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Canada - White knuckles for Sarah reaching Bugaboo Glacier

Canada - White knuckles for Sarah reaching Bugaboo Glacier


Postby ChrisW » Mon Jun 27, 2016 7:13 pm

Date walked: 25/06/2016

Time taken: 5.5

Distance: 9.2 km

Ascent: 749m

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The Conrad Kain Hut in Bugaboo Provincial Park in British Columbia is perhaps more familiar to climbers than it is to hikers. Standing on an alpine ridge overlooking a glacial valley and a number of towering granite spires in the Purcell Mountain Range it is a wonderful location reached by the most determined. Don't let the short distance and relatively small ascent numbers fool you, the Bugaboos are a challenging hike and not for the faint of heart.

Sarah and I were taking a long weekend in Radium Hot Springs in British Columbia as my birthday getaway. When I asked Sarah if she would be interested in hiking to the Bugaboos I was genuinely surprised when she said yes. I'd shown her photos of the narrow ledges with chained walls and ladder ascents (both of which would normally leave her retreating) but the lure of the glacial views pipped the fear and off we went.

The trailhead for the hike is reached via a tortuous 46km narrow logging road replete with potholes, washouts and badly connected bridges, but worth every km all the same. To reach the trailhead take highway 95 north from Radium Hot Springs for 28kms to the tiny town of Brisco where a small roadside sign directs you onto Brisco Rd which gets you across a wetland area and onto the logging trail. At all junctions keep your eyes open for signs with 'Bugaboo Lodge' and an arrow to keep you on track, at the final turning for the lodge a second sign directs you to Bugaboo Provincial Park, follow this just a couple more kms to its end in the trailhead car park.

Before reaching the car park we stopped off at a couple of waterfalls including Bugaboo Falls which present an excellent roadside distraction and a good excuse to quit the bumpy road for a few minutes.

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Another stop was called for along the entrance road at the first sighting of the Bugaboo Glacier as it encircles a huge granite spire named 'The Hounds Tooth' which in this shot is almost hidden by low cloud.

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The strangest thing by far about this hike is the car park safety requirements. It seems the local porcupine crew have taken a liking to rubber and brake fluid and have gnawed their way through a number of vehicle parts in order to satisfy their desires. As a result the parks department have provided stakes, rocks and chicken wire at the trailhead where you should surround your vehicle with the wire, use the stakes to secure the top (so it can't be pulled down) and the rocks to secure the bottom to dissuade lifting up. It's hard to know if any of this is necessary but you are far enough away from civilisation to make a tow truck eye wateringly expensive, so after booting up we take 10 minutes to mirror the protection of other car park users.

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The trailhead is found at the west end of the car park and is well marked with an information kiosk and trailhead mileage marker. We were glad to get going as the car park was absolutely alive with mosquitoes and even 'bathing' in the finest repellent only managed to slow them down a bit.

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The trail begins with almost level hiking through typical lush British Columbia forest, where swamp areas are present (and there are a few) boards are provided, there's some winter 'blowdown' to be bypassed here and there but it's a good trail overall.

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As is customary, within 10 minutes of starting out the oft repeated phrase "it's warmer than you think" fills the air and we take a short break to enable the removal of layers.

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We quickly reach the end of this forested section where we get our first foreshortened view of Bugaboo Glacier and 'The Hounds Tooth' ahead, viewed over a boulder field which makes the next section of the hike.

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Once onto the low boulder field there's a well trodden trail winding its way through the smaller of the specimens and obvious routes through the larger ones.

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From the upper section of the boulder field it's interesting to see the long lateral moraine reaching the entire length of the valley below, clearly identifiable by the 'new' growth and the clean ridgeline, it makes you think about just how long it takes for these incredible forests to fill the landscape after the glaciers have passed.

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from the top of the boulder field we re-enter the forests and follow a good trail alongside a small creek that has numerous waterfalls, some of which are pretty impressive.

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We exit forest once more and find ourselves in a stunning open meadow where the view of 'The Hounds Tooth' and Bugaboo Glacier is breathtaking. To the right is 'Snowpatch Spire' and behind that shrouded in mist is Bugaboo Spire. Though not visible in the image below I can see the Conrad Kain Hut on the high ridge directly over Sarahs head at the base of 'Snowpatch Spire'.

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We continued on through the meadow and up and over a few snow patches, each area had its own display of wildflowers, but what better foreground for this foreshortened view could there be than this wonderful collection of Glacier Lilies

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I caught up with Sarah and took another shot of that beautiful scene while the mist was clear of the main objective. Into view on the left now is 'Flattop', 'Howzer' and 'Anniversary Peak' separated by another leg of Bugaboo Glacier.

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The route here becomes less used and though it is still very easy to follow it is a little more demanding with some steep boulder hopping back into stunted alpine trees.

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It was here I thought Sarah might be turning back, she is very scared of exposed heights so the chained ridge was really difficult for her but even though I offered to turn back she carried on, albeit with white knuckles. I have to say from an experienced hikers perspective the chain really isn't necessary but it has great value today as I'm sure we wouldn't be going forward without it.

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Further along and waiting for me to catch up I almost fell off the ledge laughing when Sarah said "you know you're scared when your belly button is sweating". This proved to be the first of many fun quotes from MrsW today.

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The chained ridge leads along and around some large rock protrusions and is a really nice section of the hike (for those of us without sweaty belly buttons) we are then delivered to the base of an 8 metre ladder which is well fixed to a sheer rockwall.

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I honestly thought that this would be it for Sarah, but again she surprised me with a direct ascent and though I could see the fear on her face she gave little away as she reached the top.

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From the top of the ladder a short trail winding tightly along the rock wall leads to another chained section, it is again not really necessary for experienced hikers accustomed to mild exposure but for Sarah it was definitely required. At one point she actually wished for smaller boobs so she could get closer to the wall, but she kept on climbing.

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The second section of chained slab gives way to a mish mash of scrub and boulders through which a trail is just about visible, made more so by the limited open areas on the south facing slope.

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We pick our way up to a lower ridgetop where the view suddenly opens wide, the Conrad Kain Hut is now visible on the higher ridge ahead, and the wide horizon is filled with granite spires and ice flows.

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Now at 7200 feet (2194m) the fleece sees a return as we pick our way along the gentle sloped ridgetop toward our goal, the small creek has clearly lost a bridge at some point as Sarah is standing on a parapet but an abundance of rocks and some deft leaps see us across with dry feet.

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As we make the push for the next ridgetop the snow patches grow bigger and 'summer boot slipping' seems to drain Sarahs already depleted energy reserves.

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Finally the bright green roof of the Conrad Kain Hut is within striking distance, footsteps in the snow ahead provide some respite from slippage and we slowly make our way over the last of the ground.

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We walk past the hut initially to go to what we hope will be the glacier viewpoint, looking back to the hut shows the 'Eastpost Spire' dominating the skyline and to the left Bugaboo Spire still holding the clouds.

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We make our way to a viewpoint where a sign indicates a campground 60m below us on a narrow trail. The Hounds Tooth is now almost level with us, behind it on the north side is a huge mass of glacial ice and snow making it appear a 'walk up' though I very much doubt that is the case.

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In the meantime the hills are alive with the sound of Sarah, her first time hiking above 7000 feet, her personal best ascent (by more than 200m) first time on rock ladder and chained ridge....It's a day of firsts and I'm suitably impressed.

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I love this shot because although exhausted Sarah is beaming, sat in a well constructed wind break with my jacket for added warmth she is mesmerised by that spectacular view and probably just a little bit proud of herself for the graft put in to reach it.

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We sat having a bite to eat and talking about the joys of the hike when a booming clatter behind us saw an avalanche pour off the southern end of the aptly named Snowpatch Spire.

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I had contemplated continuing up the final slope to the top level but word from the climbers at the hut was that the lakes up there are still snow covered and only the access trails for the climbs are compressed enough to walk on without snowshoes, I'm pretty sure Sarah was pleased to hear it.

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As we sat in the windbreak sunning ourselves several little ground squirrels came ever closer to see what we were up to, often standing really close and just staring, trying to guilt us into providing a little nibble.

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The little fella in the shot above looking at Sarah from the rocks came so close soon after that it was difficult to focus on him and I confess I did share just a bit of my lunch with him.

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I wandered around trying to get a few more shots but couldn't get a good angle on the angel hair waterfall that runs over rounded granite at the ridgetop. I didn't want to descend much further as I was doing the 'summer boot shuffle' on the steep snow patches as it was.

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As we sat talking in the windbreak a colleague of Sarahs exited the hut and came over for a chat, a Canadian native she hasn't visited Bugaboo in 30 years but she chose today to do so, small world indeed. We also talked briefly with a climber who arrived and almost collapsed on the steps of the hut, he had hauled a 75lb pack up that hiking trail ready for a few days climbing, kudos to that guy, it's a hard enough ascent with a hiking day pack. On the way out Sarah took the only spill of the day in an area where it was funny rather than problematic.

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The Conrad Kain Hut was constructed in 1972 and named after a locally renowned guide who first worked the area in 1910. Still a very modern shelter with space to sleep 35, it has hydro electricity from a micro generator in the stream which provides lighting, heat and hot water. Overnight stays are $25 but booking is strongly recommended owing to the popularity of the Bugaboos as a climbing venue.

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It's a very difficult place to leave, but leave you must and as the clouds rolled in across the Hounds Tooth once more we made our way back along the chained walls this time made more difficult by the descent and poor Sarahs weary legs.

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Sarah near hugged the ladder on the descent, refusing to look down or sideways until her feet were back on terra firma, I am still (even as I write this) surprised that she ever went up there. I'm also really proud of her for facing her fears in such dramatic fashion on the various edges of granite rock in the beautiful Bugaboo Provincial Park.

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On Sunday morning Sarah was staggering around like a saddle sore cowboy groaning with almost every step but still really happy that she had made the hike and looking forward to the next one.

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Re: Canada - White knuckles for Sarah reaching Bugaboo Glaci

Postby HalfManHalfTitanium » Mon Jun 27, 2016 7:20 pm

Hi Chris - I first saw a photo of Snowpatch Spire in the mid-1970s, when I first began to be interested in the hills, and was struck by its extraordinary (spire-like, clue in the name) appearance.

I recall that at one time it was described as "North America's #1 climbing problem".

So after 40 years it's nice to see a report on an actual walk in the Bugaboos. Colour photos too.

Great report - thanks!

Tim
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Re: Canada - White knuckles for Sarah reaching Bugaboo Glaci

Postby dav2930 » Mon Jun 27, 2016 8:13 pm

Superb report Chris, really engaging. The photo of the avalanche on Snowpatch Spire is stunning. Well done to Sarah for her determined approach to a challenging hike in such an impressive part of the Rockies :clap:

I've always been intrigued by the wonderfully named 'Bugaboos' ever since reading about them in what was then (early 1980's I think) 'Climber and Rambler' magazine. I don't suppose I'll ever go there but one can always dream - with help from your report of course! :lol:
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Re: Canada - White knuckles for Sarah reaching Bugaboo Glaci

Postby Mal Grey » Mon Jun 27, 2016 8:47 pm

Fantastic stuff, well done to Sarah, and what a reward for the effort.

I love the photo of the avalanche debris coming off Snowpatch Spire.
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Re: Canada - White knuckles for Sarah reaching Bugaboo Glaci

Postby ChrisW » Wed Jun 29, 2016 10:13 pm

HalfManHalfTitanium wrote:Hi Chris - I first saw a photo of Snowpatch Spire in the mid-1970s, when I first began to be interested in the hills, and was struck by its extraordinary (spire-like, clue in the name) appearance.

I recall that at one time it was described as "North America's #1 climbing problem".

So after 40 years it's nice to see a report on an actual walk in the Bugaboos. Colour photos too.

Great report - thanks!

Tim

Cheers Tim, it's easy to see how Snowpatch got it's name :lol:

dav2930 wrote:Superb report Chris, really engaging. The photo of the avalanche on Snowpatch Spire is stunning. Well done to Sarah for her determined approach to a challenging hike in such an impressive part of the Rockies :clap:

I've always been intrigued by the wonderfully named 'Bugaboos' ever since reading about them in what was then (early 1980's I think) 'Climber and Rambler' magazine. I don't suppose I'll ever go there but one can always dream - with help from your report of course! :lol:


Thanks Dav, I love that shot too. I honestly didn't expect Sarah to go up here...I'm still impressed a week later :lol: . Never say never with regard to going there, ten years ago I wouldn't have believed I'd have been there either :wink:

Mal Grey wrote:Fantastic stuff, well done to Sarah, and what a reward for the effort.

I love the photo of the avalanche debris coming off Snowpatch Spire.


Cheers Mal, Sarah has got the bug now thanks to that view, she's ready to go again :crazy: I love that shot too, it looked even better a second before but it took the camera a little while to turn on and focus :roll:
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Re: Canada - White knuckles for Sarah reaching Bugaboo Glaci

Postby Alteknacker » Wed Jun 29, 2016 11:55 pm

The usual brilliant report and pics, from that fairy land you live in. And well done Sarah! I'll bet you get the bug now.....

I must say, the hills above the hut look really seductive. The pic of the avalanche is especially wonderful: the rock looks like something out of a fantasy comic!
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Re: Canada - White knuckles for Sarah reaching Bugaboo Glaci

Postby ancancha » Thu Jun 30, 2016 12:15 am

Fabulous; great effort Sarah :clap:
Worth the stunning views and the avalanche of snow patch spire :!: The ice sheet at the front of the glacier looks incredible as well :!:
Nice to get a few fury chums round for lunch :lol:

Well done report and photos Chris :clap:
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Re: Canada - White knuckles for Sarah reaching Bugaboo Glaci

Postby ChrisW » Thu Jun 30, 2016 11:16 pm

Alteknacker wrote:The usual brilliant report and pics, from that fairy land you live in. And well done Sarah! I'll bet you get the bug now.....

I must say, the hills above the hut look really seductive. The pic of the avalanche is especially wonderful: the rock looks like something out of a fantasy comic!


Cheers Alteknacker, those rocks are the big draw here (for climbers) huge granite spires poking up from the glacier (there are quite a few of em) and they all look like this :crazy:

ancancha wrote:Fabulous; great effort Sarah :clap:
Worth the stunning views and the avalanche of snow patch spire :!: The ice sheet at the front of the glacier looks incredible as well :!:
Nice to get a few fury chums round for lunch :lol:

Well done report and photos Chris :clap:


Thanks Ancancha, the Mrs is still bragging about it :lol: it's a really nice hike even for experienced hikers, swamp, forest, waterfalls, boulder field, alpine and glaciers it's really got a bit of everything :thumbup:
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Re: Canada - White knuckles for Sarah reaching Bugaboo Glaci

Postby trailmasher » Sat Jul 02, 2016 6:04 pm

Once again Chris a great write up and photos :clap: but this time it's all about your Sarah keeping her nerve and spirits up to continue on what looks like a daunting trek for the nervous of exposed positions, so double well done her :clap: :clap: I think that it's the first time that I have heard of a woman wishing that she had smaller boobs mate :lol: :lol: The Hounds Tooth and glacier look stunning and awesome 8)

And finally you must have some real crack head porcupines in your neck of the woods mate. :lol: Rubber and brake fluid for lunch :roll: :crazy:

Well done :clap:
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Re: Canada - White knuckles for Sarah reaching Bugaboo Glaci

Postby ChrisW » Mon Jul 04, 2016 5:48 am

trailmasher wrote:Once again Chris a great write up and photos :clap: but this time it's all about your Sarah keeping her nerve and spirits up to continue on what looks like a daunting trek for the nervous of exposed positions, so double well done her :clap: :clap: I think that it's the first time that I have heard of a woman wishing that she had smaller boobs mate :lol: :lol: The Hounds Tooth and glacier look stunning and awesome 8)

And finally you must have some real crack head porcupines in your neck of the woods mate. :lol: Rubber and brake fluid for lunch :roll: :crazy:

Well done :clap:


Cheers TM, this one was definitely all about Sarah, I was genuinely impressed with her sudden determination on this one :shock: It's a beautiful hike too so I'm really pleased we didn't have to turn back :wink:

Glad you noticed the the porcupine thing, I've never heard anything like before and it struck me as incredibly odd, I was beginning to think I was the only one who thought it strange :lol:
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Re: Canada - White knuckles for Sarah reaching Bugaboo Glaci

Postby past my sell by date » Mon Jul 04, 2016 12:59 pm

Wow -great hike and report. Seriously wild country
If only alpine lateral moraines were tee covered like that - but they're absolutely bare as many have been exposed for less than a hundred years - and some for much less
Ladders are easy - except for getting on and off! I've always found getting on a the top when going down can be particularly awkward.
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Re: Canada - White knuckles for Sarah reaching Bugaboo Glaci

Postby ilovescotty » Tue Jul 05, 2016 3:34 pm

'the Bugaboos are a challenging hike and not for the faint of heart' . . . . yet they have such a sweet, cuddly name!

Looks incredible, great pics as always, my favorite ChrisW report for a while!

Keep 'em coming.
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Re: Canada - White knuckles for Sarah reaching Bugaboo Glaci

Postby MiniRambo » Tue Jul 05, 2016 11:02 pm

Another cracking report Chris. It was good to get Sarah to overcome some of fears and give you company on this trek - which I am sure is down to the fact she was walking with a mountain genius! :lol: :lol:
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Re: Canada - White knuckles for Sarah reaching Bugaboo Glaci

Postby ChrisW » Wed Jul 06, 2016 6:11 pm

past my sell by date wrote:Wow -great hike and report. Seriously wild country
If only alpine lateral moraines were tee covered like that - but they're absolutely bare as many have been exposed for less than a hundred years - and some for much less
Ladders are easy - except for getting on and off! I've always found getting on a the top when going down can be particularly awkward.


Cheers PMSD, I think the perfect growing conditions of British Columbia have a lot to do with the trees on the moraine, the Alberta ones are still bare and have been exposed for longer :crazy: Sarah found getting back on the ladder on the descent was the worst bit :lol:

ilovescotty wrote:'the Bugaboos are a challenging hike and not for the faint of heart' . . . . yet they have such a sweet, cuddly name! Looks incredible, great pics as always, my favorite ChrisW report for a while! Keep 'em coming.

:lol: Cheers ILS, it is a deceptive name now you come to mention it ...that might explain why Sarah took it on :lol:

MiniRambo wrote:Another cracking report Chris. It was good to get Sarah to overcome some of fears and give you company on this trek - which I am sure is down to the fact she was walking with a mountain genius! :lol: :lol:


Thanks MR, I lured her in with photos of the hut and glacier first ...then told her about the ledges and ladder :lol: :lol:
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Re: Canada - White knuckles for Sarah reaching Bugaboo Glaci

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Thu Jul 07, 2016 9:43 am

Wonderful photos as ever, love the one of the lilies. Well to to Sarah for overcoming fear to get up there, she'll be following you along knife edge ridges fighting bears soon :wink:
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