of people have been asking for information on Sendero Norte, a route that Chris Brazeau and I put up a few years ago. So here it is, along with Labyrinth, another route I authored with Jon Simms and also a superb climb up fourteen pitches of splitter granite.
Click here to download topos for these amazing routes...
Click here to download the hi-res photo of the east face of Snowpatch with belays for these two routes marked...
Click here to download the Sendero Norte written description...
Click http://www.alpinestyle.ca/sites/default/files/Labyrinth beta_0.pdf">here to download the Labyrinth written description...
Some photos of Sendero exist under an old post called Bugaboos project or in an album on my facebook page
Here's my cover shot for the 2011 Canadian Alpine Journal. It's of Jason Kruk, high on our new route on Mt. Robson's Emperor Face. I've also written a feature story for it with many more photos, but you'll have to get your hands on it for the read! Jason wrote a story about it for the American Alpine Journal. Can't wait to get my hands on them!!