In 2022, Jess and I culminated an amazing season with our first Bugaboos experience. It had been a dream of mine for years, and it outperformed expectations.
Fast forward a year, and our 2023 season was dominated by poor weather and unescapable work and personal plans. And while we did get on a few classic climbs like the TFT, East Ridge of Forbidden, and the North Ridge of Baker (for my 5th time!), it just felt like we just hadn’t done quite enough. Could the Bugaboos deliver again? Our trip out to Canada would be separated into 3 distinct parts. Jess and I would go into the Bugaboos together for a week. Then we would join our family in Canmore for another week. Then we would part ways, Jess would visit home in Montreal, and I would go back into the Bugs with, popular GHOA guest star, Will Gordon.
Overall, I am keeping the trip reports short and sweet, and mostly photo based. I wrote some of these pretty far after the fact, which is atypical for me.
Planning to come in, we heard a lot about things being melted out. It had been a low precip year, and wildfires couldn’t be helping. The typical Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col approach was totally out, and we’d need to circumnavigate quite a bit of terrain to get to all the places we wanted. From the photos we had looked at, it didn’t look too bad, but in reality, there proved to be way more questing through unstable loose moraine than we expected. What we thought would be an additional hour to the Vowell Glacier proved to be an additional 4 hours, for a total of a 5 hour approach. Most of our planned objectives would be starting from the Vowell Glacier, which ultimately played a large roll in us exiting earlier than expected.
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…Keep reading
Intersession – Canmore, AB
Our time in the Bugs was cut short on our own accord, with the plan to leave to climb some longer sport routes in Canmore. Driving out of Bugaboo Provincial Park, we got an up close and personal with a wildfire that seemed to spark from a thunderstorm while we were hunkered down in our tents a few days prior.
Unfortunately the climbing in Canmore did not materialize due to poor weather on a nearly daily basis. But, better to be in Canmore than in a tent in the rain! Hanging out with family was pleasant, and we got to do so many of the nice things Canmore and Banff have to offer.
Will had a lot of back and forth about whether or not we’d come into the Bugaboos. Earlier in the season, we had been 100% psyched, but between wildfires, melted conditions, and spotty weather, we had a few backup plans put together. We had two objectives on our list, both of which we were slightly dubious of. The first, because the approach possibly being melted out, and the second, Snowpatch Spire’s Snowpatch Route, because of rockfall hazard due to melt out. Ultimately the latter materialized, while the first did not.
The McTech Arete seems to be one of those ultra-well-known area classics. When people say Applebee Camp, it feels almost synonymous with these short climbs- Lion’s Way and the McTech Arete. Everybody up there seem to have these on their current, past, or future lists. The McTech made it to our backup list for a marginal weather day, which happened to come the day after we arrived. [..]Keep reading
The Snowpatch Route, also known as Wiessner’s Route, seems to be one of those routes that everybody looks at. The climbing line up and around the massive namesake snowpatch feature towers over all those who walk far enough the trail to get into shooting distance of any climb. Apparently at some point in the first half of the 1900s, it was talked about as North America’s most significant climbing “problem”. Now, boasting the “modest” grade of 5.8 IV, it was not lost on us that it still presented 19 pitches of wandery potentially rockfall-exposed climbing. [..]Keep reading
Funnily enough, Will and I didn’t come to the Bugs really planning to climb this mega-classic. I actually had this climb on me and Jess’ list, which is why we had climbed the Kain Route a week and a half prior. However, with conditions making our primary objective hazardous, the NE Ridge was an undeniably worthy backup objective.[..]Keep reading
After an awe-inspiring climb of Bugaboo Spire’s NE Ridge, we woke up this morning late. We both rolled out of our tents around 9AM (a far cry from our previous day’s alpine start at 2AM), and made coffee. We had 1.5 days left of food, making for a pretty hard end to our trip by the next day. We toyed with the idea of taking a jaunt through the range’s cols to attempt a route on Brenta Spire, or to go for the classics Ears Between. We had enough of the rubble wrangling, so by the time 11AM came, we made our way to…Keep reading
I am happy to say that I climbed these routes, some with Jessica and some with Will. It made for an amazing nearly month-long trip out to the homeland. And while the climbing was superb, the navigation around the Bugaboos is really quite serious when things are melted. Not only are the approaches long and loose, but there is also fairly significant rockfall risk. We saw and heard countless rock releases, had a few large blocks fly around us, and saw a few close calls with other parties. Overall, when the Bugs melt out, it takes on a character that is far different than what the Bugs are known for. Hopefully this is not the sign of what is more to come, because when it’s good in the Bugs, it’s not just good, it’s the best.
More “Alpine Cragging” Adventures In North America!
January 2023, just like every January, the climbing withdrawals set in and I start going crazy. It’s like clockwork. They say the horrible grey and wetness it’s perfect for skiing, but I feel like climbing. So there I am in Smith, frozen numb fingers, gripped out on some random route, trying to warm my hands in a chalk bag stuffed with hand warmers. “I’m not having fun anymore…”, I muttered to Jess. We needed to migrate south. We had a few options- Ecuador, my ol’ faithful winter mountaineering location, where I had a few lingering interesting objectives in mind.…
I had been wanting to come to the “Bugs” for years. That desire outlived the age of this blog, and in many ways, had evolved from a desire to a dream. I hadn’t found the right partner to turn that dream into a reality, and for year’s course those massive granite towers would just be photos I’d look at dream about. […]