After a couple of weeks of climbing near Canmore and Banff, we head to Invermere to visit the Bugaboos. We had found a good free camping spot (a gravel pit by the lake) on an earlier visit. This would become home for the next couple of weeks.
Having read stories of terrible weather and climbers who do not leave their camp, we decide to wait in Invermere for a high pressure system... We do not feel like leaving the bus all alone in this spot (it is very visible from the main road) while we are gone for a few days at a time to climb in the bugs, so we rent a spot on a storage lot for a month. After a couple of days, the forecast looks good and we are "scheduled" to hike in the next day.
The next day, we are off to false start #1: get up early, have a cup of coffee, move the bus to the storage lot, have breakfast at the local joint, drive to Radium, stop by the free internet station in some fancy hotel lobby to check the weather forecast… only to find that the expected high pressure system is not coming after all… back to Invermere, get the bus out of storage, and spend a quiet day in town.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004: false start #2. Same routine as yesterday, except we get smarter about breakfast: we go check the weather BEFORE having a heavy breakfast. The forecast is still not looking quite right, so we get back to the bus for another quiet day, mostly spent working on the site.
Thursday, July 22, 2004: same routine as the previous days, but this time the forecast looks good, it's a go. Breakfast at the hotel (after waiting 20 minutes for their restaurant to open), then on to the loooong drive to the parking area. About 20 cars are already there. We spend a while wrapping the jeep in chicken wire and doing the last bit of packing, before finally heading up the trail. Heavy packs… The trail is flat for couple of kms, then suddenly goes steeply up the hillside to the hut. That's 2200 ft of elevation gain in a very short distance… steeeep! We feel like we're crawling along but apparently are moving well as we make it to the hut in about 2 ˝ hours. We stop at the hut to visit: nice and cozy but getting decent sleep in the noisy, busy place (we assume) must be an issue.
Onward to the Applebee campground, a good 50 minutes above on a rocky promontory. At first, we're not enthusiastic about the place: fairly small and crowded, camping on rocks… We spend quite a while looking around for a decent camp site, before finally settling on a pretty flat slab at the south end of camp, near the "toilet" sign. At least, we're not smack in the middle. Also, there are nice rock benches to cook and sit, right by the tent. There is also a metal cabinet where you can keep you food cool - cooler anyway than if left hanging on a metal pole in the middle of the campground.
For our first day, we decide to give the North-East Ridge of Bugaboo Spire a try. Some good climbing but an unpleasant ridge finish to the North summit. The descent takes for ever; first several raps with some scrambling in between. After the raps, it's a very long scramble along or just below the SW ridge back to the Bugaboo-Snowpatch col. A long day.
The next day, we climb the sweet West Ridge of Pigeon Spire. The approach turns out to be much longer than we expected, but we were probably just tired from the hike-in and the climbing the day before. We had a great time. Perfect weather, easy climbing/scrambling on great granite with great positions and awesome views!
The third day is a well deserved rest day. After a great cheesecake (the freeze-dried variety, in case you're wondering) for breakfast, I do some yoga by the tent while Eric lounges in the sun. We spend the day watching other parties going up and down the col from our great tent site. In the evening, we realize that one of our neighbors works at "Vahalla", the climbing store in Canmore. We had talked with him a week earlier back in Canmore. We chat for a while.
On the last day of our first stay, we climb Mc Tech Arete on Crescent Spire. Amazing. Great route on very, very clean granite. When we get back to camp, we take down the tent and stuff everything into our packs, cache the ground pads in the rocks, hang the packs from the critter poles, and fast hike down the trail to the car with just our day packs filled with trash and dirty clothes. We'll be back with a new supply of food and fresh clothes as soon as possible. Can't wait...
We spend two days in Invermere, unpacking, doing laundry, unloading the pictures and repacking. We worry about an announced change in the weather… gotta go to the library and find out more. It seems like the weather will be a little more unsettled in the next couple of days, but still mostly good. We're going back up tomorrow.
The next day, we get through the normal routine again. Up early, get the bus in storage, drive to Radium, have breakfast, continue on to the trailhead, wrap the car in chicken wire and hike up. Sounds familiar. It is extremely sunny and hot on the hike. We have a hard time, even with our small and relatively light packs. Hard to believe we did this with 65lb packs a week earlier… but then it was not that hot.
Get to camp, find a new spot for the tent, this time at the other end of camp on a flat alluvial dirt patch. Good boulder right by for chairs and tables! We relax in camp, hoping to climb the next day. That night, the crowds move in: this is a long holiday weekend in BC (BC Day on Monday). One group is still setting up camp near us past 1AM, keeping us awake…
The next morning, the weather looks iffy and the camp is booked solid. We still decide to go up to the Bugaboo-Snowpatch col and check out the climbs on the West Face of Snowpatch. After taking a look at the face, we've lost much of our enthusiasm. The rock appears to be very mossy, and the routes themselves are not that obvious. It is cloudy and very cold. We continue on to the right edge of the face and decide on Surf's Up, a 5.9 route that is supposed to be particularly good and popular. It turns out to be an OK climb (with three very good pitches), but nothing exceptional.
The next day, we climb the classic Sunshine Crack. It's very cold. We wait at the base for almost 2 hours hoping for the temperature to rise… it doesn't much. Eventually, we decide to give it a go. Long sustained route. Maybe we could have used a rest day before this one!
Sunday, August 1, 2004: rest day in camp. It rains for a while in the morning (good timing), but the rest of the day is mostly sunny. Most people are in camp. Some go for shorter climbs in the afternoon. We watch a team of Koreans make their way very slowly up a new aid route on the east face of Snowpatch.
The next day, the weather is gorgeous again and we climb Paddle Flake Direct on Crescent Spire (right next to Mc Tech Arete, which we climbed during our first stay). A great climb! Gotta love those 5.10 squeeze chimneys!
|Our base camp for a couple of weeks in Invermere.|
|Driving the long dirt road towards the Bugaboos.|
|Setting up the chicken wire around the jeep to keep the porcupines from dining on the rubber hoses.|
|Starting up the steep approach.|
|Hiking up with light gear the second time around.|
|Wild flowers are in bloom when we return early August.|
|Going up the fixed ladder.|
|So much easier with light packs.|
|Approaching the hut.|
|The Conrad Kain hut.|
|Inside the cozy hut.|
|The bunk beds are on the second floor.|
|After resting at the hut, we're continuing toward the Applebee campground.|
|Looking back toward the hut on our way to the Applebee campground.|
|A not-too-busy (yet) Applebeee campground.|
|Our camp with Snowpatch Spire in the background.|
|Magnificent views from camp.|
|...more amazing views.|
|gotta do yoga...|
|Pigeon Spire (from Snowpatch Spire).|
|Views from Applebee on a full moon.|
|Starting up the steep hike-down from Applebee camp.|
|Looking up toward Snowpatch Spire for the last time (at least on this trip).|
|Paragliding and hang-gliding contest at the Invermere lake.|
|Hang-glider touching down.|
|A successful landing.|