The Bugaboos are sometimes called the best alpine climbing on the planet. Whether they are or not is besides the fact. It’s just a beautiful place to see. Located in the Purcell Mountains in British Columbia, they are much hidden until you pull up to the trailhead. Pictures are posted of them in many books and there very photographic spires. For our road trip, this was our main goal but like life things change and what you thought would happen usually is not the case.
It was a humbling trip and a bit painful. To be honest, I was a little burnt out on approaches. Shawn himself in his 40’s was feeling the same and I admire him for his passion to still get after it. We started out by wrapping the car with chicken wire to protect it from porcupines. There really bad here and will chew up the bottom of your car. I started out by stopping every 2 minutes on flat trail. I was still really sore from the last mountain. I was also feeling quite sick. I came down with something these last few days. We had big plans here but with how tired we were, we made plans for moderate terrain. So we just brought a half rope and a small rack. I think that was mistake number 1. Shawn was cruising ahead of me and I could just not keep up. I don’t know how I made it up but we both did in a few hours throwing our heavy packs down.
My expression on the way up.
The weather called for 40 percent chance the next day. These spires are lightning rods in any storm and quite committing. Due to that forecast, we thought about taking a rest day, unless it turned out clear. I had no problem with that.
We woke up a little after sunrise, and it was clear! There were some clouds but no storms yet. Shawn was not comfortable with climbing one of the spires with the clouds so he opted to stay at the campsite and later climbed the East Post Spire when the weather cleared more. The weather was looking iffy and I agreed with Shawn. I didn’t feel like throwing up as much so I decided to go attempt something on my own as well.
Looking down at the couloir you have to climb to access most of the climbs
The thing I love about climbing is sometimes doing stuff solo, whether it’s a hike or a scramble. There is something about being in the hills with no one around and just yourself to rely on. It’s real and addicting.
Goal #1 Pigeon Spire on the left
I had the idea of climbing Pigeon Spire. It’s been called the best 5.4 on the planet. It’s not too committing, remote, glaciated on every side, and just beautiful! I really didn’t think I would do it with the weather but I thought I would at least get in a workout. I approached and soon got to the top of the Snowpatch Bugaboo Col, a dangerous part with rock fall but with so much snow this year, it was made less dangerous. Maybe snow does come in handy in the summer! From this col, you get a clear view of the spire. It was out of the world. It’s something I never would have thought existed. This whole area is just so beautiful. The best part was that no one was around. There was a nice trail through the glacier to Pigeon and soon I was at the base of the ridge.
Pigeon Spire a little closer
The weather looked good for now. I thought I might be able to get away with this but the climb was still to come. I put on my shoes, harness, and chalk bag. The ridge goes fast and has three summits. It’s all exposed with dream like knife edge ridges and super good friction with the granite. The views were absolutely spectacular and soon I approached the 5.4 crux. It was only 50 feet and went fast and then I was on the summit.
Starting up the ridge
On 1rst summit looking at 2nd summit
Best part of the climb in my opinion. An amazing knife edge
Self portrait on the small summit
I thought to myself “This is why I climb.” It does not matter how hard or long it is, this climb simply showed me that life as we know it may end anytime and moments like these, these are the moments I live for.
On that note, the wind was getting stronger and clouds were building. I made two quick rappels and down climbed the rest of the route. I then made the hike back to camp with clear skies. Forty percent chance?
It was Camp 4 in Yosemite at our camp. There were so many people. It was a bit of a turn off for us as we go to the mountains to get away from the city. I tried to make conversation with everyone but most of them would kind of ignore me. I was not good enough to carry on a conversation with them or I did not climb hard enough or I did not do this or that. Shawn and I just stayed in our own worlds. I got a cold overnight along with my stomach being upset. On top of that, a marmot chewed through my tent and pooped everywhere, in my sleeping bag, all over the floor, and ate a lot of my food. That made me even more upset but what can you do. I should have known not to keep some food in my tent.
Bugaboo Spire wih Kain ridge following left hand ridge
Shawn and I woke up at 5:30 and started up to the Bugaboo Snowpatch Col to attempt Bugaboo Spire. I had a very upset stomach and started off slow just about the whole time. Shawn was busting ahead on the first Class 3 scrambling bit. Eventually I caught up to the harder climbing. The first part was a “Class 4” chimney. I have never climbed anything more sandbagged then this. It felt every bit of 5.4. We kept on going and soon approached the second “Class 4” part. This part was even harder. Shawn climbed it in his approach shoes. I tried a couple of the moves and stated forget that! I put on my climbing shoes and soon joined Shawn on the rope up ledge. It was scary climbing it with climbing shoes. Shawn was a little freaked out from it mentally. I understood as it would do the same if I tried it in his shoes.
Shawn on the approach to the Col
Where the climb starts getting serious
We roped up for the first pitch, a vertical dihedral crack. Is this rated 4rth class too? We only had a small rack and a half rope. I’m not one to want to fall on a half rope by itself and only use them by themselves for easier grades. Shawn didn’t want to fall following either. A half rope will hold a fall or two but the idea just sketched me out. We both by this time were not having too much fun. The views were great but personally I was not enjoying the climb. It felt a little grungy. I was feeling sick still, and was tired. We were simul climbing the next bit a couple hundred feet below the summit when we turned back.
Shawn starting the knife edge portion to our high point
The crux pitches were still to come. The crux pitch was a friction traversing 5.6 with exposure. With how sandbagged the 4rth class was, I really wanted a single rope to lead it. I was not super comfortable leading it on a half rope especially when it’s traversing, and Shawn was not comfortable following it on it. I was not having fun to be honest. If I’m not having fun in any sorts, then why am I on it? I think next time I’ll stick with the more rock climbing routes that are straightforward rather then this route that wonders all over the place. I think my stomach was happy with that decision as well.
We came down back to camp and packed out. I was just about out of food. The marmot ate a lot of it and I was drained. Some times I wonder why climbers alike put themselves through so much suffering, maybe because it’s all worth it in the end. Indeed it all was. I still had an amazing time in such a magical place. I definitely will be back.
Protecting the car
Snowpatch and Bugaboo Spire
So much granite, so little time