"A mountaineer may be satisfied to nurse his athletic infancy upon home rocks, and he may be happy to pass the later years of his experience among the more elusive impressions and more subtle romance of our old and quiet hills. But in the storm years of his strength he should test his powers, learn his craft and earn his triumphs with the abrupt youth and warlike habit of the great glacial ranges." Geoffrey Winthrop Young, quoted on the frontice page of Coonyard's Climbing Ice
Staying at the Conrad Hain hut may not gain you much alpine-hardman street cred, but at least you'll be well positioned to gloat and relax when some poor bastard tips over a near-lethal blue can beneath the latrine at Applebee Camp.
After several days of bluebird days, the rustbelt crew had found a rhythm: Damon healed his blistered feet and flirted like a pro, Rob revealed boundless energy, and Felix schooled us all in the intricacies of Settlers of Catan (little of which I retained.) While Jeff had, and I quote, had "wood for sheep," it was clearly time to feel small in the deep water. The Beckey-Chouinard was calling.
Mind you, I'd only met Felix at baggage claim in Calgary at the start of the week, and Jeff a day later. 20 plus pitches with a lengthy approach and nebulous descent, likely in the dark, hut-to-hut for a trio of sea-level dwellers, how bad could it get?
Dawn patrol rituals began at midnight. 40W espresso was brewed, moleskin applied, and snacks were devoured. By 1am we were in motion. By this point in the trip the way over the Snowpatch-Bugaboo was feeling familiar. All the same, we were careful to not punch through any rogue crevasses. By six we had passed the East Creek bivy and found water flowing beneath the boulders. We'd come across some awesome critter prints in the snow. Mountain lions have been found in the more remote parts of the Bugaboos but these were likely wolverine tracks. That, or the Sleestak from the Land of the Lost. We were still a little tired.
A thousand feet of scrambling in moist approach shoes brought us to a logical spot to rope up. Jam, bleed, repeat. Jeff handled it with aplomb.
The rock on the lower half of the route was incredibly coarse and I was coming to regret my adherence to the dictum of tape is aid.
We were passed by a family of low-key crushers from Salt Lake. George and Logan, if you're out there, we were mightily impressed!
Above Big Sandy, my cloven hooves and diminutive fists found purchase in a pitch of the wide. The real treat, though, was leading the fingers pitch of the headwall.
At some point, though, I must've maxed out my reserve of calories. It was all I could do to follow Felix through the thin edging crux of pitch 14. We'd been on the go for about 18 hours at this point and I was starting to lose the plot a bit. Jeff's sourpatch gummie worms helped, but thunderous rockfall beneath the Central Howser Tower had us on edge.
Nightfall caught us just as we puzzled over the rappels. Myriad shenanigans ensued but we touched down on the far side of the 'shrund at around 1am. We'd cached some food and coffee back at the far col but opted to just stumble hut-ward and call it a day.
All in all, we were in motion for 28 hours. We stemmed, crimped, jammed, and applied several decades-worth of experience to make it all happen. Grades are almost meaningless with something that large. Cruxes blend with the cruiser terrain, and, in the end, I think my earlobes even got pumped.
A foam mat on the floor of a warm hut has likely never felt as good as the one I collapsed onto, just before sunrise.
Post-script: Big, big thanks to Rick, Jeff, Felix and all the kind folks in and around the Kain hut the third week of July! Thanks, too, to JB and Kat who made it up from Kila and supplied some sinfully decadent snacks.
Post post-script: As my foot leather begins to peel away and my summer break tan starts to fade, I tend to get FOMO something terrible. I don't get out much and trips like these mean the world to me. In about a month I'll begin a new adventure. Version 2.0 is on his way and I probably won't have much time for the SuperTypo. Thanks to everyone who has checked out my trip reports over the last few years.