The Bugaboos – Starting up the West Ridge of Pigeon Spire

The Bugaboos - Starting up the West Ridge of Pigeon Spire

After 4 days on the trip, and all the obstacles I had encountered I had planned to have an emotional rest day. That didn’t end up happening when the option to go up Pigeon Spire’s west ridge as a group came up. Before I knew it five of us were setting off from camp towards the Snowpatch-Bugaboo Col. We travelled un-roped up the steep col; the path was well trodden, but it still made me nervous. There was no room for error as we navigated the bergshrunds, and my nerves only got worse as we moved above them. The scramble off the col in crampons over loose, sandy, rock terrain was extremely scary, and a first for me. At that point the thought of descending down the col was so terrifying it made crossing the next glacier towards the Pigeon-Howers col seems like a cake walk (really it was either way). I was feeling rather proud of myself by the time we got to the base of Pigeon’s west ridge, but it didn’t take long for that to change. I made it less than 50m up the route before I decided it would be best for me to turn around and wait at the base to travel back to camp with the team. I had experienced a lot of new and scary experiences on the trip so far, and had almost reached my fear processing limit. I still had to descend the col and knew that it would take a lot out of me.

I was given the options to be lowered off the top of the col, into the bergschrund, and down the other side, or to walk down the way I came up. I had gotten myself up there, and was going to get myself down on my own. I experienced one of greatest moments of concentration in my life while climbing down loose rocks in crampons onto the icy snow below, and descending through the bergschrunds. A great wave of relief came over as I passed below the bergschrunds, but it wasn’t over yet; rockfall is a constant threat on the col. I made it down safely, learned a lot about myself, and made the right decision to turn around when I did. Pigeon spire isn’t going anywhere, and now it will feel fun when I climb it next season.

Here is some of the crew heading up the first section of the west ridge. I turned back near the top of this slab and hung out at the col taking photos.

The Bugaboos – August 12-18, 2012

Living in Squamish I am very lucky to be surrounded by excellent rock to train my technical climbing skills as well as many great peaks for scrambling. But, until last week I had never had the opportunity to combine the two skills I’ve been developing for years. That all changed when a friend invited me to be her partner on the yearly trip my friend group takes. Two months after the invitiation, a partner swap, and a week of careful packing and preparation I actually found myself driving east about to embark on what would be the greatest adventure of my life to date.

The moment I arrived at basecamp my lofty climbing aspiration were downgraded to starting with a 4th class route and going from there. I received tons of advice from friends that had been going for several years, but still nothing could have prepared me for the reality of being there. The ascent to Applebee basecamp, the scale of the spires, the difficulty of the glaciers, and the exposure did not translate well to maps and photos I found myself in awe and terror. Every single obstacle I encountered was more physically and mentally demanding that I could have expected.

Even though we were with a large group of friends, we were on our own when we headed out for the day and often learning as we went. As a result we learned many lessons the hard way, including when to put crampons on, when to switch into rock shoes, how hard preventing rockfall can be, and all the ways rappelling can go wrong.

It was both the single most terrifying and rewarding experience of my life. Never did I expect to learn so much in a week, or do so little actual climbing. Instead it was a wild ride of alpine obstacles, and a truly life changing experience shared with great friends old and new.

A brief summary of my adventure:

Aug 12 – Hike into Applebee base camp with 80+lbs pack full of climbing, camping, and glacier gear as well as 7 days of food, and clothes for everything from -10 to +30 degrees celcius rain and shine.
Aug 13 – Eastpost spire, combination of Northeast and Northwest ridges.
Aug 14 – Crescent Spire, W ridge. – Rained off first attempt, after self arresting and improv. anchor construction.
Aug 15 – Crescent Spire, W ridge – Successful ascent followed by rappelling disaster involving ditching a rope that was later recovered
Aug 16 – Pigeon Spire, W ridge – Got 30m up route then turned back to save terror management skills for descent back down the Bugaboo-Snowpatch col
Aug 17 – Eastpost spire again and bathing in the tarn
Aug 18 – Hike out and long drive home

Please feel free to contact me with any questions regarding my experience.

Photos from this trip were taken with a combination of my Nikon D7000, Olympus uT8000 & GoPro HD2

Posted by Tideline to Alpine on 2012-10-07 17:13:30

Tagged: , Bugaboo Provincial Park , The Bugs , Bugaboos , Camping , Climbing , Alpine , Mountains , Clouds , Sky , Spires , Alpine Climbing , Adventure , Expedition , Wilderness , Applebee Dome , Applebee Camp , Alpinism , Mountaineering , Hiking , Scrambling , Trad Climbing , Pigeon Spire , Slab , Pigeon Spire West Ridge , Granite

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