American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Northwest and Yukon Territories, Bugaboos, Snowpatch Spire, South Face, First Free Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2000

Snowpatch Spire, South Face, First Free Ascent. With true and conscious minds, Micah Jessup and I entered into the realm of the mighty Bugaboos, bent on exploring new pathways in the vertical world. After brewing in the rain for several days, attending Kain Hut yoga classes and developing bad symptoms of cabin and wet-tent fever, blue finally chased away the white. Several masterpiece routes were climbed following standard early- to mid-after- noon starts, but then ambition reared its dominating head.

“We must challenge ourselves. We must explore. We must go where no one has gone before. We must try the complete South Face of Snowpatch Spire!” Assuming white rock is of the best quality (not so true in the Bugs), and after being blessed by a mountain goat on the approach, Micah drew the first pitch. We could not see an obvious line past the first pitch on the lower half of the face, but… there appeared to be potential.

Micah struggled for a full 55 meters on the first pitch, ignoring the rope drag, runout and little bit of moss. The second pitch had me searching three different options before I cut out right and up an open comer. New England Boy almost needed a puff on his pipe to figure out the third pitch; dropping down and underclinging the blocky roof was not apparent until he was committed. Three more largos, only the last of which was obvious, and we plopped onto the mid-way ledge.

Finally, after a full day of route finding up runout and quite featureless rock, we arrived at the start of the Upper South Face, the Tom Gibson and Rob Rohn extravaganza, six pitches directly above where we started. We continued up the upper part of the route the following day. We were surprised at how stout and sustained the Rohn-Gibson is—definitely a masterpiece of the era.

No pins nor bolts were placed, though we certainly wished we had them at the time, and they may be a good idea for any future ascentionists. Grading? On the lower half, Australian 24 with a capital R. Bump up the Rohn-Gibson part to French 7a+ and add an extra pitch to the topo in the guide book.

Guy Edwards, noncorporate and independent

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