By Pat Morrow
For the past two years, the dreaded virus forced an abbreviated version of the Bugaboos teen climbing camp to be based out of Invermere instead. We did day trips to the Rockies and Purcells which involved a lot of driving.
With covid restrictions being lifted at the Kain Hut, this, our 13th annual program hosted by the CKCS based in Wilmer, was back in the “Bugs” July 22-24.
Emily Schwartz, Calum Ross, Leila Bullock, Cassidy Lemay hailed from Kimberley, Michael Johnson, Craig Hale, Nathan Jerabek and guides’ assistant Erin Kubian and me from Invermere, and ACMG guides Hannah Preston and Andrew Rennie from Golden where their company Rock Solid Guides is based.
From the inception of this youth climbing program, the Alpine Club of Canada has graciously provided sleeping space at the hut, and CMH Bugaboos lodge once again loaned us spare gear to climb snow, ice, and rock.
No sooner had we arrived at the Hut after the routine two hour slog, than I reconnected with Kain Teen alumnus Megan Strachan from Cranbrook back for her third year as hut and campground custodian. BTW, Erin also went through our program a few years back, and this time she provided crucial tail gunner and pack mule services.
At a concealed spot near the hut, I located the geocache prepared by long time friend of the Kain Society, historian Dave Humphries from Cranbrook a decade ago. Dave set up nine geocache sites in BC, AB and Austria loaded with information about Kain – to date there have been 5,192 visits. Eighteen intrepid geocachers had located and signed the booklet near the hut.
Stalwart guides Kirk Mauthner and Tim McAllister were sidelined this year due to various circumstances, so Andrew and Hannah who, let’s face it, were quite a bit closer to the age of the teens than me, became the “Teen Whisperers” that sweet-talked them up the peaks.
At the crack of dawn on the 23rd we traversed a granite boulder field on our way to the base of Snowpatch Spire. Slapping crampons on, we ventured onto Bugaboo Glacier, and threaded our way through nicely filled in crevasses (still loads of snow on the glacier and on some of the rock climbing routes) toward our furthest and highest objective – Hound’s Tooth Spire (2830m).
The moat between the glacier and rock band that leads to the saddle between Hound’s Tooth and the higher Marmolata was narrower than usual due to the snow accumulation and required but a sporty step to gain the rock. Once at the saddle, we followed the ridge for a spectacular summit view of the pristine south face of Snowpatch, Pigeon and the Howser spires.
To the north, a rain squall darkened the sky over the Vowell group but mercifully skirted in an eastward direction, dropping light rain in the Septet Group rather than on us. Sunday’s objective, Eastpost Spire (2697m), towered above the colourful specks of tents at Applebee campground.
Next day another alpine start put us at Applebee just as climbers and hardy hikers were crawling out of their tents to prepare their first hit of coffee. Climbers and hikers use one of our country’s most scenic camp sites as a launch pad to reach a kaleidoscope of climbs within sight of their tents, on the big peaks beyond Bugaboo Col, and a hiking route past Cobalt Lake to the east.
An enjoyable short-roping session on the warm rock of East Post took us up the crux pitch to one of the finest views of the tour – the sheer east faces of Snowpatch and Bugaboo Spires, the latter having had its first ascent in 1916 by ACC guide Conrad Kain, and his trusty, skilled clients, Bess and Albert MacCarthy – Albert would go on to lead the first ascent of Mt Logan, Canada’s highest mountain, in 1925.
“This experience was totally excellent,” Leila Bullock, Kimberley. “Mountaineering is a hard thing to get into when you’re young and when you don’t have many doors open to you. This trip and these people running it (Hannah, Andrew, Pat and Erin ) really made me see what it’s like to be a Guide and the community that can be built.”
Many thanks to all for having the vision and perseverance to keep this “pay it forward” initiative soaring for a lucky 13 years. Since 2009 we’ve introduced a total of 125 Rocky Mountain Trench youth to the rudiments of alpinism in their big back yard.