Monday, July 28, 2014

Pigeon Spire and Lions Way - Bugaboo 2014 Trip Report

I have been dreaming about the Bugaboo's ever since our trip last year and was itching to return. It just so happened that we returned on the exact same weekend as last year (annual trip perhaps?). This time we took the Monday off to give ourselves a bit more time in hopes of climbing more than one route. We were also coming back much more knowledge, experience, confidence, far lighter packs and in better shape. The hike in wasn't nearly as bad, although the bugs were just as awful as last time.
The super-moon rises behind the Cain Hut
After staying in Boulder Campground last year and deciding never again, we added the extra kilometre (and 300m vertical) and reached Applebee in the fading light. Applebee is far better situated for approaches and meant that we were able to sleep in a bit on Saturday and take our time around camp, leaving for our easy-day objective at 11 am. We climbed Lion's Way on the Crescent Towers, a 5.6 route that has harder route-finding than actual climbing but is very asthetic (and close to camp!). We chose the 5.4 start instead of the 4th class scramble which is what got us a bit off course, but once we were back on the route it was fairly straight-forward and had great belay ledges! The weather was perfect and we were able to climb in T-shirts the whole time and work on that farmer's tan.
Kyle leads the slab pitch on Lion's Way
Just below the summit of Lion's Way on the central Crescent Tower
View of the Donkey Ears from the back
Top of the central Crescent Tower
Top of the tower 
We had a relaxing evening of checking out the lake above the campground, taking photos and making dinner. It was early to bed so that we could get up earlier for our attempt on Pigeon Spire the next morning.
Bugaboo Spire
Fishing for water with the Donkey Ears (and his nose) in the background
We left Applebee at about 7:30 am to head up the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col. The sun had already been up for a while and the sky was bluebird. We passed Snowpatch Spire where Will Stanhope had his portaledge set up for their project (5.14 finger crack). They were only climbing in the afternoons once the sun was off the face, but were leaving it set up so that they could focus on climbing when they got up there. We were the first ones to head across the glacier. Kyle spotted some unlikely insects up there, dragonflies and a ladybug!

Snowpatch Spire with Will's portaledge
Up the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col
Crossing the glacier to Pigeon Spire (right) with Wingtip Arete (left) 
Sun coming up over the spires
It only took us 2 hours to reach the base of the West Ridge of Pigeon Spire, "the best 5.4 route in the world". It looked intimidating form below but we followed the description in the guide book which was incredibly detailed. The route is all scrambling and as you start up, things that looked scary and hard became much more reasonable as you get closer (until you look down!). There were a few tricky sections and definitely lots of exposure but it alternated with protected areas so you could take lots of breaks from the adrenaline rush. It was relatively easy going with lots to hold and stand on, all you had to do was keep moving.
Howser Towers behind as we climb Pigeon
Kyle scrambling up Pigeon Spire
We rappelled off of the second summit because the down climb looked a bit sketchy, leaving a beaner on a piece of webbing wrapped around a boulder. From there, we had to contour around the main summit to the left and we encountered a bit of ice and snow. Moving carefully, we reached a chimney. Kyle moved through it quickly, leaving me to get a bit wedged in there. By the time I was out, Kyle was passed the only place the book recommends roping up, a 5.4 handrail with lots of exposure. I took a deep breath and shuffled across, heart racing. It actually wasn't so bad, but I didn't really trust my mountain boots on the steep rock. We made it! Although we had been planning on roping up during the climb, we had actually soloed the whole route, in our mountain boots no less!
Snowpatch Spire in the backgroud from the Pigeon false summit
There were two summit-like blocks so we took photos on both, just in case we made a mistake about which one was the actual summit.
Kyle on Pigeon Spire summit
There were 2 rap stations off the summit which was a nice bypass of the steep section at the end of the climb. Down climbing was actually surprisingly easy and quite fun.
Scrambling down to the knife's edge
Crossing the knife's edge on the way down Pigeon Spire 
Kyle on the ramp back to the first summit 
Jenny going up the ramp  
The walk back to Applebee was relatively uneventful apart from having to hunt for one of the rappel stations on the BS col and rapping off of a scary looking piece of webbing that we also used last year (there was another station about 5 metres below it that I would recommend instead). We felt so much happier and less fatigued than we did on our way back from the Cain route last year and the whole experience of climbing Pigeon was just so much fun! I highly recommend it.
Rappel down the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col 
Too tired to do much else, we played cards until it got late enough to go to bed (8:30)
The view from my side of the tent
 We woke up Monday morning to another amazing day. We packed up and headed down to the car so that we could get back to Calgary relatively early as we had a 6:15 am flight to catch on Tuesday to Ontario (trip report to come). Another successful Bugaboo Trip! See you next year.
Sunrise at Applebee Dome Campground
Applebee outhouse
Gear storage to protect from the rodents