Trip Report
2 Weeks in the Bugaboos
Sunday October 7, 2012 2:22pm
Welcome to the bugaboos: granite and glaciers
Welcome to the bugaboos: granite and glaciers
Credit: Banished to the Cascades

Climbing fast and light is all the rage these days. Climbers routinely link up multiple routes in a day and complete long traverses on alpine routes. The first ascent of the Nose took several weeks; many people can now climb it in a day, and the speed record is less than three hours.

But the problem with climbing fast and light is that you have to be, well, fast. And if you're not fast, and you try to be light, you wind up out of food and water on pitch three, wondering whether shoe rubber is edible, debating whether your partner will notice if you eat her last energy bar, and then you freeze your ass off when you have to bivy because you weren't fast enough to finish the route in a day.

So we climbed slow and heavy instead. There is one benefit to being slow: you have plenty of time to enjoy the grandeur of the mountains and take pictures. So here are a few pictures of our recent trip to the bugaboos.

The trip began surprisingly well. Friends had warned us of the approach hike, telling us to expect a torturous, poorly maintained trail. I should have known that they must be wrong, because the bugaboos are in Canada, our friendly neighbor to the north, where all the nice, peaceful, socialist Americans fled to.

Hiking in to the Bugs
Hiking in to the Bugs
Credit: Banished to the Cascades

The approach trail had helpful signs where you want them, metal chains even where they were completely unnecessary, and even a ladder bolted into the rock where the trail got steep.

Credit: Banished to the Cascades

And once you've finished with this well-maintained trail and arrive at camp, you find that they are kind enough to provide you with toilets conveniently located at the backpackers' campground, and stock them with toilet paper and hand sanitizer – at 8000 feet, in the backcountry. What civilized people, those Canadians! I'll bet they even have universal healthcare.

After spending the night wondering if it is difficult to defect to Canada, we opted for a mellow warm-up day on Ears Between. The route goes up the middle of the peak and then tops out on the peak on the right.

Pitch 1, Ears Between
Pitch 1, Ears Between
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
One of the chimney pitches near the top of Ears Between
One of the chimney pitches near the top of Ears Between
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
Hiking back to camp
Hiking back to camp
Credit: Banished to the Cascades

Overall, it was an enjoyable first climb in the bugaboos. Too enjoyable, really – it made us completely overconfident in our abilities to finish routes in a reasonable period of time.

But don't worry, our egos were soon deflated, trampled on, and ground down to glacial dust by the Northeast Ridge of Bugaboo Spire. I suppose every climber has to epic at least once, and this was our chance.

The day began beautifully, as the sun lit up Snowpatch and Bugaboo Spires.
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
Christie approaches Bugaboo Spire
Christie approaches Bugaboo Spire
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
Mid-way up the Northeast Ridge
Mid-way up the Northeast Ridge
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
Christie traversing between the North and South summits
Christie traversing between the North and South summits
Credit: Banished to the Cascades

The climbing on the actual route went fairly well, although it was a little hard to concentrate, given the stunning views all around.

But we had taken too long on the approach pitches, and then too long on the summit traverse, and found ourselves looking for the first rap station down the South ridge as it was getting dark. And so we spent our first unplanned bivy just beneath the South summit of bugaboo spire, using the rope as a thermarest and our knees as pillows. Luckily, we at least had the foresight to do the climb with a long weather window, and it was unusually warm, with clear skies and virtually no wind.

We woke to a gorgeous sunrise and began the long descent back to camp.
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
Credit: Banished to the Cascades

Having learned our lesson, we dialed down our expectations for climbing long routes. Surely, we could complete a long 5.4 in a day? But just to be sure, we woke up long before sunrise to do the West Ridge of Pigeon Spire.
The approach to Pigeon Spire
The approach to Pigeon Spire
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
The approach to pigeon spire, with the Howser Towers in the background
The approach to pigeon spire, with the Howser Towers in the background
Credit: Banished to the Cascades

While it was by far the easiest climb we did, it was also by far the best – an improbable ridge, with three summits, and a spectacular location, surrounded by granite spires rising out of the glaciers.
The first summit of pigeon spire
The first summit of pigeon spire
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
Heading up to the second summit of pigeon spire
Heading up to the second summit of pigeon spire
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
Credit: Banished to the Cascades

Having started the trip with a few long routes, we decided to do some shorter, more technical routes. We started with the classic McTech Arete. During the previous few days, when we were camped at Appleby Dome, we had seen Will Stanhope, who apparently was trying to free an aid line. As we hiked to McTech Arete, Will and his climbing partner were behind us, and, unburdened by anything resembling a rack, were gaining on us. This was the climbing equivalent of the tortoise (us) and the hare (Will and his partner), and the tortoise, weighed down by a double rack of every cam imaginable, and a pack now stocked with bivy gear, was going to lose the race.

I mentioned to my partner, Christie, that perhaps we should let them pass us and get on the route first – figuring that if someone can free climb 5.14, they can probably lead up a 5.10 in the time that it takes us to flake the rope. Christie, however, didn't realize it was Will Stanhope, and wasn't convinced that we should let some random Canadians cut in line ahead of us. It was rather like queuing up at the base of the Nose and being offended that Alex Honnold would have the audacity to ask to pass you. Of course, once I told Christie it was Will Stanhope trying to pass us, we wisely let them go ahead. As far as I can tell, Will proceeded to place exactly one piece in 2 pitches; I placed two cams in the first 20 feet. I think we made the right decision.
McTech Arete
McTech Arete
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
Pitch 3, McTech Arete
Pitch 3, McTech Arete
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
From McTech Arete, looking at snowpatch and pigeon spires
From McTech Arete, looking at snowpatch and pigeon spires
Credit: Banished to the Cascades

We followed McTech Arete with another climb on Crescent Tower– Paddle Flake. The route follows cracks on the right-hand side of the flakes visible in this photo. We both thought the route was better than McTech Arete, although McTech was fun too.
Paddle Flake climbs the prominent flakes in the middle
Paddle Flake climbs the prominent flakes in the middle
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
From the top of Paddle Flake, looking at snowpatch and pigeon spires
From the top of Paddle Flake, looking at snowpatch and pigeon spires
Credit: Banished to the Cascades

For our last climb, we wanted to get on Snowpatch Spire, so we decided on Surfs Up. While we probably did the first two pitches, we are sure that we – and the other party ahead of us – went off route for the rest of the route. Sometimes there is just no wisdom in crowds. But the summit ridge was lots of fun.
Christie climbing the ridge on snowpatch spire
Christie climbing the ridge on snowpatch spire
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
Another picture of Christie on the ridge of snowpatch spire
Another picture of Christie on the ridge of snowpatch spire
Credit: Banished to the Cascades
Christie, very happy to have (finally) found the rap station
Christie, very happy to have (finally) found the rap station
Credit: Banished to the Cascades





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Banished to the Cascades
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Comments
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Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
  Oct 7, 2012 - 02:35pm PT
Wow dude! Great report, amazing photos! Thanks for the inspiration!
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
  Oct 7, 2012 - 02:40pm PT
Great fun report. Did you have any bad weather?
Wayno

Big Wall climber
Seattle, WA
  Oct 7, 2012 - 02:51pm PT
Awesome looking rock and stellar views! Thanks for the cool trip report.
crustie

climber
SF, CA
  Oct 7, 2012 - 07:08pm PT
west ridge was the most scenic route we did but i thought paddle flake was for sure the best. fun climb!!! better than mctech, which also totally rocks. i of course got to lead the funnest pitches on both of them, i think, so maybe that's why our views are diff.

and yes, we did have bad weather. one night, maybe 2 it stormed. and there was an inch of snow one morning. good thing, too, b/c we needed a rest day :) --yeah we were pretty lucky (although we did live in seattle so we could kind of plan it that way).

--christie, partner who's last energy bar was stolen. (jk)
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Oct 7, 2012 - 07:09pm PT
argh, need to go
perswig

climber
  Oct 7, 2012 - 07:19pm PT
Nice TR.
Esp the McTech Arete pics.

Dale
Tami

Social climber
Canada
  Oct 7, 2012 - 07:26pm PT
FABULOUS pix & TR. I have a pic of my climbing partner on McTech arete in basically the same place - that little roof - taken in 1981

THANKS!!!!!
johntp

Trad climber
socal
  Oct 7, 2012 - 08:12pm PT
Nice TR. Bump!
moacman

Trad climber
Montuckyian Via Canada Eh!
  Oct 7, 2012 - 08:24pm PT
Wow. What a nice trip report...great pics and choice weather too...Thanx for sharing....

Stevo
this just in

climber
Justin Ross from North Fork
  Oct 7, 2012 - 09:43pm PT
Perfect. Thanks, for all the great pictures.
Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Oct 7, 2012 - 10:21pm PT
AMAZING!
labrat

Trad climber
Auburn, CA
  Oct 7, 2012 - 10:27pm PT
Nice!
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Oct 7, 2012 - 10:30pm PT
Great TR. The Bugs are definately high on the to-do list.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Oct 7, 2012 - 11:05pm PT
Thanks, I have to get up there one of these days!!!!
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
  Oct 7, 2012 - 11:10pm PT
Whoo hoo. Boogaloos

Thanks for posting that. Sounds like pretty much the perfect climbing trip.
lars johansen

Trad climber
West Marin, CA
  Oct 7, 2012 - 11:20pm PT
Very nice travelogue.

Thanks

lars
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Oct 8, 2012 - 09:08am PT
My heros

Slow and heavy, just my style....

If you go light & fast in the Bugs you can end up out of food, stuck and soaking wet....
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Oct 8, 2012 - 09:19am PT
Sweet!
Nice TR
Tad
timmaly

Trad climber
Menlo Park, CA
  Oct 8, 2012 - 08:48pm PT
WOW - fantastic TR and incredible pics!!! Thanks for sharing. Definitely made me want to hit up the Bugaboos.
PellucidWombat

Mountain climber
Berkeley, CA
  Oct 9, 2012 - 01:23am PT
Great report! Sometimes I like going heavy and slow precisely for the reasons you gave :-)
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