Bugaboos! Part 1: Kain Route

This trip report from the Bugaboos is long overdue. And in all honesty, it is kind of only getting done now because I have another trip coming up to the CREEK which I AM THIS EXCITED ABOUT. Why? CRACK, CRACK, CRACK, CRACK, CRACK…I am sure I will come back looking like I was shoved head first into a food processor. Ahhh, the good life 🙂 there is no question this year is going down as the best climbing year EVER for me. I’m trying to cram it in because I know the opportunities in 2013 will be much different.

We are ready to go! Once we put these packs on, of course.

OK, the Bugs. This summer we took a trip to the Bugaboos. This trip made me fall in love with Canada even more, which I didn’t think was possible. It was actually my first trip to Canada in the summer. Even as a kid we only went to Canada in the winter to play hockey (or ringette as it were, which is a huge sport in parts of Canada). Anyways. The boy had been talking about the Bugaboos for a few years now, and it was just one of those destinations I always heard him yammering about, but didn’t really listen to until some of my girlfriends also told me about their experiences in the Bugaboos. That’s when my interest piqued in the Bugs as a climbing destination. To top if off Jen Olson, who has guided me all over the Canadian Rockies in the winter, plays in the Bugs during the summer as often as she can – essentially it is her backyard. I knew that with her knowledge of the area we’d be sure to have  a solid trip, which we totally did.

Jen is super rad. And happened to know EVERYONE at Appleby, of course.

However, I can’t write about the WHOLE trip here or I will bore you to tears. So, I will be breaking it up into sections which will allow me to tease you with all the eye candy of the beautiful alpine granite we climbed in the Bugs.

Look at all of that GRANITE!

So, let’s begin! We flew into Calgary to approach by way of Canmore  for two reasons: 1) Jen was going to be driving for us and 2) if the weather was looking bad in the Bugs, we would still likely have lots of options for climbing in the Canmore/Bow Valley area instead. It was good advice I got from my friend Cheryl, and we actually ended up taking advantage of this routing when we got weathered out a couple of days early, and came back to climb in the Bow Valley.

Snowpatch and Bugaboo spire from Appleby campsite.

We had the earliest start ever for a day of hiking in to camp up at Appleby, which was primarily because it was going to be a H-O-T day. And it was. Egads. It is also a very steep hike, and with a 50+ lb pack, it made my grind-y, ol’ arthritic knees hurt so bad I literally felt on the verge of tears by the end of the day. They HURT like they haven’t, pretty much ever. That was partly because I had not taken my prescription medication for my knees in a few days (traveling makes me tend to forget to do stuff like that) so I was in way worse shape than usual. But, we made it in and set up camp (with an extra trip back down to the Kain Hut to grab gear we had paid porters to carry. Yes, we had THAT much stuff – I mean our essentials like fresh fruit, veggies and meat for alpine camping and of course our wine & vodka!).

Even with achy knees you can’t deny the beauty of this hike.

Getting our stuff organized & into the tent.

The setting at Appleby is just absolutely AMAZING. There is a valley the camp looks over to the South and is surrounded by Snowpatch Spire, Bugaboo Spire and East Post Spire. Once you climb up higher you can see there are actually several lakes very close to camp. But, there was still a LOT of ice in the lakes and when I was so hot I’d be tempted to jump in, I was usually nowhere actually *near* those gorgeous lakes! There are two lovely pit toilets at Appleby, that have awesome views of  Snowpatch and Bugaboo Spires. The most shocking thing about the toilets though, were that some people camped right above them. I know the views were probably great, but dang! They still are pit toilets and therefore smell not awesome. But whatever, I guess it was worth it for them.

Room with a view

View from the pot.

There was a lot of talk about weather, and so on day 1 we decided to go for a longer day since the weather was actually looking really good. The objective was the climb up the Kain Route on Bugaboo Spire. This necessitated an alpine start out of camp before 5 a.m., after we wrassled down some oatmeal, and by some I mean like a pound of oatmeal each, or at least that is what it feels like at 4 a.m. As we made our way up the South Col, between Snowpatch and Bugaboo,  the sun started to rise and it was just amazing – the most brilliant sunrise that totally makes alpine starts worth it!

This photo doesn’t even capture 1/100th of the amazing-ness of this sunrise!

Even I can look nice bathed in a beautiful pink light!

But, I don’t look as nice as Pigeon Spire in the pretty pink light!

We roped up to travel up the Col with Jen in front, me in the middle, and the boy in the back. This is pretty much the way we traveled everywhere over the next week on glaciers and on a lot of the climbing, which on some routes – like the Kain Route – consisted of scrambling for a long ways with a few “real” climbing pitches towards the top. Traveling like that is actually kind of an interesting experiment in relationships and patience. You really have to pay attention to keep yourself the right distance from the person in front of you. If you are too slow you pull the rope; too fast and you create slack that can easily get tangled in crampon-covered boots. I was pretty darn proud of how well the boy & I tolerated each other in this configuration, even after 12 years of marriage!

Near the top of the Col where the snow runs out.

At the top of the Col we took a quick break to stuff some more food down and then started to scramble, and scramble, and scramble. We were un-roped scrambling for quite some time. Now, I am a pretty coordinated person as far as throwing and catching footballs, baseballs, and the like – or ice skating, skiing – more “traditional” sports go. However, I am not a natural at scampering up or down rocks; I do not have not enough experience to know where the best place is to step on a rock so that it doesn’t roll over onto my ankle, for example. So as we walk up I have my head down, which is why I have no idea how Jen could even “see” the route at all. But we scrambled away and then roped up for a few short pitches of climbing with our mountain boots on. This was the first time I have ever climbed rock in mountain boots.

The boy and I climbing together.

I was not a fan.

I think I could literally feel my climbing shoes burning a hole in my pack right now.

There were ample cracks for jamming, but the boot just doesn’t want to jam. (stupid boot!) The boot instead wants to edge (and is awesome at that) which is something Maija doesn’t like to do. We short-roped pitch after pitch, with the boy and I climbing together so we had to be very communicative with each other to keep things moving smoothly. We did great at this! We actually climbed so much in our mountain boots that I whispered to the boy as Jen climbed up another short pitch “does she *know* I have my climbing shoes right here in my pack?!?!”

Views from the Kain route

Eventually we got to the point where it is time to actually really climb. And we put on our climbing shoes for what amounts to about three-four pitches of climbing. As we put on our shoes a couple was rapping down – too early in the day to be doing so (as in they obviously didn’t climb up and come back down already) Jen started talking to them and it turns out they had spent the night on Bugaboo Spire having underestimated the time it would take to climb the NW Ridge route. Ooopsies. The dude got beta from Jen about the descent while the girl looked thrilled (not really). If it was me, I probably would have been crying. Maybe. It sounded like a nightmare, but they were safe and moving slowly and carefully.

We have our CLIMBING shoes on now!!!

Super fun exposure!

So fun!

So the real climbing begins and it is just some fun granite cracks. And pretty much I think there is NOTHING better to climb than granite cracks. It was totally FUN climbing (as in easy, no stress I’m going to fall climbing) and in no time we made it to the Gendarme which was the false summit. From there it was a fun couple pitches, including one long slabby reach, up to the top where I ate a can of tuna, having wisely decided to save my chocolate Lara bar & almond butter for the way down.

Jen leads the first “proper” climbing pitch on the Kain route.

I had such a blast on this climb. Super fun through-and-through!

The boy enjoying some tasty alpine granite.

The Kain Route

The “Gendarme” (sp?) aka the false summit of Bugaboo Spire.

At the top we met a pair of guys who had made their way over from their climb up the NW Ridge. We rapped with them for a couple of pitches before they sprinted down ahead. Now, I am terribly slow going down, which was probably really annoying for everyone else, but I didn’t feel like breaking my neck on the first day, and after you’ve been going for 14 hours I tend to get sloppy and tired anyways. And my knees hurt. And I needed to use the toilet. And I just wanted some GD almond butter and on and on and on. Soooo, I did get a little pissy with the boy on the way down since he insisted on walking a million miles ahead of me instead of WITH me, which I let him know about when he stopped to wait for me one time. [Side note: we have this way of communicating with each other that to most people probably sounds like we are fighting – but it is seriously just how we are, we actually never fight, but that’s probably because we never hold anything in, it gets hashed out right away! I have a new friend who is like this too with her husband, and I take great joy in knowing we are not alone in how we communicate. So I think the overall effect was bad since it made it sound like we were ending the day on a low note, but in all actuality I just wanted him to WAIT for me, which he totally did once I asked.] The trip down the Col sucked, and I’m pretty sure at some point I ended up falling on my ass and sliding down, which happened on every snow descent we did (this was after we took crampons off you safety freaks so obviously it was relatively low angle!).

And we rap…does anyone else get tired of rappelling?

Long days mean lots of calories. Re-fueling with a delightful combo of Lara Bar & almond butter.

We rolled back into camp and quickly got to work on making dinner which we scarfed down with a mug of wine before falling into bed before it was even dark. The next day was going to be a lot shorter, as we were headed over to The Crescent Towers to climb The Lion’s Way.

Summit shot on top of Bugaboo Spire