Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bugaboos - Day 3, NE Ridge of Bugaboo Spire

At 3:30 a.m. we're not the only ones milling about camp. We are, however, the first party headed out of camp toward the Northeast Ridge. Route finding, even when it's straightforward, feels slower in the dark. We gain the access ramp above the Crescent Glacier and begin climbing. Sandy legdes and some loose rock make soloing feel unappealing and we rope up halfway along the ramp.

Almost right away there are two parties behind us. A solid route finding tip we gleaned from a party yesterday, going straight up a steep corner before the end of the ramp, puts us out in front of the other parties.

Seemingly endless sections of 3rd and 4th class test one's
endurance during the approach, even on easier routes like
the NE Ridge.

By the time we're on pitch two there are no less than 5 parties lined up behind us. By pitch four we can only hear them below and have the route to ourselves. When you know you'll be able to move fast on a route you need to start very early to beat the crowds, or very late so you are way behind every one else on the route. Both Lawrence and I like the early start, so that's our default game plan.

A solid high pressure system allowed us to climb a few classics before rain
kept us tentbound. My CCW Ozone was a good pack to have along for
moderate climbs

The route follows a chimney section through it's entire mid section, along the north side. These pitches go quickly and soon enough we're on top. A straightforward traverse with 3 short rappels puts one on the Kain South Ridge. The summit is a 5 minute scramble from that point.

Lawrence at the start of the chimney system in the route's
The upper section of the route is characterized by short
bouldery sections of climbing that lead to a ridgeline.

The very solid traverse between the north and south

A final short rappel leads to the Kain South Ridge and the true summit.
For the second time in two days we've summited Bugaboo Spire with a chilly northwest breeze making exposure to the northern aspects slightly unpleasant. The descent is a breeze this time around and we're back in camp by 4. Our legs are demanding a rest, and despite the good forecast we decide tomorrow will be an easier day.

Bugaboos - Day 2, Kain South Ridge

A late start allows us to catch up on sleep. Applebee feels packed and there are groups of climbers racking gear and prepping for a day of climbing. There are quite a few climbers just milling about too. It feels a bit like Camp 4 in Yosemite. People come and go but regulars emerge and you slowly get to know (or quickly if they're loud) your neighbors.

After soaking up some sun and relocating our tents we decide to climb the Kain South Ridge of Bugaboo Spire. It's a long scramble up the biggest formation that you can see from Applebee, and the line of descent for every route on Bugaboo Spire. It would also allow us to scope out the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col.

Lawrence Haas in one of the 5th class sections along the
Kain South Ridge of Bugaboo Spire

An hour later we're atop the Col. We stash a pack, axes and crampons and begin scrambling the South Ridge. Route finding is mostly straightforward, and except for crossing the gendarme we solo the route.
Descending the ridge is easy. Before long we're back at the col with a cold northwest breeze buffeting us. Quickly, we learn that rappelling is the safest way to descend the steep snow at the top of the col. My Black Diamond Contact crampons don't fit my approach shoes well and I lack confidence on my feet. Mountain boots would be nice to have for this descent. A slip on the steep snow would surely land one in the gaping bergschrund below.

Even easy routes like the Kain Ridge have spectacular climbing on very
 solid granite

Our first day here was an easy one, but we greatly underestimated the size of the terrain. The long easy routes in Washington Pass compare favorably to many of the Bugaboo classics, but are dwarfed in size by their Bugaboo counterparts. Even the Kain Ridge, which was technically easy, took us a long time to climb.

Long sections of 3rd and 4th class lead to short stretches
of 5.6 near the ridgecrest

Lawrence descending one of the au cheval ridge sections

Back in camp, we settle on the Northeast Ridge of Bugaboo Spire, one of Steck and Roper's 50 Classic Climbs, for the next day's objective. With a good forecast and a crowded campground we know we won't be alone. A 3:30 a.m. alarm should keep us ahead of the masses.

Bugaboos - Day 1

We're out the door by 4 a.m. and searching for egg sandwiches and coffee in Missoula around 7 on a sleepy Sunday morning.

A few hours later we're stuck in line at the border, a long line of RV's queued up ahead of us. It an unanticipated delay which makes our estimated time of arrival at the trailhead even later.

As we drive further north the valleys deepen, and mountains seem to dominate the horizon in every direction. Canada has more mountains than the states. The towns of Windermere and Invermere, just south of the turn off to Banff, are packed full of tourists. They're also the last place to get gas or food before heading toward the Bugaboos. We wade through the crowds to grab extra beer and extra gas, two things that will make the long dirt road drive into the park more fun.

17 miles later we're on dirt roads headed into the park. The 30-mile long dirt road dead ends at the trailhead. The lot is nearly full. We pull in as clouds slip down over the very impressive Bugaboo glacier. A light rain begins to fall.

By 7:30 we're on the trail toward the Kain Hut and Applebee Dome, our home for the next 12 days.
We reach Applebee around 10:30. Climbers can still be seen descending the Kain Route on Bugaboo Spire. They're worse off than us I think. In the dark and desperate for sleep we settle for a small site. Tomorrow we'll find a good spot to put both tents.

Large packs and chicken wire defense lines are the norm at the parking area

Even an 80-pound pack isn't going to stop Lawrence
from hiking in tonight

The trail in is direct, rugged and very beautiful. Our first views included rain
clouds, which were a theme during our trip.

Ridges and Hills Have New Meaning

Anyone who's read a few of my past posts knows I'm training for the Pfalz Point Trail Challenge in September. As someone who's run a lot in the past, finishing the race shouldn't be too hard. Doing well in it, well that's another story. I've done quite a few shorter trail races this year, and I have a pretty good grasp on 5k pacing. 15k (or 10-mile) pacing will be quite a bit different. It's still a fast race, but not an all-out sprint like a 5k.

I've continued to run throughout the summer in anticipation of the race. After dealing with a soft tissue injury in the top of my right foot (from forefoot striking in minimalist shoes I think) I began trail running more. It's helped keep running from feeling abysmally boring. Despite the challenging terrain, lots of rocks, roots, and heinously steep climbs in the Holyoke Range near my home, my body seems less tired and I can do longer outings.

After a day of work in the Catskills this summer I ran Kaaterskill High Peak. A wrong turn left me lost in the woods and changed the run into a leg cramping nightmare. I ran the final long downhill when I could, and walked when I felt the hamstring cramps creeping in. The run left me feeling really good though, and I began to see the potential.

Now, as I drive around, especially in mountainous or hilly regions, each rise on the horizon presents itself as a new uphill struggle, a completeness of focus on the way down. Each flat is a place to gain speed and charge through the woods. Running has taken on new meaning with new goals and challenges for the future.

The Maple Pass Loop has buffed trails that make East Coast trail running
seem easy

I was recently in the Cascades guiding for a few weeks and on my days off I was been able to run in North Cascades National Park. Many of the more popular trails out west are less rocky and far less technical than our eastern counterparts. You can maintain greater speed on the uphill and really charge down when the grade lessens.

Starting up the South Arete, South Early Winters Spire.

For my first day off I ran the amazing Maple Pass Loop, a 7-mile above treeline jaunt around, and high above, a small lake (Ann Lake?). The loop took 1:21 with a few breaks for some pictures.

My NB 110's, which I've been wearing a lot
on the trails. A review is on it's way!
On my second day off, and with sluggish legs, I ran from the Blue Lake trailhead up to South Early Winter Spire. From there I climbed the South Arete, downclimbed, slipped and wobbled down the talus, and then charged back to the car. Despite being only 4.5 miles, this loop gains 2500' and involves climbing a 600' 5.4 ridge (mostly 4th class). This out and back effort ended up taking 2:04.

Despite doing two long days in a row, I felt good. My endurance seems like it's improved. After Pfalz Point I'm looking forward to a few more longer mountain efforts. Things like the Presidential Traverse, the Franconia Ridge, and the Escarpment trail come to mind. Adding some climbing into the mix could make things really interesting too. The bottom line is that when one stops looking at "running" as just running, and "climbing" as just climbing there's so much potential for adventure out there.