Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Bugamoon - Marriage and Mountains

Are you ready for a long one?? Last month was unbelievable. A mere 7 months after Kyle's proposal in Smith Rock, we were on our way to Fernie to tie the knot. We had people from all over the world come to celebrate with us and it was so amazing to see friends and family from all different parts of our lives in one place together. It was a full weekend of fun and although the weather wasn't the most cooperative, I can't think of a better way to start my life with Kyle than in the forest getting rained on. A huge shout out to Miranda Weston Photography for capturing the day so well and being such a great sport!
Tying the knot, for real!
Umbrellas and ponchos and bubbles, oh my!
Damn, we all look so good
Surprise helicopter ride and champagne
A part of Fernie that not many people get to see
Life is good
Someone thought that it would be funny to ice us in front of our grandparents. I'm looking at you Ryan
 Fast forward one month. I finally was able to get away long enough that we could have a honeymoon. Since we only had the long weekend, we picked the most exotic location within a 5 hour drive of Calgary, the Bugaboos! We tried to escape Calgary early on Thursday and were on the road by noon. It was already busy on highway 1 with two stalled vehicles before we even got to the city limits. It was slow driving, hindered by foul weather on the Banff Parkway, but as we approached Radium, the skies and roads cleared and it turned into a beautiful day. The parking lot wasn't as full as we had been anticipating and we secured a spot near the trailhead. After completing the Bugaboo ritual of protecting our car from porcupines with chicken wire, we hit the trail. Our Bugamoon had begun.
Classic view of the Hound's Tooth on the approach to Applebee Dome
 It took us 2.5 hours to get to Applebee Dome campground where we were going to spend 3 nights. The hike up was more brutal than I remember, I think I repressed memories of how steep and unrelenting the 1025 metres of elevation over 9 km really is. I was having issues with my boots and had to stop to dunk my feet in the creek on the way up. The bugs were awful as usual and surprisingly bad even up at the campground, but none of that could take away the excitement I had for a big climbing trip with my new husband Kyle!

I was shocked at how much snow there was at Applebee but there was still plenty of space to camp. The Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col was pretty snowy, but already had some big rocks near the bottom and a big patch of dirt from recent rockfall. Despite coming in 2 weeks earlier than we had in previous previous years, the snow was melting fast.
Gaining elevation fast above the Kain Hut
Kyle eats dried fruit and contemplates life in the bugs
 We had dinner and crawled into bed to prepare for an alpine start on Friday morning. Neither of us slept very well and when the alarm sounded at 3:15, we were both already wide awake. We had a quick breakfast of banana bread and coffee and left camp at 4:15 am. With all the snow, it was fast travel to the bottom of the Bugaboo-Crescent Col. That was the only fast part of the day unfortunately. We started up the 4th class scrambling to reach the col in the morning alpine glow. I was uncomfortable with the exposure right from the start, and although there was only one section low down that was tricky, it was a bad start to the day for me mentally.
Sunrise over Brenta and Crescent Spires
 The sunrise over Crescent Spire was beautiful and before long, our route was glowing ahead of us. Having already struggled up the scramble, I was pretty intimidated as we approached the base of the climb. It looked impassible and I was worried that I had got in over my head. Luckily Kyle had done the route last season and was prepared to lead everything. It's just a few pitches of top-roping, I told myself. It's all good.
The Northeast Ridge of Bugaboo Spire looms ahead
 And it was all good! The rock was amazingly solid, the cracks were perfect for hand jamming and the position was stunning. We moved slowly but steadily up the first 4 pitches, the most technical section of climbing. Kyle lead them with ease and his confidence made me feel so much better. From there, we moved into the lower grade chimney pitches. We had been a bit worried that they would be full of snow, but there wasn't enough to interfere with our climbing.
Going up, feeling better!
Kyle leading the chimney on pitch 5
Snowy belay station, but dry rock on the route
 Pitch 10 had tons of exposure which was pretty exciting. We topped out on a big ledge just below the ridge where we had a quick snack and took in the view. I felt so happy to be up there with Kyle. We had the entire route to ourselves, a rare treat for such a popular route. We finished the 11 pitches with a roped-up 4th class pitch to a rappel station on the ridge. We had been on the route for 9.5 hours already and still had a long way to go.
Almost at the top!
Alpine climbing stoke
 The ridge traverse was one of the scariest things I have done. Bugaboo Spire drops 1000' vertically down to glaciers on both sides. Many parties traverse unroped but I was not ok with that. Even though the rock is solid and the moves are really easy, I wasn't moving until I had some protection. By this point my feet were in agony from being cooped up in climbing shoes for so long. I had a huge blister on my heel and couldn't feel my toes. That didn't help my confidence with the traverse. Kyle coaxed me along gently and we worked our way along the ridge roped up. It took longer than we would have liked, but I felt way better. 
Looking back at the ridge we just traversed - and bad weather approaching
 We skipped the North and South Summits by using two more rappels. This saved us some much needed time as big storm clouds were closing in. We had been hearing distant thunder and wanted to get off the top of the mountain as fast as possible. It was a relief to reach the Kain Route (Kain Route TR 2013). The familiar ground made for easier scrambling, and the exposure felt like a piece of cake after the ridge traverse.
The gendarme of Bugaboo spire with Snowpatch Spire looking impressive in the background
 No sooner had we pulled the rope from the last rappel on the Kain route did the weather move in. It started with a few drops of rain and soon turned into a downpour. The wind picked up and was threatening to blow us over. Luckily we were off the hard part of the route and just had to pick our way down the wet rocks to the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col. The rain only lasted long enough to thoroughly soak us, then we got to enjoy the wind, which actually dried us out quite a bit!
Wet Kyle is very wet
 By the time we reached the bottom of the col, the skies were clearing and the sun was coming out again. It felt so amazing to be done such a classic route (one of the 50 classic alpine climbs in North America in fact), and we finished in 15.5 hours, my longest day yet. I was really happy that we had started so early because many parties have been benighted on the route. We were back in camp with lots of light to spare. Alan and Mike arrived about an hour after us, having climbed Surf's Up on Snowpatch Spire. Apparently when the wind picked up their tent had almost blown away and some nice girls had weighed it down with rocks for them! We celebrated with a big pot of curry and some port wine before heading to bed for the best sleep of my life.
No honeymoon is complete without Alan and Mike
 Saturday morning was beautiful. I lounged in my sleeping bag, roasting as the sun warmed the tent. My muscles ached but I was so content. Finally I got up and started making breakfast. Our original plan to scramble Brenta and Northpost Spire wasn't going to happen due to our late start so we hung out at camp and made plans for an easier objective. Clouds moved in and looked threatening and we even contemplated heading home, but after a long time of faffing around camp, we finally decided to just go for it and packed our bags to go climb Ears Between (5.7) on Crescent Spire. This was a good choice because it got sunny again!
Saturday morning view from my sleeping bag
 From camp, we were able to see 11 people already on the route. Fortunately our late start prevented us from getting stuck behind anyone and we were able to climb the route without delay. The first 2 pitches were not very fun and Kyle was getting worried that he was off route. It didn't help that he combined most of pitch 3 into his 2nd pitch. After that, the climbing got way more interesting. There was a really tough move over a chockstone that almost ruined me, but I was able to get past it with a combination of grunting, stemming and a beautiful beached whale impression. The final pitch was the money pitch. From Applebee you can see a small intimidating looking crack that ascends between the ears. In real life, it was actually a wide chimney that was super fun and involved a lot of stemming. At the top of the route, we were able to spot Mike climbing McTech Arete and had great views of our previous days accomplishment. 
Kyle "between the ears" on Ears Between , Crescent Tower
It's like "where's Waldo" except its Mike! (red jacket, green pants - can you find him?)
A good view of the NE Ridge of Bugaboo in the background (starts above my head and goes up to the left along the horizon)
 The descent from Ears Between sounded harmless enough. After 2 rappels, we started down-climbing. What we missed was another rap station and things started to get a bit sketchy. After a close call on some ice, I was pretty shaken up and wanted to get off that stupid mountain. It was such a relief to be down on solid ground. I would highly recommend using the rappels to get down if you can find them, it was pretty steep and loose and the snow did not help matters much.
Kyle scopes out Brenta Spire as he starts rappelling off Crescent Spire
Jenny is happy to be back on the ground and doesn't want to talk to Kyle very much right now
 We had another good hang out at camp, especially after I traded a booty beaner for a canister of fuel with the guide who had left the beaner behind. I had messed up on fuel rations and we were down to fumes so having a warm dinner was a pleasant surprise. Clouds were rolling in as I crawled into bed but I wasn't prepared for the storm we were in for overnight.
The hut hog came along for the trip, despite the lack of huts
The wind picked up and brought with it driving rain. Perched on a ledge at Applebee, I felt very exposed and was concerned about the integrity of our tent. Thunder cracked above our heads and flashes of lightning illuminated Kyle burrowed into his sleeping bag, earplugs snug in his ears. He wasn't sleeping either. I lay in my sleeping bag, counting the seconds between lightning and thunder, 3 miles, 2 miles, right above us. Rain fell in sheets and I stacked all my clothes in the middle of the tent just in case. In a brief lull, I jumped out of the tent to pee and saw dark menacing clouds bearing down over the spires. The rain restarted moments after I zipped up the fly and continued into the morning. 
Tent on the edge of the world
The sun came out and climbers started emerging from their tents around 8:30. Nobody was getting an alpine start today! It looked like another squall was on its way so we packed up the tent and our gear to make a quick escape but it never materialized. To finish off the trip, we went for an easy scramble up Eastpost Spire, just above Applebee. It took us 1 hour 25 minutes, despite getting off route by traversing out left into loose fine scree instead of staying on the ridge with nice big rocks to climb up. The views from the top were great and it was a nice way to finish off the trip.
Eastpost Spire Scramble
Kyle getting his lean on below the summit of Eastpost Spire
Jenny attempting to glissade down from Eastpost (seen in background)
 It was time to head home. We left camp and made our way back down to the carpark. My feet complained but it was over quick. We stopped for a huge pizza in Radium on the way home and a delicious root beer. Here's to another successful Bugaboo trip in the books, and a very memorable, slightly more stressful than I would have liked, Bugamoon!
Hiking out from Applebee

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