Friday, September 13, 2013

Bugaboos - Day 11 - East Face of Bugaboo Spire, Down and Out

Wake up comes way too soon. Lawrence motivates us though. I'm glad to have his partnership during times like these. It's chilly out, and the sky is clear. The forescast is calling for 36 hours of clear weather. We've been eyeing the Cooper-Gran route on the East Face of Bugaboo Spire, a beautiful looking shallow corner system which climbs one of the biggest faces you can see from camp. Just after daylight we roll out of camp.

We scrap around on the slope below the face. It's icy yet we resist the urge to put our crampons on. By the time we reach the face it becomes apparent that we would have saved time by putting our crampons on right away. I needed to chop steps up the last 30 feet of snow.

I take the first lead and find a big right facing corner system which will take us to a large traverse ledge. From there we traverse two ropelengths along an ever-narrowing ledge. I build an anchor in semi-loose, but attached, blocks and bring Lawrence in to the anchor.

Up until now, we've been climbing 3-star routes with deep cracks, solid rough rock, and very featured granite. After a few pitches and a sandy, loose ledge traverse the East Face of Bugaboo could not feel more different.

I start up pitch two. It's wet in the corner. Protection, even when it's good, is quite shallow and much of it is flared. Nothing on the narrow right wall of the corner system feels well-attached. The left wall is very polished. All of a sudden it feels like we're climbing slippery Yosemite granite, but with lower rock quality.

I scrap through the first pitch and find an old anchor with slings on it. Others before us have felt what we're feeling right now - this climbing is more "adventurous" than expected. Lawrence climbs to me and I begin leading again. The next pitch clearly involves a deep 5.10 chimney (something the guidebook doesn't mention).

Halfway up, where I need to enter the chimney, the pitch is soaking wet, loose, and green. I hesitate. Unsure of what to do, I sling a chockstone, equalize it to an old, rusty, half-driven knifeblade and lower back to the belay.  

The second pitch - not much of the chunky rock on the right side of the
 corner is well-attached.

We back the pin anchor up with a nut and rappel. The East Face of Bugaboo Spire will have to wait for another trip. Somehow, the dynamic of our trip has changed and neither of us wants to commit to this "unknown" route on this large face. As we're retreating we notice a thin haze of clouds already building again in the sky overhead.


We retrace our steps and are back in camp a few hours later. With only one real day left in our trip, and more bad weather approaching, we pack our stuff and begin the hike down.

Back at the car we organize our things and enjoy a few beers we'd been saving for the end of the trip. We're going to sleep at the trailhead tonight and begin the 12-hour drive back to Bozeman in the morning. As darkness falls it begins to rain - the forecast was wrong about when the next rain would arrive. It rains harder than it did during our entire stay at Applebee Dome. I sit in the center of my tent, watching the water drip from the interior walls of my leaky Firstlight, and look forward to our drive the next morning. I'm thankful we're headed home, and sick of cold rain and leaky single wall bivy tents.

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