Thursday, August 30, 2007

Three Weeks in the Bugaboos

Four Packs; Two Backs!

Matt McCormick and I double carried 100 lbs. each into East Creek Basin in the Bugaboos at the beginning of August. It took us two days and required a rest day afterwards; but, it seemed well worth the effort as we found ourselves camped beneath the bivy boulder right below the Minaret!

The Minaret from beneath the Bivy Boulder

We tried to free climb Retinal Circus on the Minaret first; but, quickly realized that it was a "butt-crack" and we didn't have nearly enough skill or knife blades for that one. So, we finished the day with the first three pitches of Solitary Confinement on Prince Albert Spire.

The first pitch of Solitary Confinement

Next, we decided to do the classic Becky-Chouinard Route on South Howser Tower to get our bearings. It is deserving of its status as a mega-classic! It's a fine line indeed! We dislodged a microwave oven sized block on the third rappel down the east side of South Howser when we were descending and our only lead rope was destroyed. Matt, being the "young guy", hiked the nine kilometers back over two cols and down into the valley to the car to get another one. Matt's the man!

Me and Matt on top of South Howser Spire

Next, we decided to check out the free climbing potential of Chocolate Fudge Brownie on Central Howser Spire. The line turned out to be the most stunning I had yet encountered in the Bugaboos. It's a 2,000' line that follows a clean, continuous corner system up the right side of Central Howser beside a soaring serrated arete. We were immediately infatuated and gave it a go the next day.

Chocolate Fudge Brownie follows the obvious corner in the center of the frame and angles right half way up.

I onsighted the first pitch free. We thought at the time it was .11b. It was a full 60 meters of clean granite crack with the crux right at the end. It was one of the most enjoyable rock climbing pitches I have ever done! The first ascent party, who aided the route at 5.9 A2, bolted anchors at 60 meter intervals, which makes the route very approachable as a free climbing objective.

Matt entering the crux of the first pitch of Chocolate Fudge Brownie

The weather promptly moved in and we bailed. It rained for the next four days and my time in East Creek was up. Matt and I hiked out together and I met my ex-girlfriend in Calgary and Matt met his partner for the second leg of the trip, Tim Durone. Matt and Tim went back and free climbed the first four pitches of Chocolate Fudge Brownie (rating them: .10+, .10, .8, and .11) to reach what is believed to be the crux pitch, which they were unable to do. But, they were raving about the route and we are all psyched to go back to it for another try. Can't wait for next time!

I hiked a total of 98 kilometers over demanding terrain with heavy loads over the course of the three week trip just considering the carries alone, not the climbing. And, it was worth every step!

It was an amazing trip in a magical alpine paradise!


Will Mayo

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