While many make their way for the popular route, Lions Way, on Crescent Towers on a suspect weather day, we chose Ears Between and were not disappointed. Three couples who climb with each other quite regularly were up from Canmore and the other pairs followed our intuition on this route and before you knew it, all of us were climbing Ears Between that day in three separate leads. All thrilled with the climb by days end with no other parties in sight on a Saturday.
Crescent Towers in Bugaboo Provincial Park offers a dozen published moderate routes. Its ease of access from either the Applebee Campground or Conrad Kain Hut make it a smart destination when the weather forecast is less than stellar. 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What originally made Ears Between so attractive to us was the fact you can see the “Donkey’s Ears” from the Conrad Kain Hut just poking above Eastpost in the foreground.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.
From the Conrad Kain Hut, hike up the trail past the Applebee Campground and pick up cairns that take you directly northwest towards Crescent Towers. The Donkey’s Ears are very easy to recognize among the towers. The final pitch actually splits the ears. Continue along the south side of one tarn, circumventing it to the west and continue along another tarn, circumventing it to the east as you ascend just right of the Crescent Glacier on rock studded ice. There is a significant ramp you are looking to gain above and to the right that moves left to right to the start of the route. We stayed low until we could follow large boulders straight up to access the ramp (versus scree). There was little evidence of travel along this part of the trail. Once you gain the thin ramp, start traversing back east passing a large teetering flake. The first belay is approximately 100’ past the flake where the wall turns dark with lichen.
Route DescriptionEars Between, 240 Meters, 6 Pitches, 5.7
It appears you can rap this route anytime via slung blocks, horns or flakes. Of course bring plenty of webbing and/or cordellete. I climbed this route with a single-double rope, doubling up only on the tougher pitches. Potential 30m belay stations were available pretty much any where you needed them to be.
1st Pitch- 30m- 5th/ Easy lead over broken ground, veering slightly left. I placed one piece of gear.
2nd Pitch- 40m- 5.4/ Continue on cracks over small ledges to belay on a rappel block (2007) below a left leaning chimney of sorts.
3rd Pitch- 45m- 5.7/ The first interesting pitch of the route. Head up into the chimney and stem the right side via a crack and gear placement or two and then move back left to succumb this section and up onto an easy ramp that follows a steep wall into a steep corner where several cracks make for an easy belay station. Several solid 5.7 moves required.
4th Pitch- 45m- 5.7/ Start up the fun corner/crack with easy gear placements and a cruxy move at the top back left on loose ground. Continue on easy ground to just below a chockstone. Make a 5.7 move to pull yourself up and over the chocktone into a small alcove below the crux (chimney) pitch between the “Ears”. Plenty of cracks and some tat available to set up a belay in this small alcove.
5th Pitch- 45m- 5.7/ By far the fun/crux pitch of the route. Start up easy moves in the chimney and then it gets a little sparse. Walk your #4 up in a crack on the right as you dissect the middle of the chimney and move out of it left just for a second, then back in on an awkward runnel of sorts. Hump over this section to easier ground again with a small ledge to the right (30m) and continue up steep ground with positive holds. A few good nut placements later, top out on a col between the ears!
6th Pitch- 30m- 4th/ Angle left on the backside of the east ear up easy broken ground, until it is easy to move back right to the summit. There was a cairn built on the west ear as well, but that might involve a more intense climb.
DescentThis descent is not as straight forward as one might be led to believe in the published beta (2007). Descend the summit off the east ear just slightly north where you will find a rappel station (2007). Do a 30m free air rap off of this steep wall. You can down climb or use another rap a few meters southeast from the base of this steep wall section. Follow a non-descript trail, where cairns peter out, back to the Eastpost-Crescent Tower col. If I had it to do over again, I would stick to the ridge on descent. We got sucked down via cairns and rap tat, descending loose and chossy slopes until we finally just made our own rap over a moat and down to a snow/ice slope below. Then traversed back to the ridge at a low point, but still well above the col and crossed over and down climbed precarious ledges to the scree below and crossed between the tarns for our return to the hut.
External LinksBugaboo Provincial Park
Alpine Club of Canada
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