Trip Report    

Bugaboo Spire and South Howser - Bugaboo Provincial Park

Superb granite climbing in a superb setting with a very lucky forecast.

  • Sat, Aug 6, 2022 — Fri, Aug 12, 2022
  • The Bugaboos
  • Climbing
  • Successful
  • Road suitable for all vehicles
    • Road was in very good condition. Just don't take the road google maps tells you to go and keep going straight on the Bugaboo Provincial Park road. 
    • Bugaboo - Snowpatch Col was mostly filled in till 50 ft from the top. 
    • Glaciers were mostly filled in with a few spots of low angle ice
    • Bring water filters to filter water at camp
    • Camping may be on rocky outcroppings at Applebee Dome. $10 per person per night. They also accept credit card. Pay at the Kain Hut as there is something checking every night although we never ran into them. 
    • Bathrooms everywhere and ones at Kain Hut and Applebee have stocked toilet paper and hand sanitizer. 
    • Bathrooms at BS Col, base of West ridge of Pigeon Spire and Eastgate Camp. 
    • 2 single rope raps with a 70m got you down most of BS col down to where it would be downclimable. 
    • No major snow on any of the major routes. 
    • Crampons were useful in the morning
    • Approach shoes can work but I brought 3 season boots
    • Pickets and ice screw were also brought but not used. 
    • A 70m rope was enough to climb the routes we did. 

    Routes Climbed

    • West Ridge, Pigeon Spire 5.4: great warmup to the type of climbing in the bugs
    • Beckey Chouinard, South Howser 5.10- 16 pitches: lives up to the classic status
    • Northeast Ridge, Bugaboo Spire 5.8+ 12 pitches: in my eyes, a harder climb than BC due to the approach and descent
    • Mctech Arete, Cresecent Spire 5.10- 6 pitches: fun climbing right near camp. 

After two - three weeks of delay due to this years snowpack and weather. Kat and I ventured our way into the world renowned Bugaboos. Apparently it had snowed up high the day before our approach but from our hike up it there was no such sign. After wrapping our car with chicken wire, sticks and rocks provided at the trailhead, we put on our heavy packs to make the 3000ft approach to applebee campground. We quickly realized that we had lighter packs  than most people. 


Chicken wire wrap your car to prevent rodents from chewing your cables


A glimpse of adventure and the views to come

The views going up the valley provided a preview of what was to come. After detour to the Kain Hut to pay our camp dues, we arrived at the bustling Applebee Campground. A kind climber let us know a camp spot close to the water spout was open. While it was far from the main hustle and bustle of camp it was actually a great spot as it was fairly secluded and quiet. Setting up our tent took a bit of time as we had to set up guylines in the absence of stakable ground. 

We met up with some friends who had arrived the day before and had climbed Pigeon Spire. We got some beta about the col and the route and prepared our backpacks for an excursion to climb Pigeon Spire and the Beckey Chouinard route, hoping to bivy at Eastgate campground. 

Day 2

Woke up at 6am, departure at 7am. While going up to the BS col, right at the base we saw bear sized boulder slowly tumble down. This area is definitely the most dangerous part of accessing climbs on the Vowell Glacier. From there we quickly made our way up the col which involved some loose dirt scrambling the last 40ft. Also note that the BS col gets sun early morning as well. 


This area had the highest concentration of bathrooms with dropping views

On the glacier it was apparent the the new snow that fell a few days ago. We got to the base of the West Ridge of Pigeon Spire in around 2 hrs from camp. Although there were several parties at the base who seemed to be roping up, we knew most of the ridge was class 4 so we decided to scramble and rope up once things seemed to steepen. At parts of the ridge especially between the first and second summit, it seemed impossibly steep for 5.4 but once we got close it turned out to be a mellow scramble on bomber granite. We reached the summit in 40 minutes without every having to take out the rope. We enjoyed great view of the expansive Vowell glacier and made our way down again, 1.5 hrs round trip.


Fun ridge scrambling on Pigeon Spire

At the base of the route, it was around 11 and I proposed that instead of wasting half our day at a blistering hot camp, we should make our way and bivy up on the Beckey Chouinard route.  We stashed some stuff at the Pigeon Howser Col, made our way down Eastgate, filled up our water bottle. We weren't exactly sure how long it would take to climb 10 pitches with our decently heavy packs but we had Steph Abegg's trip report as a reference. Started the simul climbing at 1pm, ran into another party who were planning to bivy. While they were struggling up a 5.6 chimney we realized we could bypass then on pitch 4 by following the arete on the right. 


Looking up at the Beckey Chouinard route

The climbing was superb, the great dihedral was a continuous long pitch of perfect hand crack. We made the comfortable bivy beneath the great white headwall at 6pm. Although it was quite windy the views were stellar. Luckily there was still enough room for the party behind us who came up at 9pm. 


Comfortable but windy bivy on pitch 10

Day 3


Finger crack variation on pitch 12

The benefits of bivying partway on the BC route was that you didn't need to wake up super early, didn't have to worry about crowding or potential benighters. The downside was the the upper headwall is in the shade most of the morning. Combined this with the wind and the upper pitches were quite cold first thing in the morning. The climbing was still fun, especially the 10a finger crack variation that bypasses the squeeze. The 5.10 traverse which could be aided was also fun to follow. Since there was a tiny bit of snow up high, we simul climbed the final scramble to the summit, starting the climb at 8:30 and topping out around 1pm.


starting off our rappel, this one was unnecessary as there was another rap anchor right at the edge of ledge

The rappels were straightforward, provided you had the right beta and the final rappel was also straight forward. It was still a tiring day, stumbling into camp around 5 being slightly dehydrated and exhausted after climbing super fun rock. It was also awesome to come back to camp with plenty of daylight to spare. 


Kain route on the right

Day 4

We deemed this day to be a rest day, especially for me. I found myself waking up in the middle of the night from finger/nail pain. I'm not sure if I cut my nails too closely but the skin underneath my nails were separating as well as some of my skin off the pads being really tender from the coarse rock. I made a quick jaunt to Cobalt Lake to take a plunge in the lake as climbers were prohibiting from swimming in the tarns nearby camp as they were the water supply for the hut and camp. Although I had to cross a glacier, I found that all the glaciers around here were pretty mellow with no crevasses and reminded me of the ones in the olympics. 


washing stuff and enjoying the view at Cobalt Lake

I also went to check out the Bugaboo Crescent col for the approach to the NE ridge of Bugaboo Spire as we would have to do it in the dark. I wanted to hear from our friends who did it today how the climb went back they were not back in camp by the time we went to sleep, which was a little foreboding given they had a 4am start. 

Day 5

A 3:30am start, it seemed like everyone going for the NE ridge of Bugaboo Spire wakes up around this time. We passed a party who went the wrong way around the lake and were the first ones at the base of the scramble. The scramble was the most unnerving part of the day as it was in the dark and it was easy to get off route. Once on the ridge it was straightforward to get to the base of the climb. There was a class 4 offwidth crack that we followed up and provided for some fun scrambling. There was a slight chance for rain today as well so we carefully watched the skies as we made our way up. Although we were the first on route, another Italian couple caught up with us and were right behind us most of the way until we started simuling. For us we pitched the first 3 pitches and made 2 simul blocks to the top until the rappel anchor. The ridge scrambling was really really fun going from the north to south summit. It was very exposed but also very clean and the West Ridge of Pigeon Spire provided a good warm up to the type of climbing we had here.


Fun and exciting summit traverse!


A short aided section of 5.10 put us on the summit at 11am. Although the descent of the Kain route is notorious for benighters, we didn't have any trouble and found ourselves at the BS col in two hours and back to camp at 1pm. It was great to be back before the forecasted rain which never came and I enjoyed napping at camp and half day.  

 Day 6


Full view of the ridge

On our last day, we went to check out Mctech Arete on Crescent Spire. The Bugs has everything, from long aid routes, commiting multi pitch to a chill 6 pitch climb on a spire with better climbing than Prussik Peak with a 20 minutes approach from camp. While we did run into a bit of a traffic jam, there were great ledges to just chill and take it easy. It was also great to get up to the ridge as we got a closer look at the objective we climbed yesterday. Another nice things about the Bugaboos is that all the popular routes have bolted rappel stations making it quite easy to descend. 


Camp vibes

We packed up our tents and made the walk down back to our cars, which luckily was not chewed on by the resident porcupines. On our way down, I ran into the japanese couple that camped next to us in Camp 4 at Yosemite in May! It was their third time going up this season. I'm already scheming of the other climbs I want to do although I have to admit I might have been spoiled by the very fortunate weather window.