The Tale of Tough Ted
Ted Angus and I were excited to head to the Bugaboos together this summer.
Ted needed a break from long hours of thesis work, and I felt the need for one last “prophylactic break” in anticipation for the hard work that I have ahead of me in 3rd year medical school.
A heat wave was forecasted to hit the Bugaboos starting on Wednesday, June 25, so Ted and I made plans to leave as soon as we could. We departed Vancouver on Thursday June 26 at 07:00.
Throughout the drive, we consumed many bell peppers. They were in discount $1 bags at the local produce store. I couldn’t restrain myself from buying all of the bags. I love peppers.
Our first stop en route was the Double Dutchman Dairy in Sicamous. I have fond memories of the place from my childhood, and their dairy products are spectacular. Unfortunately, their service is far from friendly. You are limited to 1 serving per person, and you are charged 50c extra for a cup and 25c extra for a spoon (we quickly learned that the best strategy is to order the largest size: “Mammoth”, supply one’s own container, and then partition the ice cream into 2 containers).
Other than stopping for gas, we only stopped once more along our drive to do last minute route research. “Sunshine Crack” on Snowpatch peak was our main objective. Another climb had piqued my interest, a 5.11 crack known as “Solitary Confinement.” The website “Mountain Project” listed it as one of the best climbs in Canada. However, based on the difficult description of the off-width pitch, it was a bad idea for me and Ted.
We arrived at the Bugaboo trailhead at 19:00. It was almost completely deserted. There were only 5 other cars.
I “hastily” organized food for the trip, which consisted mostly of random non-perishables and leftover fresh veggies.
I also felt obligated to haul up 2L of boxed wine. The wine had been rejected by my friends on a kayaking trip one week prior.
The combination of 4 bell peppers, 2 kg of wine and ~6 days-worth of food left my pack a little heavier than I anticipated. Not to mention the extensive double rack of trad gear and 3 ropes we were hauling up.
2hrs later, my extensive faffing was over. We started up the trail at 21:00.
At 23:20, we arrived at the Conrad Kain hut to find it almost completely empty. The custodian hadn’t even arrived yet. There was only one other party of 2 (one of whom we had met at the trailhead). We made the strategic decision to stay the night at the Kain hut, rather than hike an additional 300m of elevation to reach the Applebee Dome campsite.
We awoke, well rested at 07:00. The other group was packing up their supplies. They had plans to relocate to Applebee Dome and then climb “McTech Arête” on crescent towers.
The other party had boiled up extra water in the hut kettle, which I used to make coffee. The rest I used to hydrate my oats. I passed the oats, garnish and remaining water to Ted so that he could also make some oatmeal.
Unfortunately, the water was tepid by the time he got around to preparing his oats.
As he began to eat his oats, Ted found them coarse and difficult to swallow. He knew that he had a big day ahead of him though, so he persevered. He augmented his oats with more coconut flakes, prunes and walnuts and kept chewing…
Shortly after completing his meal, Ted glanced at the label of the oats he had consumed. It clearly read “Steel Cut Oats.” It all suddenly made sense.
I confessed to my unintentional sabotage. They were not the “Instant Oats” that I intended to pack.
As we started our hike to Applebee dome, this small detail proved to be troublesome. Ted’s stomach was sore. He described a sensation that felt as though he was having trouble swallowing a pill or something. We made it to Applebee by around 09:30, but Ted’s tummy was still sore.
To give Ted’s tummy a better chance of normalizing, we decided to kill some time at Applebee by setting up our tent. The lightweight tent that he was borrowing from his girlfriend, Anne Darby, was complicated. It was also very flimsy.
Despite our best efforts to kill time, we were ready for our climb by 11:00. We started the short approach to “Sunshine Crack.” The approach was easy, although there were no other footprints at the base of the climb. It seemed as though we were the first people to attempt the route in a while.
The route-finding and climbing proceeded without incident. The climb was completely dry. Ted was stoic with his stomach stress.
No falls were taken by lead climbers, but the 2 crux roof pulls proved hard to onsite for the second climber. (Especially the 11- roof pull, which we nonchalantly expected to be 5.9). With progress capture belays, the following climber either had to get the sequence first try, or weight the rope.
The temperature was perfect. Sunshine crack lived up to its name in the late afternoon as the sun crept up onto the upper pitches.
The best pitch was the final 50m pitch. We opted for the right hand variation, which follows a vertical, laser cut, hand crack before curving into a left facing semicircle. Half ropes proved very useful for this pitch. They were also useful for linking a roof pitch down lower.
At the top of our climb, we were greeted by a fantastic view of the summit slabs on Snowpatch Peak. The pristine black sheen of these slabs reminded me of the monolith in “2001 a Space Odyssey.” At this point, Ted’s digestion woes had finally subsided.
With plenty of daylight left, Ted and I rappelled the route with 2 ropes. The 4th rappel has a “rope eating chasm of doom crack” which probably extends to the centre of the earth. However, our ropes didn’t get stuck in this crack, we just had to pull really hard to get them out. After our spectacular tug to get the ropes unstuck, I managed to get 60m of rope to the face. It hurt my nose a bit.
We leisurely walked back to camp and arrived at ~21:30. We met up with our friends Nick Matwyuk and Lena Rowat. They had just completed a climb called “Wildflowers,” and were very happy to hear that we had brought their guidebook. Nick and Lena were unimpressed with the fortitude of Ted’s gut. They mentioned that they frequently consume uncooked oats without incident.
Ted was a bit tired from an eventful day, especially since his sore tummy had prevented him from eating much. We opted for another short approach for the next day. I was eyeing up the “McTech Arete” area.
Yet again, we woke up at a leisurely hour. No oats were consumed.
Ted made a point of eating a cold breakfast, consisting of tortillas and nut butters. I opted to finish the gargantuan meal from the previous evening. The salmon, cheese, broccoli and mashed potato dinner that I had concocted had far too large a mash potato ratio. – I unjustly blamed my ratio miscalculation on Ted. He had put a lot of hot water in the pot. I put in as much instant potato mix in the meal as it would absorb.
Ted and I set off to the Crescent Towers around 10:00. We climbed “Paddle Flake Direct,” which was dry. It required a minor amount of strategy to keep our climbing shoes dry. I climbed up a snow gulley, placed rock protection, then climbed up to a ledge to change into my climbing shoes. I slid my boots down the rope to Ted. We carried Ted’s boots up the climb.
Our route ended up being slightly indirect. I led Ted astray for the start of the second pitch. We were way too far left. Realistically, there is no obvious fault system to follow up the second pitch. The description for the second pitch should read: make your way to the base of the obvious flake by any logical route.
Once we reached the namesake flake, the route was high quality. We proceeded to the top without incident.
We rappelled from the chains on “McTech Arête,” and then looked for another climb to do. Ted talked me out of attempting the climb “Energy Crisis.” He didn’t want to belay me up something that I might struggle up. We opted instead to climb “Roof McTech.”
I stole the money pitch for this climb. The roof pull was fairly graded at 10+. I was unsure how to finish the climb. I called down to Ted for directions. He checked the guidebook and informed me that I should trend right-ish. I decided to follow the nice, thin, right trending crack.
The crack quickly tapered, and I found myself laybacking off of the arête. I ended up doing a cruxy traverse into the top of “Energy crisis.” It felt a little tougher than the roof pull below, more like 11-. I continued up the crack for a ~50m super pitch. Fortunately, I found chains at the top.
I think that this was the best pitch of the trip. I later discovered that this linkup, which I like to call “Roof Crisis” is recommended by every person who has commented on the “Roof McTech” climb on “Mountain Project.”
I belayed Ted up, but he did not enjoy the pitch as much as I did. As we found the day before, roof climbs are less pleasant for the follower. It didn’t help that one of the cams I placed in the roof had gotten stuck. It also didn’t help that Ted was carrying a backpack. We brought it just in case we wanted to climb to the top of “McTech Arête.”
Since there was plenty of light left in the day, I would have liked to continue climbing into “Mctech Arete.” Ted, unsurprisingly, was a bit tired and not so keen to continue up easy terrain. We decided to rappel down and walk home.
We got back to camp with plenty of light in the day. We started preparing dinner at 19:30 and I began to socialize with the other climbers. I had ulterior motives to try to relieve myself of 2kg of wine.
The campers closest to us, Derek and Chris, had just completed the “Beckey-Chouinard” route on South Howser Spire. They probably snagged the first ascents of the season. We had seen them the afternoon before while rappelling “Sunshine Crack,” -they were walking over to a bivouac site.
Derek and Chris reported that the route was in perfect condition. Ted and I were keen to go and climb it. However, Ted was tuckered out from the last 2 days. We decided that maybe a semi-rest day was in order.
I proceeded to produce a masterful dinner consisting of couscous, butter, deluxe nuts, broccoli, mushrooms and plenty of spices.
As Ted tasted the dish, Ted’s lips curled up into a position somewhat resembling a smile. At first, this made me excited. I was expecting him to compliment my backcountry cooking.
Alas, the phrase he chose to utter was far from complimentary. It went something like this: “Wow, this meal is so much better than last night’s meal. It must be because I added more butter and salt to it.”
After Dinner, we received an updated weather forecast from one of the other campers. Apparently the weather was supposed to be nice for Sunday, but on Monday it was forecasted to deteriorate. Ted and I decided that even though he was tired, we should postpone our rest day until the dubious weather day.
A little later, Nick and Lena returned to camp from their adventures. They had just finished climbing “Super Direct” on Snowpatch Spire. They gave the route high praise.
Ted and I were still undecided about our climbing objectives for the following day. We asked Nick and Lena for advice. They recommended either “Super Direct” or a brand new climb called the “Becky Direct” which feeds into the West Ridge of Pigeon Spire. Apparently, it was established by Lena’s friend, Becky in 2010. Hence the deceptive name. We were told that the crux pitch was 5.10 “classic hands.”
After yet another relaxed start, Ted and I set off to climb Pigeon Spire via the “Becky Direct”.
Our approach to the climb proceeded without incident. We belayed each other over a large snow bridge to reach the base of the climb.
Unfortunately, the first pitch of the “Becky Direct” had terrible quality rock. It followed a basalt dyke feature. I would find it almost impossible to grade the pitch in difficulty. While the technical difficulty of the climbing was probably only 5.6-5.8, it is very challenging to have to test the stability of every single piece of rock you touch. Ted did a good job of navigating the first 55m pitch of choss.
After Ted’s Pitch, it was my turn. I started up the right facing dihedral. After 10 more meters of poor quality rock, I finally reached a clean crack. The climbing was pleasant for the next 55m. The last 15m of hand crack at the end was particularly good. I forced Ted to simul-climb for a bit so that I could reach a gorgeous belay stance atop of the “Tail feather Pinnacle”
I quickly set up an anchor and started to belay Ted up. Less than 2 minutes into his climb, I heard Ted let out a blood curdling scream. It sounded like a swear word. The rope went taught. My heart skipped a beat. I immediately yelled down to ask if he was okay. Ted replied, “Yeah…” rather unconvincingly.
Despite the fall, Ted made rapid progress up towards the belay. When he was on a nearby ledge, I asked how he was doing. He replied, “We’ll talk about it at the top.”
When he arrived at the ledge, Ted recounted his harrowing tale to me.
About 5m into the climb, just as Ted was about to step out of the poor quality rock, he pulled out a loose block. This caused him to fall. He fell a long ways, about 3m onto a ledge. He landed on his bum, pretty hard. The real problem was the rock he dislodged. It landed firmly on his leg.
I felt really guilty for any unnecessary slack that might have been in the system. I didn’t feel too guilty though, 55m of rope stretches a lot!
We paused a while on the ledge to give Ted’s left thigh a bit of a rest. Fortunately, the ledge provided a very comfy spot to lounge. It also had a phenomenal view. We watched as a glider veered sharply around the Howser towers. The pilot was the only person in the world that we were slightly envious of.
Ted’s knee was sore and mildly swollen, but he wasn’t completely debilitated. Ted was tough. After 1hr on the ledge, we started up the final pitch. Fortunately, the basalt dyke on the final pitch was much more solid than the first pitch we had climbed.
At the top of the final pitch, we met up with the west ridge of pigeon spire. A few parties were climbing this route. One party snapped some cool pictures of me and Tough Teddy.
Despite the sore knee, Ted still wanted to scramble the rest of the west ridge to the top of Pigeon Spire. I didn’t blame him. It is probably my favorite climb in the Bugaboos. Overall, we made good time. We passed a couple roped parties, and made it to the summit around 15:00.
On the way down, we elected to rappel the 5.4 summit section. We shared ropes with the group that snapped pictures of us. Thanks, Chris and Alana!
After a leisurely summit session and scramble down the ridge, Ted and I made it back to snow. We got back on the glacier around 17:00 and started our slow trudge back. The bluebird conditions offered us perfect views of the Howser Towers, Bugaboo Peak and Pigeon Spire.
At the Bugaboo Snowpatch col, we elected to rappel rather than plunge step, in order to reduce stress on Ted’s knee.
Since we only had a single 60m rope, Ted made a single rope rappel at the second anchors, I retrieved the rope and plunge stepped down.
As we were descending from the col, we noted the absence of new footprints towards the base of “sunshine crack.” Nobody besides us had climbed the route in at least the last week.
At the base of the snow slope, we were greeted by yet another spectacle. It was around 18:00 and the weather had finally cooled down enough for the pro’s to start climbing.
Will Stanhope and Matt Segal, two professional rock climbers, were climbing on Snowpatch Peak. They were working on the 5.14c crux pitch of their project climb. For 5 years, they have been attempting to free climb a former aid line known as “the Tom Egan Memorial wall.” Unfortunately, the same heat wave which made the climbing so pleasant for Ted and I, was not ideal for them. Hot, sweaty conditions do not make for sticky rock, rubber or fingertips. On hard climbs, every little bit of friction matters. The duo was resigned to starting at 18:00 to beat the heat. Even still, they complained that the rock was too hot.
After brief ogling, Ted and I left for Applebee. We got to camp around 19:00. I prepared yet another fantastic meal. Ted ensured that it received an adequate helping of butter and salt.
I scuttled around Applebee to unload my remaining 1.5L of wine. During my travels, I discovered that the weather was forecasted to take a turn for the worse. The following day, Monday, was forecasted to be overcast. There was a 40% chance of thundershowers in the afternoon. With Ted’s sore knee and our very flimsy tent, we started to weigh our options. We could take a rest day/afternoon and attempt to weather the storm. Ted could potentially stay as late as Wednesday afternoon. We could also hike out on Monday and visit my family in Vernon.
When we went back to our tent, we once again met up with our friends Derek and Chris who had climbed the Beckey-Chouinard on the previous day. I discovered that during my only other trip to the bugaboos (July 24-30, 2013), I had met Derek before!
We both seek out perfect weather in the Bugaboos: Derek does so because he lives close and has a flexible work schedule. I just happen to be extremely lucky in my Bugaboos timing. I have been lucky to have had six days of perfect weather on my first trip, and three days of perfect weather on my second trip.
After consuming most of the wine, I tried to convince Derek and Chris to belay me on “Energy Crisis” the next morning. We were all resigned to hiking out before the Monday afternoon thunderstorms.
Just prior to going to bed, I performed a steel cut oats experiment. I added boiling water to my garnished oats. I left the mixture to stew overnight.
My oat cooking strategy was a success, but my climbing partner coercion was not.
The drizzle we awoke to was not inspiring. Nobody was keen to belay me up a difficult climb while getting rained on.
While Ted kindly tore down our tent, I did a quick solo scramble up Eastpost Spire. The view was good, and it didn’t take very long (~45 minutes return)
The descent down to the car went well. Ted’s knee wasn’t banged as badly as we originally thought. We made good time. We went mostly non-stop except for a brief stop at the Kain Hut but to pay our fees. Money well spent!
After a sip of Heifeweissen at the car, we started to drive the 50km of logging road back to the town of Brisco.
As we drove back, we remarked on the “Bugaboo time dilation phenomenon” — Although we were only there for 4 nights, it felt as though we were there for much longer!
We stopped briefly in Golden to grab coffee. On the way to Vernon, we skirted the impending thunderstorms the whole way. The post storm clouds provided stupendous views in Rogers Pass.
We stopped by The Double Dutchman dairy in Sicamous, where we were sure to employ the “Own Cup+ Mammoth size” strategy. Their ice cream was good enough to bring us back despite their terrible customer service.
We arrived in Vernon just ahead of my Parents/ Sisters. (They were returning from a 5 day soccer tournament in Bellingham).
I just had time to introduce Ted to my Brother and my Dad before the Thunderstorm finally hit us. It was spectacular! Power immediately went out. I quickly ushered Ted to the hot tub for a front row view.
Gale force winds buffeted our faces as the thunderclaps boomed.
We munched on strawberry + pine nut salad which was floating in an XXL Tupperware container.
As far as thunderstorm viewing conditions go, ours were undoubtedly in the 99th percentile.
We couldn’t help but imagine weathering the storm in Anne’s ultralight tent. It would have definitely ranked below the 5th percentile.
It could be worse though… Weathering a storm like that on the top of South Howser Spire would be downright dangerous.
Day 7/ 8
After Ted’s tumultuous introduction to Vernon, our trip had a relaxing conclusion. The penultimate day, we paddle-boarded for long enough to sunburn our feet. The last day, we climbed splitter basalt finger/ hand cracks at the Aberdeen Columns.
Thanks for being a great trip partner!