Tuesday, July 15, 2008


July 9, 2008

Last night we drove into Yoho Provincial Park, and camped at the beautiful Chancellor Campground. The trains passing right next to us only woke us for a few minutes throughout the night : ).

July 10, 2008

After breakfast we drove east for a brief visit to the Yoho Visitor's Center, then headed back west and south to the Bugaboos. This is a really high commitment undertaking. First, you drive a rough dirt logging road for about 46 km. Then you have to porcupine-proof your car. There are porcupines in the area that love to eat rubber, and they will eat all of the rubber parts of your car -- hoses, bushings, even the tires. At the parking, there is a corral filled with rolls of chicken wire. You basically wrap the base of your car with the chicken wire, place rocks on the base of the wire, and lean short pieces of wood on the top to keep it all in place.Then you have to figure out how to pack all of your climbing gear, clothing, sleeping bag, and food for the duration of your stay, and keep it light enough to do the 3-hour, 2400 meter elevation gain hike to the Kain Hut. When packing for the road trip, we'd made the decision to leave our bigger packs at home. We regret this now. We had several climbing objectives here, and as the weather is very finicky, we planned to stay for 5 days. I have to put all of the food, and the 2 six packs of beer into a day pack, and strap that to the top of my crag pack. (We're only bringing the essentials). After a lot of gear and food sorting, we begin the trudge. It is a well-maintained trail, but the load on your back makes it arduous.

You have to keep reminding yourself that it will be well worth it. A few minutes into the hike it starts to rain lightly. It stops after a while, then when we are nearing the Conrad Kain Hut, it begins to snow. When we finally arrive, it's snowing quite hard, and collecting on the trees. I'm not sure if I've ever been so happy to walk into a door. Removing my pack is heavenly, but with the snow we wonder if we'll get any climbing in. Many people visit the Bugaboos several times without ever getting to climb. The weather is notorious.

For being in the alpine backcountry, the Kain Hut is quite posh. Clean running water from the glaciers above, electricity, stoves, padded sleeping bunks, and places to hang climbing gear to dry, with heaters below the hangers. The Applebee Campground lies another 45 minutes up the trail, and gets you that much closer to the climbs, but of course requires bringing a tent, stove, and sleeping pads, and if the weather is nasty, the Kain Hut is a much better place to be.

Dining area at Kain Hut, snowing hard outside:

We stake out our place in the bunks, prepare dinner, and chat with other climbers about the various routes they've done, and the logistics involved. We meet a guy named Rob from Knoxville, TN, and his partner Mark, from Salt Lake City. Rob climbs at a lot of the same places in the southeast that we climb. He and Mark are half way through a 10 or so day stay here, and are knocking off all kinds of classic climbs. We pump them for all kinds of info. It is still snowing hard, and collecting. Cheryl, the friendly and informative hut custodian, gets the forecast via 2-way radio or satellite phone at 9 pm every day, and it calls for 0% chance of precipitation tomorrow. If all of the routes aren't covered in snow, we may just get some climbing in.

July 11th, 2008

We sleep in, hoping to let the rock melt and dry, and to recover from lugging our loads up here. One of the climbs on our tick list is McTech Arete, a 5.10- on Crescent Spire that's not extremely tall (about 185 meters), and has a somewhat shorter approach (a little over an hour). Other climbers tell us that it will be one of the fastest routes to dry as well, so we decide to go have a look.

We stomp up the trail, periodically crossing snow. The weather is slightly more reliable here in August, but at that point the snow has melted enough to create serious crevasse danger. We arrive at the route, and it looks dry, so we rack up. Allison takes the first 5.9 pitch, and takes a nice whipper at the crux, then sends it handily. From there we alternate leads to the top, and I swear the first pitch is the hardest, despite the ratings that say otherwise. The route is stellar, but the experience is somewhat unpleasant due to heavy cloud cover all day (it is COLD).

We head back to the hut for dinner, beer, and more chat about climbs with our hut-mates. Our main objective here is the Northeast Ridge (5.8) of Bugaboo Spire, a huge, high commitment climb. We'd had a big day today though, and wanted one slightly more mellow day before attempting this. There is always a hut custodian and a park ranger residing at the Kain Hut during the summer, and we sat down with Todd, the ranger currently on duty, to discuss what we might climb tomorrow. He recommended the route "The Ears Between", a 5.7 that goes up South Crescent Tower.

July 12th, 2008

The approach today is very similar to yesterday, and is starting to feel a little shorter, and somewhat routine, although a little more has melted. The sun is out today, and it makes a huge difference in comfort. The route is fantastic. We do a 5.8 direct start, and swing leads to the top. It results in a tiny summit atop a spire, one of "The Donkey's Ears". The scramble down is a bit unpleasant, but it was worth it. Of course, as usual, it doesn't feel like we got quite the rest day we needed, considering tomorrow's plans, but oh well...

After dinner we get a small scare when Cheryl informs us that there is bad weather on the way. About a half hour later, however, she gets the official forecast, which again is 0% precipitation. Yay! We turn in at 9 pm, with the alarm set for 4 am.

July 13th, 2008

Getting up at 4 is hard. We make breakfast, pack some gear that was left out to dry, and start the now familiar approach. The first 2/3rds of the approach is the same as for McTech Arete, but we have to go about 1/3rd farther to reach the base of the Northeast Ridge of Bugaboo Spire.

Alpenglow on the approach at sunrise:

This will be the first route we've attempted that's included in the famous-among-climbers book "50 Classic Climbs in North America". Climbers in-the-know refer to it, not so affectionately, as "50 Crowded Climbs in North America". As it happens, we are the first party to the route, even beating several parties that were camped up at Applebee Campground. It is cloudier than we'd like, which is worrisome on such a climb. If the sky decides to unleash holy terror, there is nothing you can do, as it would take hours to get down.

We're now out of internet time, so tune in later to see how we fared, or check our Flickr site, and make your own guess...

A & W


CheeseBlog said...

Wow!! Those are awesome pictures, thanks for sharing! Can't wait to show Eric!

Brady said...

Everytime I come to the end of one of your posts, I feel like having a root beer. Not sure why.

The sunset photo is amazing. And the one of Allison on the sheer side of a rock (July 13 post) needs to be framed in your house.