Bugaboo Spire, Kain Route

Technical climbing info

Mountain: Bugaboo Spire
Elevation: 3,176m
Route: Kain Route
Length: 400m
Grade: AD, 5.8

Not the Plan

After taking a couple days in the area to wait out a bit of bad weather and explore the alternative approach and descent due to the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col being out, we felt ready to take on our first climb- the Buckingham Route up Snowpatch Spire.  As you can see, this post is neither about the Buckingham Route nor Snowpatch Spire.  But that is what we quested out to do that morning.  

Approaching the B-S Col at dawn, nearly 5 hours after we left not too far away.

Our alarms rang early, and we made our journey out around Son of Snowpatch, then over the Bugaboo Glacier, over the Pigeon-Howser Col, down the Vowell Glacier, and up to the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col.  And while we kept moving the whole time, checking the clock, it took us a whopping 5 hours.  And we knew the trip back would take probably another 3.  Looking up at the Buckingham, we wondered if we had time for the route finding, and whether or not we had the desire for a potential epically long day.  We looked over at the Kain Route on Bugaboo Spire.  We had done a little research on it and had very little beta in our phones about it.  But somehow it felt like the more straightforward option, mostly because we could reverse it at any time.  We pivoted and went for the safer (ie. less bold) option.

Making our way up the lower section of the Kain Route, cairns everywhere

cairns, cairns Everywhere!

Getting on the route, we found it littered with cairns.  They started in an obvious direction, but after an hour, they dispersed and wandered.  With very little beta, we found ourselves traversing right when it doubt.  It felt like a very very annoying version of what we had just climbed a few weeks prior on the TFT and Forbidden East Ridge.  

Starting up the roped climbing section, we were honestly just happen to have found it!

After quite a while of simulclimbing through loose terrain, now with scattered unclear cairns, we felt fairly lost. The crux had been just simply figuring out where we were. We had a photo saved in our phones showing “the first pitch of roped climbing” we had found on Summitpost. Eventually, we came across the distinct vertical cracks from the photo, and with a breath of relief of being on track, we shot upwards.

Eventually we came across the “diving board” structure. It was far far smaller than I expected, which particularly threw me off. We also ended up climbing parallel to it, so the beta we found online was more confusing at that point than helpful. But we were happy because we could see the summit ridge coming into view, with the notorious gendarme sticking out like a thumb begging to be wrestled.

The high-exposure summit ridge.
The famous summit pinnacle of Bugaboo Spire. The gendarme had Conrad Kain scraping his head in 1916, and it still has climbers scratching their heads on their way down until this day!

A Historic Classic, Indeed

I don’t know if I ever felt that the climbing was particularly amazing, but it was a wonderful experience to walk in the footsteps of Conrad Kain himself, pioneering what must have been a wild route for 1916.  Being totally alone on the route definitely contributed to that feeling.  Reaching the top, we were greeted by not just the first party we saw the whole climb, but by four parties, all coming down from the famed NE Ridge.  The hut caretaker we saw a few days prior was shocked to see us actually follow through we “the big walkaround”. 

The route took nearly just as long to descend as ascend.  We felt more comfortable shooting of the NE Ridge in the future.  And it was definitely a rare treat to have this extremely traveled classic route to ourselves.  Overall, the Kain Route is worth the climb, but maybe is more worth it when the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col is in. 🙂

Navigating downward, with Pigeon Spire acting dramatic in the background.
Looking back over at the Kain, see you next time!

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