Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Home Again

And so we come to the end of another successful road trip. After the wedding of Kristal's cousin, we made the long drive back across the plains, to spend a few days at my parent's farm before heading home to Ottawa.

The climbing this summer has been nothing short of amazing, highlighted by the many long multi-pitch routes we climbed in some truly spectacular settings, and culminating with our epic trip to the Bugaboos.

We have definitely done a lot more trad climbing in the last 4 months than we did in any of our previous road trips. The final stats come out to 12 days of sport climbing, 15 days of bouldering, and 43 days of trad climbing; for a total of 70 days on the rock in 26 different destinations.

Of course the climbing was only surpassed by all the great people, both old friends and new, who we met on the way. The trip was made much more enjoyable because of you. And as usual, a big thanks to all our friends and family who opened up their homes to us, allowing us to enjoy all the comforts of the inside for a few days.

Once again the blog will most likely go into limbo until we hit the road again, which will hopefully happen again next summer.

Thanks again for joining us on our adventure!

"We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open."
- Jawaharlal Nehru

Friday, September 7, 2012

Nearing the End

As the summer started to wind down, so did our climbing. Our last climbing stop was in Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta.

We climbed to the top of the Bear's Hump, which is also the end of a popular hiking trail. If only all our climbs ended in such comfortable benches!

We also did some hiking in Glacier National Park in Montana, heading up to Avalanche Lake.

We even found a reasonable boulder to climb on the way.

The scenery of the park is breathtaking. We didn't even mind the 20 minute wait for road construction while driving through.

Before heading to Medicine Hat for the wedding of one of Kristal's cousins we had one more stop to make. Ever since we came out west a couple of years ago I have been bugging Kristal to take me to the small town of Drumheller, home of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology. The museum boasts the largest collection of dinosaur fossils in Canada and it was pretty awesome to go check it out.

We also spent some time seeing the sights around town, including the nearby badlands.

And the Little Church, which seats a whopping 6 people.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Short Approaches

Between the Bugaboos and Mount Gimli, our knees needed a break from all the long approaches. After a welcome trip to the Lussier Hot Springs, we spent the next week doing some single pitch climbing in BC and Montana. It doesn't get much more convenient than being able to belay out of your car, which could be done quite easily at Stone Hill, Montana.

It seems 99% of people that climb there don't venture very far from the road, and if you hike for more than 5 minutes you can enjoy some excellent climbing without seeing another soul.

As well as enjoy some excellent views of Lake Koocanusa.

Unfortunately on our first night camping in the area, we were treated to the sounds of something rummaging under the hood of our car. In the morning, this was what we found.

Eventually we spied the guilty party hiding out in front of the radiator.

The next 2 days were filled with fun games of 'how to get a pack rat out of your car'. No amount of poking, prodding, driving around or makeshift traps seemed to do the trick. I finally just waited him out, and when he left in the middle of the night to do whatever it is that pack rats do, I moved the car to a wide open field down the road. Our vehicle was once again rodent free!

We also spent a couple of days at Lakit Lake in British Columbia, enjoying some fun climbing with excellent free camping beside the lake.

We even found some cool pictographs along the base of the cliffs.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mount Gimli

When we first started making our way through Alberta and British Columbia, we made a list of all the big routes we wanted to climb before the end of the summer. Coming out of the Bugaboos, we only had one more left to go - the impressive looking south ridge of Mount Gimli, located in Valhalla Provincial Park in BC.

On paper it looked like it would be a cruise, with a nice 2 hour approach to comfortable camping at the base of the climb, about 1000 feet of mostly easy climbing on route, and an easy scramble down from the summit. Unfortunately our car had other ideas, when our otherwise trustworthy Rav4 decided it wouldn't make it up a steep section on the drive in! It was a bit demoralizing to spend an extra hour and half hiking up a steep gravel road just to get to the parking lot that we should have been able to drive to. But despite the extended approach it turned out to be an awesome climb in a beautiful setting, well worth the extra effort.

Complete with opportunistic mountain goats.

Here's Kristal making her way up the 5th pitch,

Following up the sixth,

And bringing me up to the top.

Great views from the summit.

Here I am, all smiles before the long, long descent back to the car.

I definitely needed a break in the parking lot for some much needed nourishment!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Bugaboos - Part 2

We had originally planned to leave with Mark and Trevor, but come that morning I suggested there was no real reason we had to go. The forecast looked good and there was space in the hut, so it didn't take much to convince Kristal to stay an extra couple of nights. We did have to hike back out to the car to get more food, but it was well worth the extra effort. The Bugaboos is such an amazing place.

On our last day we decided to climb another classic route, the west ridge of Pigeon Spire. Instead of the normal approach we decided to take the long way around and hike up the Bugaboo glacier. We were a little nervous, as we are completely new to glacier travel. In theory it's quite simple - don't fall into any holes...

In practice it can be a bit more complicated, but a report from a party a couple of days before said the approach was in excellent shape, so we were only slightly nervous. We set out at dawn and were treated to an amazing 3 hour hike up the glacier to the base of the route.

Low lying mist in the valley.

The west side of Snowpatch Spire.

Ominous looking clouds, which thankfully burned off by the time we got to the base of the route.

Scenic glacier travel.

The route itself is actually mostly 4th class (not technical rock climbing), but the exposure, position and sheer fun of it makes it a classic by any measure.  Here I am about halfway up, with the Howser towers in the background.

The view of Bugaboo Spire was breathtaking.

Kristal on the summit.

We decided to hike back to the hut using the usual approach on the Vowell glacier, thus completing the loop around Snowpatch and Pigeon.

Don't fall into these.

It was another amazing day in the Bugaboos. Unfortunately we did eventually have to leave, which made Kristal very sad.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Bugaboos - Part 1

Bugaboo Provincial Park has long been on our list of places to visit.  Located in the Purcell Mountains in British Columbia, the Bugaboos is a climbers playground, with a long list of amazing climbs up picturesque spires, surrounded by glaciers and incredible views.

We were especially excited to meet up with Kristal's brother Mark and his friend Trevor, to enjoy the experience with us. We were originally planning to pack in tents and stay in the campground, but a last minute cancellation allowed us to live in luxury in the Conrad Kain Hut, run by the Alpine Club of Canada.

It felt a bit like cheating, going alpine climbing from the comfort of the inside.

Highest on our list was the North East Ridge of Bugaboo Spire, another one of the '50 Classic Climbs of North America'. As such, it sees a LOT of traffic. The climb itself is pretty chill, but with a long approach, an even longer descent, the potential of encountering slow climbing parties and the uncertainty of the weather, more people have gotten stuck overnight on this route than any other climb in the Bugaboos.  We opted for a typical early start, and woke up at 4am.  Here are Kristal and Mark on the approach, with the sun about to rise.

Our objective.

Despite the early start, there was already one party on route as we arrived at the base of the climb. Thankfully they climbed reasonably fast and Kristal and I made good time.

We got pretty far ahead of Mark and Trevor during the climb, but figured they couldn't be too far behind as we reached the summit at noon. The weather was looking great, so we waited for a while, but eventually decided to start the descent. The descent is a long and slow process, with some awesome exposed traverses and many rappels. The views were incredible.

Unknown party of three returning from Pigeon Spire.

We weren't really sure how far behind Mark and Trevor were, but figured they might get hungry if they were running late, so we left a Clif bar taped to one of the rappel stations.

We arrived back at the hut in time to make supper, and figured Mark and Trevor would roll in a few hours later. We tried to stay up and wait for them, but with the early start and epic day by 9pm we couldn't keep our eyes open any longer. We were surprised and a little worried when we woke up the next morning to discover that they still hadn't made it back!  We packed some supplies and headed out after breakfast to see if we could meet them on the descent.  We were so relieved to see them coming down the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col in good spirits.

It turned out they had some route finding issues which slowed them down, and only made it halfway down the descent before they were benighted. Thankfully they found a great ledge to bivy on and were treated to clear night with great views of the Perseids meteor shower. It almost made us jealous! Needless to say we were all pretty exhausted from the previous day, so did some serious napping and enjoyed a well deserved rest day.