Wednesday, July 28, 2010

going light in the Bugaboos

11 years after my first private visit to the Bugs I finally made it back again to this amazing granite spires. The goal was to climb "Sendero Norte" on the 500m east face of Snowpatch Spire as free as possible in one day car to car. With Topher Danahue from Colorado I had a strong and motivated partner and the weather was in our favour.
After leaving the parking area at 3:45 we got our first view of the full east face of Snowpatch Spire at the toe of Snowpatch Glacier, where we filled our water in the last stream.
Magic light on the final approach below the impressive East Face
Since we where both in less than disireable physical shape, we tried to go as light as possible. 1x60m 10mm single rope, 1x60m 8mm haul line, 6 draws and 4 runners, 3 lockers, 2 ATC, Camelot 4, 3, and Mini Cams single, everything in between double, set of rocks 1-8, light rain jacket each, 2 liters of water and lots of bars, 2 head lambs and 2 helmets, well needed toilet paper and sunscreen of course.
Topher, the crack specialist, made an impressive effort to on sight pitch 2, which is certainly the crux. He went for a good 10m whipper after slipping out of the moist crack 2 thirds into it and then aided the rest. This was fortunately the last time we had to refer to aid, except one bolt on the upper crux roof a few pitches later.
Below is the good looking 3rd pitch, a hard 11+, which Topher was able to on sight.
I was lucky to get to lead the awesome split pillar of the route, a 55m corner which is probably one of the better granite pitches in the 5.10 range in Canada.
Topher following the upper part of this amazing feature. Although the last 15m were wet, it was still quite climbable due to the face holds on the right side of the corner.Perfect clean granite was the theme of the first 8 pitches of the climb.

The short 5.11 pitch below the roof was tricky and wet going to the anchors. Overall we found the rating quite stiff, on the other hand we probably did not have the perfect conditions due to wet or moist cracks and heat.

I got to lead the second crux pitch through the roof at mid height. Everything went well on this entirely bolted pitch, until the boulder problem past the roof. I kept slipping off the micro crimps on the sun baked right side of the corner and had to use one point of aid to get through this spicy section.
Below Topher works his way up the following pitch, a perfect hand crack which gains the lower angled upper part of the route.
We left everything on the top of this pitch and I led a long 70m pitch (63m according to the topo), which was a real challenge for me. A very thin corner with micro cams and mini stoppers, only rated 11-, but for me as a sport climber it felt more like 5.13. We did not double up on the small sizes and I had to pay the price for it with some run outs. I also chose the wrong feature in the upper part of the pitch and we had to make a tension/rappel traverse back to the line, which cost us 20m and a stopper. Now it was Topher's turn to climb the short 15m pitch called the "changing corners". Although he tried for half an hour to figure out which way to go, he finally gave up and came back down to the belay. It was not an easy decision for him to give up so close to the top with lot's of daylight left, and I was not motivated enough to give it a go either. Burning toes and heels plus some darker clouds with distant thunder helped us with the decision to bail.
For me it was still a splendid day out in the high country with good company and as a non crack climber a big challenge. And what the heck, we even made it down to Bugaboo lodge for dinner, thanks again to the awesome crew in the CMH Bugaboo lodge for being such great hosts.
I would also like to thank Jon Walsh and Chris B. for their cleaning and bolting efforts and their vision for this grant free line. And last but not least, thanks to Topher who pushed me to step out of my cozy cragging comfort zone to join him for this adventurous outing.

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