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Bugaboo-Canadian Rockies Conditions

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Bugaboo-Canadian Rockies Conditions

Postby Dow Williams » Mon Jul 18, 2011 9:41 pm

Getting a lot of inquires, so will post here and refer folks to this thread. Bugaboo's, as is consistent with the rest of western Canada has excess precip for this time of year in terms of snow. This makes traveling easier, particularly descending from Applebee to Hut or ascending or descending the Bug-Snowpatch col (total walk up). This makes the Snowpatch-Pigeon col raps a very wet experience. We have also had some recent close ice fall near these raps. Crack climbing on Crescent completely dry, but interesting enough we saw no sign of tracks in the deep snow leading up to the popular routes, Paddle Flake and McTech Arete (5.10's). Cannot imagine since the road has been open that no one else has climbed these, but rather it suggests continued significant snow fall filling in the previous post holes. It snowed on us during the afternoon hours climbing these routes. The classic Sunshine Cracks (5.11, north face of Snowpatch), what we went in to climb, is totally out of condition still. Too much drainage from snow melt from that end of the summit. Kain is mostly dry up Bugaboo and NE ridge of Bugaboo looked good enough to me but I am sure the upper pitches provide a wet experience. Word of caution. Custodian is super nice gentleman. But don't let him scare you off with the weather, quiz him more about his chalkboard, i.e. barometric pressure rising or dropping. Sort of a weather nazi, assume that is because he gets tired of having to explain to so many tourists that the weather in the Bugs is tentative at best. The day we came out, July 16th, we were climbing at Back of Lake Louise and ran into Cody who noticed the exact same thing. Again, super guy, just don't hike in and leave because he hates on the weather. Ask specific questions about satellite imagery and barometric pressure before making that decision. Still camping on snow at Applebee, but bridge in at creek below hut now and hut water and electricity running.

Climbed Sisphysus Summits yesterday for the third time. The first time I experienced significant rock fall from above on this particular route, experienced much worse on other Ha Ling north face routes, but Sisphysus follows a much dryer and safer line. Possible trundling, but would rather assume that the super wet conditions were the likly culprit. The route itself is completely dry, so a bit surprised with the fall. Brandon climbed Alberta Jam (5.11b-c/North Ghost) yesterday, said it is possibly the best crack in Alberta if not all of Canada. We will be on it in the morning and either confirm or deny. He did not have to do much arm twisting. Have been close to it in the winter climbing ice, so interested to see if it and its brethern cracks match up to their supposed reputaion. Will report back on road into North Ghost as well. For the most part, alpine is drying out fast this week. Skyladder was in super shape late into the season, as late as last week. Still prob in good snow condition vs ice.

Wildlife seems more active than normal at lower elevations, bear, goats, etc. Unfortunatly that also includes mosquitos. About as bad as I can remember. All in all gods country though. Enjoy.
Last edited by Dow Williams on Wed Aug 03, 2011 2:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bugaboo-Canmore Conditions

Postby bird » Tue Jul 19, 2011 4:57 pm

Thanks! Heading to Bugs on Monday (7/25) can't wait!
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Re: Bugaboo-Canmore Conditions

Postby Dave K » Tue Jul 19, 2011 6:24 pm

Thanks Dow.
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Re: Bugaboo-Canmore Conditions

Postby AlexeyD » Tue Jul 19, 2011 11:40 pm

Thanks for the report! I'm headed to that neck of the woods in a few weeks, so very good to know. One question - at what elevation do you start encountering snow along the approach trail?
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Re: Bugaboo-Canmore Conditions

Postby Dow Williams » Wed Jul 20, 2011 3:06 pm

crossing the top of the waterfall below the hut, but will be gone by the time you get there....we glissaded from the hut down to the creek....and you had to manage the snow to the hut outhouses as well...good luck...
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Re: Bugaboo-Canmore Conditions

Postby Dow Williams » Fri Jul 29, 2011 2:22 am

Just returned from 4 long days in BC, the Lyle Icefield. Spring skiing conditions at the Lyle Hut, 9400'. Postholing the trend, isothermal layers deep....held that way by abundant cloud cover and fresh snow. Personally punched through into two well covered crevasses breaking trail in knee deep snow. Everything is covered, but not much of a hard layer and not getting hard freezes. Overnight temps at 9400' barely holding below 0C (need clear skies and -5C to form crampon crust). Ski terrain, not boot terrain. Similar wet and snowy conditions still being reported throughout the Canadian Rockies. Point release avalanches common when sun hits slopes. Most wildlife I have ever seen this time of year this low. Abundant and healthy. Others concur.
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Re: Bugaboo-Canadian Rockies Conditions

Postby Dow Williams » Wed Aug 03, 2011 2:32 pm

Climbed Skyladder on Andromeda yesterday in the Columbia Icefield. 4+ hrs from the car to summit which is essentially half what many parties take. Conditions were as perfect as they ever get for this route. Hard snow from the lower glacier to the summit. The bergschrund was easily crossed to the right. No evidence of anyone taking advantage of these conditions besides us for the past few days. But three large guided parties descending north glacier Athabasca. No doubt that route is in highway condition. Important to note that many predicted Skyladder never to be in good climbable condition again in August. Most glaciers in the area will be growing this year vs receding. Decent sized cornice over the col on descent, but easily avoided. Removed a very messy and ineffectual (dangerous) piton rap station on descent and hauled out. Please keep it clean out there.
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Re: Bugaboo-Canadian Rockies Conditions

Postby Dow Williams » Fri Aug 05, 2011 9:25 pm

Solo jaunt up Mount Lefroy this am. Start at 4:45 from the hut and on the summit one hour later during sunrise. Although our temps at the hut were 5C at 4:15am, despite a clear night sky, the wind had blown most of the previous steps hard enough. Great conditions with snow cover keeping rock fall at a minimum and travel conditions fast. Again, best condition this route has been during August for quite a few years.
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Re: Bugaboo-Canadian Rockies Conditions

Postby Dow Williams » Mon Aug 08, 2011 12:12 am

Just returned from a solo ascent of Mount Cline, my 3rd 11er this week. The most east of the 11ers. Dry as to be expected, particularly in the notches. However, I ran up Mount Owen hoping to connect the ridge via downclimbing and ran into tons of rime and verglas at 10K making that impossible. Quite a bit of ice on rock wtih cooler temps than normal for this time of year at elevation. Fresh grizzly paw print (2-4yrs old by size) at 7000' on way to the bivy for Cline and Owen.
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Re: Bugaboo-Canadian Rockies Conditions

Postby Dow Williams » Sat Aug 13, 2011 2:23 pm

Soloed Kitchener east ridge yesterday on the Columbia Icefield. My 4th 11er solo of the season. First day I had out when the sun was hot on my back while climbing an ice/snow slope. Partially due to a late start (7:am) not to mention the final 1000' to reach the notch on Kitchener's summit ridge from the east ridge is a 30-40' small glacier that faces due southeast. I was second entry in K2's log book (peak hiding Kitchener from the road), first was in 1998 and book still in brand new condition.

The greatest concern at the moment is with sun exposed snow slopes at higher elevation like the one I was just on. Besides rock fall from snow melt, the slopes themselves are quite sensitive, needing only the slightest trigger to slough isothermal snow. Sloughing isothermal snow in the Canadian Rockies is typically a larger event than what folks from the lower 48 or Europe would be use to. Enough to send you into a crevasse or bury you. A crevasse did cut across this referenced "snow slope".

I chose a line of recent point releases assuming that was the firmest snow, but still fell into holes. Reported that Bugs-Snowpatch col had its first near miss of the season, refrigerator size block. So snow is melting, starting to become more true summer conditions up here. My Sunwapta river return crossing yesterday attracted tourists from the road and for good reason..it was by far the most difficult I ever made! Rivers are raging still...best whitewater season I have ever seen up here. Keep that in mind for any river crossing objectives.

Saw three separate black bears on the pkwy. One with new sunburnt cub, large grizzly looking male near Mosquito Creek (same ole bear) and young recently weaned individual.

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Re: Bugaboo-Canadian Rockies Conditions

Postby EthanG » Wed Aug 17, 2011 3:47 pm

Heading up this weekend and was wondering how the Bug/Snow Col is looking and the approach up to saddle accessing Ne Ridge of Bug Spire? not sure if you have been over there lately but you seem like the guy to ask.

Thanks!
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Re: Bugaboo-Canadian Rockies Conditions

Postby Bill Kerr » Thu Aug 18, 2011 5:19 am

Dow is probably off climbing so best is to check the MCR - Mountain conditions Reports from the guides. I know there were several recent reports and pictures for the Bugaboos.
http://www.acmg.ca/mcr/default.asp
Lots of snow left over from the winter so the BS col looks better than dry years. I have not seen a pic of approach to the NE ridge route this year but I expect everything is well travelled with the reports of over 100 climbers per day up there.
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Re: Bugaboo-Canadian Rockies Conditions

Postby Dow Williams » Fri Aug 19, 2011 3:02 pm

EthanG wrote:Heading up this weekend and was wondering how the Bug/Snow Col is looking and the approach up to saddle accessing Ne Ridge of Bug Spire? not sure if you have been over there lately but you seem like the guy to ask.

Thanks!


Returned from the Bugs last night. The Bug/Snow col is in excellent condition still. The start to Bug NE ridge is in great condition.

Full Bugaboo Report: We crossed the width of the park on foot from the parking area to East Creek Basin on Aug 16th. We saw no evidence of descent tracks from the South Howser as we passed the Pigeon/Howser col down into camp. Once we arrived, a young Russian crew informed us they made a successful trip up Beckey Chouinard on the 14th after flying into camp on a heli on the 13th. They were half my age. Alpinism is dead I guess.

We had learned from the hut custodian after visiting with him on the way in that a short blizzard hit the hut on the late afternoon of the 15th. This system, albeit short, turned out to add significant snow to the rap descent on Beckey Chouinard, thus why we saw no tracks on the glacier either.

East Creek Basin is still covered in snow. However, many bivy tent sites are clear. Water is a small trickle at the boulder itself. I could see the need to melt snow show up before the end of August if weather patterns do not change. The evening of the 16th did not freeze at camp level. The 17th brought cold winds and brutal climb temps higher up on Beckey Chouinard. Water in cracks from the 10th pitch up became ice. Hands and mental attitude took a beating. On the evening of the 17th water source did freeze at camp level and we received rain that froze on our bivies.

On return on the 18th a heli dropped a party of two off at the Howser Pigeon col so they could descend to the west face of Snowpatch for a route. Alpinism is dead I guess. Tracks from the 16th were filled in with fresh wind blown snow. Meeting up with some French Canadians back at the hut for a cup of coffee, I learned they as well ran into ice on the NE Ridge of Bugaboo at about mid route. They had climbed the route on several occasions in the past and considered their climb on the 17th near epic. A Texas contingent behind them spent the night on the mountain and there was no sign of them by noon on the 18th.

All climbers I knew who ventured out on the 17th climbed in their down jackets and every piece of clothing they brought up on big routes. The moisture that blew in on the 16th froze in the cracks and drainage areas of the higher routes making climbing painful and difficult. The 18th consisted of a good freeze as low as East Creek Basin and patches of fog marked our return up and over the Howser Pigeon col. Only parties we saw at all during our return was one party heading for Pigeon, prepared to pitch out the icy ridge and a significant group for the sunny Kain route on Bugaboo and at least two parties climbing the west face routes on Snowpatch, one team working the east face of Snowpatch.

Right now it is a hit or miss on temps, but precip on the routes themselves would have been fine if not for that one short storm on the 16th. Conditions could get really, really good, real quick here for a few weeks, but the season in general will be quite short. Prob a lot less climbed this year then in the past ten years on average for sure. When I was in there in late July, the routes were in tough shape with temps below average and precip above average. Great and easy glacier travel can make for a few hard rock climbing days, end of story.

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Re: Bugaboo-Canadian Rockies Conditions

Postby Fury » Sat Aug 20, 2011 1:32 pm

Is this chopper activity unusual for the Bugs? I don't get the appeal of using a chopper..........

Anyway, going climbing today! Long overdue.
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Re: Bugaboo-Canadian Rockies Conditions

Postby Dow Williams » Sat Aug 20, 2011 2:46 pm

To me the idea of alpinism is to push your limits physically, mentality and emotionally. In this case gaining 1000's of feet of elevation with heavy loads (climbing gear, bivies, bags, ropes, crampons, axes, food, stove, gas, clothes) over glaciated terrain to arrive at the base of the route and get up at 4:AM the next day cold (because you did not take the tent or bag you would have liked due to weight) and tired, not fresh. Pushing one self physically and mentally is part of the experience for me. What a copter does is take that element out of the equation and gives climbers a higher probability of success both physical and weather wise up the remainder of a route. They arrive with nice tents, fresh food, plenty of clothes, warm bags...and most importantly, fresh legs. If someone is my age, I might empathize a little...but 30????? Where is the pride?

If I am discussing a route with someone, i.e. up Mount Robson, and they share with me that a flight was involved, I quickly exit myself from that conversation. I won't discuss alpine objectives with them at that point. To me they are just tourists trying to mix it up with climbers. They have no idea what an Alpine IV, V or VI feels like. Might as well be discussing Hawaii which I have no interest in either. If I was just into rock climbing in the finest of conditions, I can stay down in southern Utah during the summer months and travel from Colorado to California.

Cheers Colin. Hope you have a good day out.
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