Surfs Up, IV, 5.9, 9 Pitches

Surfs Up, IV, 5.9, 9 Pitches

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 50.73694°N / 116.78056°W
Additional Information Route Type: Mountaineering, Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Summer
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: 5.9 (YDS)
Additional Information Number of Pitches: 9
Additional Information Grade: IV
Sign the Climber's Log


Pigeon Spire

We used “Surfs Up” on Snowpatch Spire as sort of a “running out of gas” route after traversing up and over the east face to west face of Snowpatch Spire via the Snowpatch Route and traversing up and over the east face of Pigeon Spire and down its west ridge. That being said, it is still a good day out in the woods at Alpine grade IV. Much like the Buckingham route on Snowpatch Spire’s western face, Surf’s Up is not that sustained of a climb. However, the route finding is somewhat tricky, caused mostly by a ton of folks going off route on pitch three (moss and lichen gone on the wall, with tons of bail tat at the top of this head-fake pitch). On these popular west and north face routes of the Bugaboo spires, one can get lazy in just following where the moss and lichen have been climbed off. We were no exception. From the top of pitch two, you traverse right across plenty of moss and lichen (does not look climbed), not up and left where the line looks to go naturally. We even heard a guide down at the hut say he bailed the whole route because he could not figure out where to go at this juncture, and that was before we made the exact same mistake!
Bugaboo Spire
Pigeon Spire

Brian Greenwood and George Homer established Surfs Up on the west face of Snowpatch Spire in 1971. Even though it starts out on the extreme south end of the west face, it actually takes the southern ridge/arête of Snowpatch Spire on pitch five which is where the stellar granite crack climbing of this route begins, right above a huge “sandy” edge appropriately named Surfs Up Ledge. The route leads to the south summit where you can rap the Kraus-McCarthy Route for your descent. The first two pitches are rather unremarkable. The third pitch traverses right over a bunch of lichen laden flakes into a large alcove. The forth is a traverse pitch out right that leads to the broad sandy ledge just below the southwest ridge proper of Snowpatch Spire. The fifth, sixth and seventh pitches involved outstanding granite crack climbing. Another two rope lengths with some 5th class moves here and there land you atop the south summit. The Kraus-McCarthy rap route is directly below.

In 2009 there was quite the controversy as to how safe or not, the Snowpatch-Bugaboo col was in terms of accessing the west face routes on Snowpatch Spire. Considerable recession of the glacial ice revealed unstable rock and a huge rock slide did occur in August (photo). I witnessed lack of overnight freezes (cloud cover) as a good thing at this point as the freezing and thawing cycle would have just made circumstances worse in my opinion. Still, it was best to get up the col before the sun hit it, which is about 6:30am in August. Once up the col, turn left and climb up the easy glacier mound just west of Snowpatch Spire. Head for the Snowpatch-Pigeon col and turn left up the ice and rock debris just before you reach the col rap route (your eventual descent down to the Bugaboo-Pigeon Fork Glacier). Suit up at a nice flat shoulder above the ice (will pass back by on return). Continue to scramble up and right to the base of the route which is not that easy to decipher except for a right facing corner and a slung pinnacle way up high among deep stacked flakes. The route trends right from there.

Route Description

Surfs Up, IV, 5.95th Pitch- 30m- 5.9
Surfs Up, IV, 5.9
Surfs Up, IV, 5.9

9 Pitches, 5.9

1st Pitch- 60m- 5.8/ We soloed the first 30m to make a belay in the right facing corner. Then up the corner trending right on cracks and flakes to a horn belay near the orange and white overhangs where the dihedral becomes more prominent (30m).

2nd Pitch- 40m- 5.8/ Stem into the dihedral and place gear at will in the many cracks as you ascend it straight away to a large slung (2009) pinnacle with a comfortable belay. Fun pitch.

3rd Pitch- 45m- 5.9/ Continue up and right among many stacked flakes that are heavily covered in lichen and moss. Pass at least one slung flake and make a cruxy traverse out right below the alcove ledge above. Then move up and into the alcove and a comfortable belay.

4th Pitch- 30m- 5th/ Climb up and left on easy ground, then traverse right around the arête of the southwest ridge of Snowpatch, and descend a ramp to the Surfs Up Ledge, a huge sandy ledge below an incredible granite crack system. Belay at the far end of the ledge.

5th Pitch- 30m- 5.9/ Hard to get lost now! Climb the beautiful crack stacking fists and hands with a little lie back action and then mantle the huge block above and belay on it.

6th Pitch- 40m- 5.8/ It does not get any better than this pitch. The continuous crack starts out perfect hands and fists and then widens, but still gives plenty of protection whenever needed. Eventually pull up into a small alcove of sorts and comfortable belay.

7th Pitch- 25m- 5.7/ I would not underestimate this last sustained pitch even though they give it a lower grade in the book than the previous two. Move up and right and follow the thinner crack up and stay with it to the right as it forks through steep ground to the summit shoulder.

8th-9th Pitches- 250m- 5th/ I soloed the ridge from here and just brought the 2nd in. There is one bit of a steep section on the 2nd rope length that you might want a belay for. It then tops out on this awesome ridge with a cool hand rail to follow to the summit! We un-roped from here and descended to the rap chains below.

Climbing Sequence

Climbing Sequence II

Climbing Sequence III


Rappel the Kraus-McCarthy route. I have done this two ways. Simul rapping on a single and simul rapping on doubles. I believe it to be quicker with a single which makes about eight raps. Doubles have a tendency to get caught on one of the raps, so much so, you will see cordellete (2009) placed around a block for purpose of retrieving ropes off that same block (I have done it!). The raps are all bomber and go quickly with a single rope. Then walk back to your bags and descend the rock and ice down to the Pigeon-Snowpatch col raps. Another 6 raps and a fun moat crossing land you on the glacier below, where you will want crampons for return to the Kain Hut area, but can get by without if you access the rubble to the left below Son of Snowpatch where you can down climb right of the trail towards the end or follow the trail to one final fixed rap. I prefer to take crampons and walk the ice down, and if you went up the Snowpatch-Bugaboo col you have them with you anyway.

Essential Gear

60m Double ropes are usually best for most Bugaboo routes. They give you much more options for route finding and retreating, weather circumstances, etc. There will be no fixed gear on this route. A single rack of C3’s and .4” to 4” and small set of nuts. Double up on the 1” to 3” for those great hand crack pitches. Biner your shoes for the descent back to your bag. Take mostly shoulder length slings. Be prepared to double a few of those slings where necessary. Helmet is a must. Crampons and alpine ax needed/helpful for the approach and descent. Appropriate clothes, weather can move in quickly.

External Links

  • Bugaboo Glacier Provincial Park

  • Alpine Club of Canada
  • (hut/camping reservations)
  • DowClimbing.Com

  • Environment Canada
  • Golden is your best option to check weather regarding the Bugs



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