Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bugaboos - Day 5 - Beckey-Chouinard, South Howser Tower

Hmm... This one was erased somehow. I think it was during some editing using the mobile Blogger app. Here it is again....

The alarm goes off at 1:30 a.m. There are no clouds. One other party is awake this early at Applebee. Surely, they are also headed to climb the Beckey-Chouinard.

We're out of camp by 2:10. The other party, a group of three, is ahead of us by a few minutes. We catch them at the glacier, where crampons go on. There was a hard freeze last night and the snow is firm. The climbing, under full moonlight, goes quickly and before long we're climbing the steep, hard snow near the top of the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col.

Climbing the col in frozen conditions, with my approach shoes and my crappy BD Contact crampons, is the sketchiest thing we'll do the entire trip. I'm utterly terrified, and Lawrence has to remind me that this is likely the most beautiful place both of us have ever visited. The moonlight has illuminated the entire valley.

Looking over at the massive North Howser Tower

Near the Pigeon-Howser Col the party of 3 in front of us follows the trodden path toward the West Ridge of Pigeon Spire. We stash a pack and scramble down the loose scree in the col. The party of 3 is now behind us. So much of alpine climbing is about having good "mountain sense" and not making mistakes. I'm glad we've made it to the col ahead of this other party.

We remove our crampons and quietly slip past tent city in East Creek and locate a trail toward the looming ridge ahead of us. The routefinding is easy and we locate the start of the scrambling before long. 300m later we break, near the start of the technical climbing.

With harnesses on, ropes out, and racks ready, we begin simul-climbing. The party of three, all from South America, are right behind us. The climbing goes quickly and it's fully light outside by the top of pitch 3. By now, there are no less than 5 parties queued up behind us. Climbers are swarming the base of the route like ants at a picnic.

By the top of pitch 5, the only other climbers we see are the 3 South Americans. They are climbing really fast as a party of 3. For the remainder of the day the second will occasionally share a ledge with their leader. Pitch 4, the first "hard" pitch is a bottleneck that slows down many parties.

We break at the top of pitch 10, where we bask in sunlight below the Great White Headwall. It's hard to believe we're already two thirds of the way up the route. Five more amazing pitches and a few hundred meters of scrambling put us on top. The rappel descent and the traverse across the Vowell Glacier are straightforward. We retrieve our stashed pack and snack near the col before descending the Bugaboo-Snowpatch col.

A large fire started off to the east during the day

Happy to be back on the glacier

By 8 p.m. we're back in camp. The Beckey-Chouinard is easily one of the best rock routes either of us has ever climbed, and definitely one of the finest moderate rock climbs on earth. Tomorrow we'll take it easy and enjoy our "vacation".

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