Crescent Towers, not to be confused with Crescent Spire, are the towers just east of Crescent Spire that form a col with Eastpost Spire. The multiple towers offer 11 published moderate alpine routes ranging from 4th class to 5.10+. Their easy access makes these routes ideal objectives when the weather is suspect, which is quite often in the “Bugs”.
The two southern most towers have the distinction of being named “Donkey Ears” in most part, well, because they resemble such. Just the tops of the ears can be seen out of the back door window (kitchen area) of the Conrad Kain Hut and are in full view from the Applebee Campground area. The Central and North Towers are just to the left of Donkey’s Ears, separated from Crescent Spire by a broad sandy descent gully.
Bugaboo Provincial Park (33,700+ acres) is home of several legendary granite spires. It is part of the Bugaboo Alpine Provincial Recreation Area located in the Purcell Mountain Range of British Columbia. The Purcells parallel the Canadian Rockies on the western side. Pigeon Spire divides the Bugaboo and Vowell Glaciers guarding the approach to the famed Howser Towers. It is one of three that make up the “Central Spires” (Pigeon, Bugaboo and Snowpatch), the most common objectives in the park. The central spires each stand isolated by large glaciers with no connecting ridges. This stark contrast of black rock against white snow and ice is what contributes to this park being a climber-photographer’s dream.
Routes are Listed Left to Right (east)
- North Tower
- North Ridge, F, 5.6/
- Northwest Side, F, 5.4/
- Northwest Gully, F, 4th/
- Lion’s Way, PD+, 5.6/ Most popular “easy” route in the Bugs.
- Lions and Tigers, AD-, 5.8/
- Tiger’s Trail, AD-, 5.9/
- Lost in Space, AD+, 5.10/
- Thatcher Catcher, D-, 5.10/
- Edwards-Neufeld, D-, 5.10+/
- Ears Between, AD, 5.7/ A must do route in my opinion due to location and aesthetics. The route charges right up the middle of the “Donkey’s Ears”. Both Donkey’s Ears are at the same height at approximately 9300’+/- requiring only 2000’+/- gain from the Conrad Kain Hut or 4400+/- gain from the Bugaboo trail head/parking area. What originally made Ears Between so attractive to us was the fact you can see the “Donkey’s Ears” from the Conrad Kain Hut just poking above Eastpost in the foreground. I had climbed McTech Arete on the non-descript Crescent Spire last year and noticed the towers to the northwest looked quite aesthetic. Ears Between runs you right up the gut of these towers, in between the ears and finishes on the summit of the east ear which you actually rappel off for the start of your descent. Lofthouse put the route in during 1968 Dow
- Eeyore, AD+, 5.9/ Not to be confused with Eyore’s Tail back in Canmore.
South Tower (Donkey’s Ears)
Mechanized bolting is not allowed in the park, therefore, this is specifically a trad climbing area. The glaciers in Bugaboo Provincial Park are retreating as most in Canada are. The Bugaboo Glacier itself has receded over 3000’ in the past 100 years. The wildlife is still exceptional. We spotted a black bear on the road in and wolverine tracks on the Pigeon Fork-Bugaboo Glacier in 2006. The weather is more volatile than even the Canadian Rockies due to the park’s closer proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Rock fall and weather remain the two most dangerous objectionable hazards for any climbing objective in the area.
Getting ThereBugaboo Provincial Park is located in southeastern B.C., between Golden and Radium Hot Springs, and west of Highway 95. Access to the park is via a gravel logging road, open late spring through late fall, that begins at Brisco, 27 kilometers north of Radium Hot Springs or 76 km south of Golden on Highway 95. You must travel 46 kilometers on the dirt road to get back to the trailhead. Watch for the small directional signs at intersections.
The trail to the Conrad Kain Hut is approximately 2260’ of gain spread out over 4.6kms and the Applebee campground is another 820’ of gain from the hut spread out over 1 km. I have made the hut in less than 2 hours; but have seen parties take over 4 hours during my visits.
Access to the northern portions of the park via the Vowell and Malloy Creek drainages is possible by leaving Highway 95 at Spillimacheen, north of Brisco, then crossing the Columbia River and turning left on the West Side Road. After traveling 0.8 km, turn right onto Bobbie Burns Creek drainage and drive past the lodge of the same name. Logging roads up Vowell Creek and Malloy Creek lead to semi-open terrain which can be hiked into the park. The status of bridges in inactive logging areas may vary in upper drainages.
Red Tape• Bugaboo Provincial Park is a remote area. Persons intending to visit the Bugaboos must realize there are no supplies, equipment or transportation arrangements of any kind available in the park. Hut accommodation is not available in winter because of avalanche dangers.
• It is recommended that visitors protect their vehicle perimeter with a portable chicken wire fence to deter porcupines and other small animals from chewing on wires and tires.
• National Topographic Series Maps 82K/10 (Howser Creek) and 82K/15 (Bugaboo Creek) are at a scale of 1:50,000 and cover all but the western limits of the park.
• 'The Bugaboos - One of the World's Great Alpine Rock-climbing Centres' is a comprehensive and accurate guidebook to climbing and mountaineering in Bugaboo Park. It is written by Chris Atkinson and Marc Piche and published by Elaho Publishing (ISBN # 0-9733035-1-4).
• Weather conditions can change suddenly in this area and lightning storms with hail and snow are common in summer. Only experienced climbers practiced in crevasse rescue and properly roped should venture onto snowfields and glaciers.
• Loaded logging trucks and other industrial traffic may be encountered while accessing this park. Drive with extreme caution and for your safety always yield to industrial traffic.
Climbers should check with the hut keepers on current conditions and destinations before departure. Climbers are responsible for their own safety; rescue services are not readily available. Public communications services are not available.
When to ClimbAlthough CMH offers winter heli-skiing for tourists, Bugaboo Provincial Park is primarily a summer destination for climbers. Despite the necessary glacier travel, the quality of the rock is what most come to Bugaboo for, therefore the summer months are prime. I have climbed in the area in late August in stellar conditions. However, Bugaboo Provincial Park is well known for its volatile weather swings and for the most part, your views from the west are obscured on departure from the campground or the hut.
Camping/LodgingWilderness, backcountry or walk-in camping is allowed. Backcountry campgrounds are provided at Boulder Camp below the Conrad Kain Hut and on the bare rock slabs of Applebee Dome, 1km above the Conrad Kain Hut. A per-person fee is in effect at these campgrounds, payable at a self-registration station located inside the Conrad Kain Hut. To prevent contamination of the water supply and damage to the sensitive alpine environment, camping in the park is not permitted elsewhere in the vicinity of the main spires (Bugaboo, Snowpatch, Crescent, Pigeon, Howsers). Bivouacking is not permitted unless circumstances dictate its necessity. Wilderness camping is allowed in other, more remote areas of the park, such as the Vowell Group. Leave-no-trace wilderness camping ethics should be utilized.
Backcountry Camping Fee: $5.00 per person / night, for all persons 13 years of age or older.
There are hot! and cold water taps in the Kain Hut. There are two pit toilets located near the Kain Hut for users of the Hut and Boulder Camp. There is also one pit toilet located at the Applebee campground and in the parking lot at the trailhead.
The Conrad Kain hut is a class “A” (pads, fuel, pots and dishes, running water) hut that sleeps 40. Reservations for the hut can be made through the ACC National Office from 9:00am to 8:00pm, seven days per week. The campgrounds operate on a "first come, first served" basis.
An on-site custodian collects fees for the campgrounds and hut (for those who did not reserve through the ACC office in Canmore) from mid June to late September. Tent sites and hut bedding must be cleared by 11:00am if you are not planning on staying that night.
Open fires and dogs are prohibited in the park. Ski tourers can book the hut from approximately mid March to May.