NE Ridge Bugaboo

August 03, 2006August 6, 2006| (D-, 5.8) |
participants: mike warren / esther visser /

I have some photos from this trip.

After some last-minute (as usual) packing on Wednesday night — including Esther realising her big backpack was still with her sister in Australia — we were somewhat ready by about 1am with a couple objectives in mind: the Northeast Ridge of Bugaboo [, wikipedia] and, if that went well, the Southwest Corner (aka "Snowpatch Route") on Snowpatch Spire [], both about grade IV/5.7 [1]

[1] -- The new guidebook seems to keep inflating grades, giving the NE ridge a 5.8 technical grade (vs. 5.7 in the "old" Benson book) but I couldn't find the "strenous finger locks" which are supposed to be the crux of the first pitch.

Bugaboo Spire from the East [Applebea Dome].

Thursday promised a possibility of rain and we got a little on the way in and a bunch more with high winds that night; we decided to sleep in and do Eastpost on Friday unless it snowed. It did a little during the day, but as we got to the col on the Eastpost ridge, Esther set her pack down so we could take a peek at the NE ridge and the topo and the pack jumped down the ice-face on the other side. Oops! So, instead of Eastpost, we scrambled back down, up to the Crescnet/Eastpost col and down to the backpack, which was perched amid a bunch of big rocks jammed in a crevasse. Her water bladder was missing the all-important bite valve and now had a slow leak to boot.

The next morning, we got up somewhat early (about 4:30am) so that we would be to the base of the 4th class terrain at sun-up, not wanting to do it via headlamp. Just as us and another party of 2 were cresting the glacier, we saw a group of six (!) heading up the scrambling. Earlier as we left camp, Esther had spied a party of two at the rope-up terrace; this all added up to "gong show" (or "14", whichever). After relieving ourselves at the col and heading up the big cracks to the terrace/dykes we were wondering why we couldn't see anyone climbing yet (I had seen someone out right of the route before, and it turns out they had done an alternate start to bypass the hordes).


The reason became clear soon: there were 8 people lounging in the sun at the base with the "first" party just starting up and looking a little shakey (in our estimation), skating his feet off a couple times. Terrifying stuff. Luckily, they linked the first two pitches and the following parties were a lot more competent- looking and followed quickly and easily up. By the time we started over 2 hours after we got there (it being about 9:20am now) we were a little jittery from stressing about the time. There was now another party behind us, making for 14 people on the route.

Luckily for the rest of us, the leading party got lost on pitch 3 and every party in front of us passed them while they rapped back down and started up the pitch midway. They didn't slow us down any more after that.


As our elevation climbed, I got much less stressed and hence far less cranky; I think Esther was glad. After the first 3 pitches, Esther linked the 4th and 5th pitches (at 5.6) up a fairly sustained corner and got a nice sunny belay on a big ledge below the chimneys. I then did the first two of three "low-fifth" pitches up sometimes loose blocks and snow in the chimney. These would have been more fun if they weren't so cold and are definitely steeper than I was expecting. I talked Esther into doing the last chimney pitch to another sunny ledge. After warming up in the sun a bit, I did what is the last described technical pitch (some 5.7 steps) and ran out of rope before the "ridge kicks back". Esther did the next one, expecting "a short 4th-class pitch to rappel anchors" but again ran out of rope — the description is clearly missing this pitch, which is definitely 5th class.

We then scooted to the rappel anchors, skipping the North Summit and started the traverse. As advertised, this is wickedly exposed — looking straight down the east face to the glacier every once in a while sure made my footwork more precise.

Getting to the Gendarme on the Kain route was a relief; we'd climbed this route last year and knew the descent. I relaxed a lot more and took in some fantastic evening views of the Howsers and Snowpatch — which had a rope-soloist nearing the top of Sunshine Crack. At the top of the chimney rappels, I took a panorama including the party behind us just topping-out on the North Summit.

[Panorama of upper Kain route and NE ridge in profile

After the rap through the chimneys, we inadvisably did the weird rap below this (bolts on a large block with some red tat) and got the rope jammed (do not do this rappel; the downclimbing is easy). Here we changed back into our mountain boots and got back down to the col just after dark.

Since we'd anticipated getting to the col in daylight (i.e. not accounting for a 2.5 hour wait at the base) we elected to bring just axes and no crampons (thinking we'd encounter slushy snow). This was not the case, so we rapped down over the 'schrund and took our time following the lower part of the trail for safty's sake (we were both pretty mentally blown from the traversing).

Wandering through the upper moraines and snow-patches towards camp, I joked that we'd probably be rolling into camp to some of the more keen climbers getting up (it was just before 2am when we finally arrived) and I was not disappointed: firing up the stove to make a quick batch of soup before bed, a nearby headlamp wandered over and asked, ``getting an early start?''

``More like a late finish.''

``Ah. What route were you on?''

``NE Ridge. There were 5 other parties in front of us...and one behind...''

``Hmmm...Maybe we should leave earlier...''

He went back and started rousing his tent-mates to discuss a 3am departure, which didn't appear super popular. After our soup and some cheese + crackers, I popped my earplugs in as it appeared they'd be starting their own stove up ASAP.

The next morning, we took things easy as we'd decided to hike out a day early: we obviously weren't going to be doing anything long that day and had to leave the next day (Monday) anyway so we took a leisurely hike out (well, minus my shoulders complaining about my pack) and went to Radium Hot Springs (in "heritage" swimsuits) after a burger in town (at the definitely-not-recommended "Melting Pot")...why haven't we had a post-Bugs soak before? Fools!

pOn the hike out...]

This climb further confirms my suspicion that alpine climbs get much better with hindsight: in the morning, any stress on the climb had been mostly forgotten and we were already identifying our favourite pitches. I think mine was the third, although four & five were pretty good too...

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