Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Bugaboo Redemption

Sunday morning at Applebee Dome
Two trips to the Bugs in one summer? Most excellent! Kyle was returning to the Bugaboos to climb with his friend Woody who works at the Bugaboo CMH Lodge and I wasn't going to let that happen without me. I even offered to drive and hike in on my own after class Saturday night if they wanted to go earlier than me, but it ended up working out for Kyle and I to leave Calgary at 4 and meet Woody up at camp. Woody had the luxury of a few extra days off and took that opportunity to check out Cobalt Lake before we arrived. 

The carpark was totally full and cars were parked for a few hundred metres down the road when we arrived. Luckily a group was leaving as we pulled up, so we snagged their chicken wire to protect our car from the porcupines. We were on the trail by 9:30 and had about 45 minutes of hiking before we had to pull out the headlamps. At this time I realized that in my packing haste the night before (after a dinner party we hosted), I  forgot to check my headlamp and didn't bring spare batteries. It was dead within minutes of turning it on. I was able to follow the bubble of light put out by Kyle's headlamp for the final hour of the approach, which wasn't ideal but we were still able to get up to Applebee in less than 2.5 hours. Upon arrival, we set up camp as quietly as we could, trying not to disturb the sleeping climbers. We could see a party descending the Kain Route on Bugaboo spire by headlamp and were really glad that our climb on the NE Ridge a few weeks earlier had not ended in that fashion.
Busy parking lot!
Kyle ruining my night vision
Sunday morning dawned with 10/10 bluebirds and we lay in bed until it was too hot to tolerate, probably about 7:30. We located Woody and discussed the days objective over breakfast. Kyle was very keen to scramble out to Brenta Spire and continue on to Northpost Spire for a 7 km ridge traverse (3.5 km each way). 

As we approached the Crescent Tower-Crescent Spire Col that we were going to ascend, we could see hordes of climbers on the NE Ridge of Bugaboo Spire, many who were only at the base of the first pitch. It seemed a bit late for so many people to be so low on the route. Suddenly the silence of the day was broken and a heli came swooping between the granite spires. It circled around before landing, and later took off with a long line to pick up some climbers off the NE Ridge. We later found out that a guide had taken a lead fall and was unable to move up or down, but was ok to drive himself out. The heli picked up the guide and his clients and dropped them off at the parking lot. We also found out that there were 25 climbers on the NE Ridge that day! I feel so lucky that when we climbed it we were the only party, I think that is pretty rare.
Tons of people on the NE Ridge of Bugaboo and Golden Search and Rescue scoping out their long line evacuation
Getting up to the Crescent Tower - Crescent Spire Col turned out to be one of the most difficult parts of the day. We ended up too far left and in some very loose, very wet scree/sand. Another group started after us and took the climbers right gully, and they made it at the col just before us, so that was a bit of a faff. Descending the other side of the col was also a bit sketchy. Again, we ended up too far left and had to move slowly through large loose rocks. Upon reaching the Brenta-Crescent Col however, we were able to start making better time on our traverse out to Brenta Spire, following sidewalk sized ledges with lots of exposure on the Vowell Glacier (left) side of the ridge.
Descending from the Crescent-Crescent col towards Crescent-Brenta col with Brenta behind
The route was 3rd and 4th class scrambling and we did not need to rope up at all on our way out to Brenta, except for one rappel in each direction. There was plenty of exposure on both sides of the ridge but an obvious system of ledges made route finding easy and there were some cairns along the way that we sort of followed.
Some scrambly down-climbing en route to Brenta with a jenga tower behind us
Long way to go
Looking back towards Bugaboo and all the ridge we had traversed
Slope of choss on our way up Brenta
We had the route to ourselves. I don't think many people make the trip out to Brenta, despite great views and a number of alpine climbing routes. This is probably because there are so many "low hanging fruit" climbing routes on Bugaboo, Snowpatch and Crescent that involve much less scrambling to access, and most people travel to the Bugaboos to climb the classics, not scramble. It was really cool to see the Bugaboos from a totally different vantage point. I had never seen Cobalt Lake before and the view over the Vowell Glacier and to the Vowell Group of peaks was spectacular.
Great spot for lunch overlooking Cobalt Lake and the Whipping Post Tarns
This was Woody's first day climbing any spires in the park and his excitement was contagious. I couldn't help be in a great mood all day with the awesome weather and fabulous company.
Kyle is stoked on the day!
After a false summit, the true summit came into view. It looked pretty challenging, but there were plenty of weaknesses for us to scramble up around to the climbers right.
On top of the choss slope, more ridge traversing to go
Not far now
The last part before the summit was a (maybe) low 5th class chimney with lots of exposure over the the glacier below. Good thing there were good holds and I could wedge myself in the chimney and feel pretty secure. Despite climbing in mountain boots all day, I didn't have any trouble with the climbing, and for once my feet weren't the limiting factor in how much fun I was having. Something was much different than last trip and I was really enjoying being foot pain free and not totally terrified.
Final pitch of scrambling before the summit of Brenta
The summit was spectacular. It helped that there was no wind and the sun was really warm so we actually were able to spend about 30 minutes up there comfortably, snapping photos and pointing out spires we would like to climb in the future. Woody was stoked to be on top of his first spire and spirits were high. We had taken our time to get out to Brenta so when we looked over at Northpost and saw how much more ridge there was to go (1 km each way), we realized that we were not going to have enough time to get out there. An earlier start and more brisk pace would have been required for that objective, but foregoing the additional peak meant that we could maintain our leisurely pace for the way back to camp, adding to the enjoyment of the day which was still a whopping 5 km of ridge traversing.
View from Brenta (Hounds Tooth, Snowpatch, Pigeon, Bugaboo, Crescent and Howser in the clouds) with happy Woody
Looking at the ridge traverse to get to Northpost Spire
Vowell Glacier
Happy on the summit
The Vowell Group with Snafflehound
Heading back the same way we came, we took a bit more of a direct route that involved a short rappel. When we reached the bottom of the Crescent-Crescent col, we opted to go up to the climbers left, a more direct and less treacherous route than the one we had descended earlier in the day. En route, we detoured slightly to bag Crescent Tower, making it a two-peak day. 
Rappelling down the ridge
The forecast wasn't looking great for Monday afternoon so we decided to get up a bit earlier and go for Hounds Tooth and Marmolata. We made really good time up the right side of the Bugaboo Glacier and were on top of Hounds Tooth by 9:15 am. It had been a very straight-forward approach across the glacier, navigating crevasses that had thick snow bridges, and a short scramble up the rocks to the left side of the bergshrund to reach the summit. I was surprised to see how shear the drop is down to the Bugaboo Glacier on the Anniversary Peak side of the spire, it doesn't look like it would be that steep from Applebee!
Approaching the Hounds Tooth and Marmolata via Bugaboo Glacier
Pigeon looks so strange from this angle
Picking our way through the crevasses
View of the icefall from Bugaboo Glacier. Spires from left-right: Pigeon, Bugaboo, Snowpatch, with Brenta in the distance
Howsers looking epic
You were wondering where the hut hog was weren't you? Great views down the valley to the CMH Bugaboo Lodge
After a quick snack, we were getting chilled by the wind so we dropped down to the Hounds Tooth - Marmolata Col. So began the very slow process of scrambling up Marmolata with the intent of climbing the east ridge and descending the west ridge. The climbers left side of the spire had solid rock but a shear drop to the Bugaboo Glacier below. The climbers right side on the other hand didn't have quite as much of a drop-off, but it was a teetering pile of rubble. We zig-zagged back and forth, looking for safe ways through the rock, which took much longer than we had anticipated.
Top of Hounds Tooth, looking up at Marmolata
We arrived at a steep pitch of rock that we opted to rope up for. Woody lead out over exposed moves, and brought us up behind him. After topping out on the pitch, we realized that we then needed to rappel down the other side to continue up the ridge and that there was a way we could have walked around below, skipping all the faff. Oh well!
Woody leading the only roped pitch of the trip
Kyle climbing in mountain boots with some serious exposure
Looking up at the distance we still had to go, and over to the west where big dark clouds were starting to build, we made a group decision to abandon our objective and start back down the way we had come. I hate bailing, especially when we had plenty of day left and we were feeling pretty good, but it turned out to be a good decision, we had been less than 1/4 of the way along the traverse and a big storm rolled in about 2 hours later. It helps having some evidence that you made a good choice!
Retreat off Hounds Tooth
Once we were back on the glacier, we took an alternate route back to Applebee. Instead of descending towards the Kain Hut and then hiking back up the Applebee trail, we walked up the glacier to the bottom of the West Ridge of Pigeon Spire, then crossed the Pigeon Glacier to descend the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col. It wasn't the most direct route, but it gave us something new and different to do and Woody was really interested in checking out the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col.
Bugaboo Glacier tour with the nasty weather that had caused us to bail moving in
As we passed the last of the Pigeon Feathers, we could see rain down the valley and thunder was starting to rumble. We were pretty close the familiar territory (Pigeon W. Ridge) at this point which was fortunate because not long after, the clouds were upon us and we were suddenly in a whiteout. As we stepped onto the rocky base of Pigeon, the wind picked up, the skies opened and rain came down in sheets accompanied by bolts of lightning and deafening thunder.
Hmm... better start looking for somewhere to hide
We huddled under a slightly overhanging rock which kept us mostly dry. Kyle had been longing for a toilet for a few hours and couldn't wait any longer so he braved the weather to use the barrel. The wind was blowing so hard that he was having trouble unrolling the toilet paper as it was trying to blow away. As Kyle got drenched I laughed and stayed somewhat dry under my rock. Woody took his turn on the barrel next. As fate would have it, no sooner had he finished, the rain stopped and the clouds started to clear. The "shit storm" was over for the moment.
Hanging out in the thunderstorm
Kyle struggles with TP management during the "shit storm"
We took the weather window as an opportunity to quickly get over to the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col. Lots of other people had the same idea as us and when we arrived, there was a big line up to rappel the col. On our way across the glacier, the storm came back with a vengeance and Kyle watched a bolt of lightning strike the top of Bugaboo Spire. Some guys who were camping next to us later told us that they had been up there when the lightning hit, and a few of the climbers had got zapped by their cams that they still had on their harnesses. Fortunately nobody was hurt! By the time we got to the bottom of the col, the sun was out again, but it looked like another storm could roll in at any moment. After checking the forecast, we decided that very little climbing would get done the following day due to high risk of rain and thunderstorms so we packed up and hiked down to the cars. Despite not actually climbing any routes, the trip was a definite success. We had a blast exploring some lesser-known parts of the Bugs and made the most of the unsettled weather that we have been having lately.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Rejected at Takakkaw Falls


I had a weekday off so we took the trailer out to Field, BC to camp and climb Takakkaw Falls, a 5.7 11 pitch mixed route up the side of the Takakkaw Falls. The forecast looked great and we went to bed early so we could have a good start in the morning. It poured rain overnight and we awoke to grey skies. So much for the awesome forecast, it had morphed into "chance of showers" all day. What the heck?! We decided to just stick to the plan and go for it, maybe the rain would miss us.

No trailers are allowed up the road to the falls because of 3 steep switchbacks, so we parked the trailer at the campground and drove up the road to the viewpoint and start of the hiking trails. There are lots of popular hikes in the area, including the Ice Line trail which I would really like to return and do at some point. This was my first time ever seeing Takakkaw Falls and they are pretty impressive, and one of the tallest waterfalls in Canada at 384 metres high with a 254 metre freefall!
Instructions on how to get up the road in big vehicles (reverse up the 2nd switchback!)
There was a lot of water cascading over the falls. The spray was dousing everyone that was walking up to the viewpoint and we were a bit worried that the route was going to be wet from the shear volume of water pouring down.
Our view of the falls
Google Image result of typical day at the falls
Unfortunately we didn't even get to find out. As we were walking up the scree slope to the base of the climb, it began to pour. We were drenched in seconds. We decided to go to the base of the route just to scope out the start. By the time we arrived, the rain had stopped but the damage had been done and the rock was totally soaked. We waited around for about 30 minutes to see if it would dry out and Kyle even started up the first pitch to investigate but it was really slimy and he ended up down-climbing from just above the first bolt.
Wet, not climbing Jenny is a grumpy Jenny
Waiting for the rock to dry
 With our plan ruined, we opted to go for a hike instead. Again, the rain decided to mess with our plans and the heavens opened again as we started down the trail. Neither of us were super interested in a soggy hike so we cut our losses and slowly made our way to Canmore, stopping at all the tourist stops along the way. 
Clouds moving in for a second round
Very wet
 As we drove East, the weather improved. We tried to salvage the day by heading to back of the lake at Lake Louise, but there was no parking so we moved on. We ended up at Grassi Lakes and found beautiful sunny weather! We spent a few hours cragging and Kyle sent his project he had been working on earlier this summer! The day was saved, but Takakkaw remains on the ever-growing list of climbs to tick off.
Sight-seeing in Field

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sister Hang-Out

Angela came to visit! We had all these great plans to do lots of climbing, and take her on her first alpine route, but "Monsoon June/July" kept us a bit closer to home. We took advantage of the poor forecast to head to the Calgary Stampede and watch the rodeo, then Angela showed us all up at Nashville North with her 2-stepping dance moves.
Angela making friends with Harry the Horse at the Rodeo
Cowgirl Angela
 We drove out to Tunnel Mountain on the Sunday to do some cragging. Somehow we managed to stay dry as the rest of the province got rained on. We also had the crag to ourselves! We spent the day watching as clouds rolled around over Rundle and even did one route with thunder rumbling close and closer, but the only rain we saw was on the drive home. I guess we picked a good spot to "hang out."
Angela high above the Banff Springs Hotel
Who's that? Its me!
Angela makes her way through the crux of one of the 5.10b routes

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Bugamoon - Marriage and Mountains

Are you ready for a long one?? Last month was unbelievable. A mere 7 months after Kyle's proposal in Smith Rock, we were on our way to Fernie to tie the knot. We had people from all over the world come to celebrate with us and it was so amazing to see friends and family from all different parts of our lives in one place together. It was a full weekend of fun and although the weather wasn't the most cooperative, I can't think of a better way to start my life with Kyle than in the forest getting rained on. A huge shout out to Miranda Weston Photography for capturing the day so well and being such a great sport!
Tying the knot, for real!
Umbrellas and ponchos and bubbles, oh my!
Damn, we all look so good
Surprise helicopter ride and champagne
A part of Fernie that not many people get to see
Life is good
Someone thought that it would be funny to ice us in front of our grandparents. I'm looking at you Ryan
 Fast forward one month. I finally was able to get away long enough that we could have a honeymoon. Since we only had the long weekend, we picked the most exotic location within a 5 hour drive of Calgary, the Bugaboos! We tried to escape Calgary early on Thursday and were on the road by noon. It was already busy on highway 1 with two stalled vehicles before we even got to the city limits. It was slow driving, hindered by foul weather on the Banff Parkway, but as we approached Radium, the skies and roads cleared and it turned into a beautiful day. The parking lot wasn't as full as we had been anticipating and we secured a spot near the trailhead. After completing the Bugaboo ritual of protecting our car from porcupines with chicken wire, we hit the trail. Our Bugamoon had begun.
Classic view of the Hound's Tooth on the approach to Applebee Dome
 It took us 2.5 hours to get to Applebee Dome campground where we were going to spend 3 nights. The hike up was more brutal than I remember, I think I repressed memories of how steep and unrelenting the 1025 metres of elevation over 9 km really is. I was having issues with my boots and had to stop to dunk my feet in the creek on the way up. The bugs were awful as usual and surprisingly bad even up at the campground, but none of that could take away the excitement I had for a big climbing trip with my new husband Kyle!

I was shocked at how much snow there was at Applebee but there was still plenty of space to camp. The Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col was pretty snowy, but already had some big rocks near the bottom and a big patch of dirt from recent rockfall. Despite coming in 2 weeks earlier than we had in previous previous years, the snow was melting fast.
Gaining elevation fast above the Kain Hut
Kyle eats dried fruit and contemplates life in the bugs
 We had dinner and crawled into bed to prepare for an alpine start on Friday morning. Neither of us slept very well and when the alarm sounded at 3:15, we were both already wide awake. We had a quick breakfast of banana bread and coffee and left camp at 4:15 am. With all the snow, it was fast travel to the bottom of the Bugaboo-Crescent Col. That was the only fast part of the day unfortunately. We started up the 4th class scrambling to reach the col in the morning alpine glow. I was uncomfortable with the exposure right from the start, and although there was only one section low down that was tricky, it was a bad start to the day for me mentally.
Sunrise over Brenta and Crescent Spires
 The sunrise over Crescent Spire was beautiful and before long, our route was glowing ahead of us. Having already struggled up the scramble, I was pretty intimidated as we approached the base of the climb. It looked impassible and I was worried that I had got in over my head. Luckily Kyle had done the route last season and was prepared to lead everything. It's just a few pitches of top-roping, I told myself. It's all good.
The Northeast Ridge of Bugaboo Spire looms ahead
 And it was all good! The rock was amazingly solid, the cracks were perfect for hand jamming and the position was stunning. We moved slowly but steadily up the first 4 pitches, the most technical section of climbing. Kyle lead them with ease and his confidence made me feel so much better. From there, we moved into the lower grade chimney pitches. We had been a bit worried that they would be full of snow, but there wasn't enough to interfere with our climbing.
Going up, feeling better!
Kyle leading the chimney on pitch 5
Snowy belay station, but dry rock on the route
 Pitch 10 had tons of exposure which was pretty exciting. We topped out on a big ledge just below the ridge where we had a quick snack and took in the view. I felt so happy to be up there with Kyle. We had the entire route to ourselves, a rare treat for such a popular route. We finished the 11 pitches with a roped-up 4th class pitch to a rappel station on the ridge. We had been on the route for 9.5 hours already and still had a long way to go.
Almost at the top!
Alpine climbing stoke
 The ridge traverse was one of the scariest things I have done. Bugaboo Spire drops 1000' vertically down to glaciers on both sides. Many parties traverse unroped but I was not ok with that. Even though the rock is solid and the moves are really easy, I wasn't moving until I had some protection. By this point my feet were in agony from being cooped up in climbing shoes for so long. I had a huge blister on my heel and couldn't feel my toes. That didn't help my confidence with the traverse. Kyle coaxed me along gently and we worked our way along the ridge roped up. It took longer than we would have liked, but I felt way better. 
Looking back at the ridge we just traversed - and bad weather approaching
 We skipped the North and South Summits by using two more rappels. This saved us some much needed time as big storm clouds were closing in. We had been hearing distant thunder and wanted to get off the top of the mountain as fast as possible. It was a relief to reach the Kain Route (Kain Route TR 2013). The familiar ground made for easier scrambling, and the exposure felt like a piece of cake after the ridge traverse.
The gendarme of Bugaboo spire with Snowpatch Spire looking impressive in the background
 No sooner had we pulled the rope from the last rappel on the Kain route did the weather move in. It started with a few drops of rain and soon turned into a downpour. The wind picked up and was threatening to blow us over. Luckily we were off the hard part of the route and just had to pick our way down the wet rocks to the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col. The rain only lasted long enough to thoroughly soak us, then we got to enjoy the wind, which actually dried us out quite a bit!
Wet Kyle is very wet
 By the time we reached the bottom of the col, the skies were clearing and the sun was coming out again. It felt so amazing to be done such a classic route (one of the 50 classic alpine climbs in North America in fact), and we finished in 15.5 hours, my longest day yet. I was really happy that we had started so early because many parties have been benighted on the route. We were back in camp with lots of light to spare. Alan and Mike arrived about an hour after us, having climbed Surf's Up on Snowpatch Spire. Apparently when the wind picked up their tent had almost blown away and some nice girls had weighed it down with rocks for them! We celebrated with a big pot of curry and some port wine before heading to bed for the best sleep of my life.
No honeymoon is complete without Alan and Mike
 Saturday morning was beautiful. I lounged in my sleeping bag, roasting as the sun warmed the tent. My muscles ached but I was so content. Finally I got up and started making breakfast. Our original plan to scramble Brenta and Northpost Spire wasn't going to happen due to our late start so we hung out at camp and made plans for an easier objective. Clouds moved in and looked threatening and we even contemplated heading home, but after a long time of faffing around camp, we finally decided to just go for it and packed our bags to go climb Ears Between (5.7) on Crescent Spire. This was a good choice because it got sunny again!
Saturday morning view from my sleeping bag
 From camp, we were able to see 11 people already on the route. Fortunately our late start prevented us from getting stuck behind anyone and we were able to climb the route without delay. The first 2 pitches were not very fun and Kyle was getting worried that he was off route. It didn't help that he combined most of pitch 3 into his 2nd pitch. After that, the climbing got way more interesting. There was a really tough move over a chockstone that almost ruined me, but I was able to get past it with a combination of grunting, stemming and a beautiful beached whale impression. The final pitch was the money pitch. From Applebee you can see a small intimidating looking crack that ascends between the ears. In real life, it was actually a wide chimney that was super fun and involved a lot of stemming. At the top of the route, we were able to spot Mike climbing McTech Arete and had great views of our previous days accomplishment. 
Kyle "between the ears" on Ears Between , Crescent Tower
It's like "where's Waldo" except its Mike! (red jacket, green pants - can you find him?)
A good view of the NE Ridge of Bugaboo in the background (starts above my head and goes up to the left along the horizon)
 The descent from Ears Between sounded harmless enough. After 2 rappels, we started down-climbing. What we missed was another rap station and things started to get a bit sketchy. After a close call on some ice, I was pretty shaken up and wanted to get off that stupid mountain. It was such a relief to be down on solid ground. I would highly recommend using the rappels to get down if you can find them, it was pretty steep and loose and the snow did not help matters much.
Kyle scopes out Brenta Spire as he starts rappelling off Crescent Spire
Jenny is happy to be back on the ground and doesn't want to talk to Kyle very much right now
 We had another good hang out at camp, especially after I traded a booty beaner for a canister of fuel with the guide who had left the beaner behind. I had messed up on fuel rations and we were down to fumes so having a warm dinner was a pleasant surprise. Clouds were rolling in as I crawled into bed but I wasn't prepared for the storm we were in for overnight.
The hut hog came along for the trip, despite the lack of huts
The wind picked up and brought with it driving rain. Perched on a ledge at Applebee, I felt very exposed and was concerned about the integrity of our tent. Thunder cracked above our heads and flashes of lightning illuminated Kyle burrowed into his sleeping bag, earplugs snug in his ears. He wasn't sleeping either. I lay in my sleeping bag, counting the seconds between lightning and thunder, 3 miles, 2 miles, right above us. Rain fell in sheets and I stacked all my clothes in the middle of the tent just in case. In a brief lull, I jumped out of the tent to pee and saw dark menacing clouds bearing down over the spires. The rain restarted moments after I zipped up the fly and continued into the morning. 
Tent on the edge of the world
The sun came out and climbers started emerging from their tents around 8:30. Nobody was getting an alpine start today! It looked like another squall was on its way so we packed up the tent and our gear to make a quick escape but it never materialized. To finish off the trip, we went for an easy scramble up Eastpost Spire, just above Applebee. It took us 1 hour 25 minutes, despite getting off route by traversing out left into loose fine scree instead of staying on the ridge with nice big rocks to climb up. The views from the top were great and it was a nice way to finish off the trip.
Eastpost Spire Scramble
Kyle getting his lean on below the summit of Eastpost Spire
Jenny attempting to glissade down from Eastpost (seen in background)
 It was time to head home. We left camp and made our way back down to the carpark. My feet complained but it was over quick. We stopped for a huge pizza in Radium on the way home and a delicious root beer. Here's to another successful Bugaboo trip in the books, and a very memorable, slightly more stressful than I would have liked, Bugamoon!
Hiking out from Applebee