American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Bugaboos, Snowpatch Spire, Johnston-Kruk

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2009

Bugaboos, Snowpatch Spire, Johnston-Kruk. My time in the Bugs was running slim when my friend Crosby Johnston showed up, training for an ACMG exam. Crosby is a totally undercover brother and a glissading champion; I was psyched to rope up with him for one last mission. But Crosby first had to shadow a guide and his clients up Pigeon Spire, which meant I could sleep till 10.

I was on my eighth shot of espresso when I saw a lone figure straight-shot boot-ski down from the Bugaboo-Snowpatch col and laughed at BC Parks’ ridiculous proposal to install a via ferrata beside this 40° snow slope. I grabbed my pack and ran off. We met at 11 a.m. on the glacier below the east face of Snowpatch to try a new line on the left side of the face.

We ninja-cowboy-grizzlyed while balanced on the edge of the moat, and Crosby’s grizzly impersonation mauled my ninja, so he won the first lead. It followed the Beckey-Mather route’s first pitch (TD+ 5.10 A2, 1959) and proved to be the hardest, with Crosby whipping off the last moves when he broke a handhold.

I followed free at 5.12-. The rest of the initial two-thirds of the route linked wet 5.10 and 5.11 corners with runout 5.10+ face climbing, sometimes in the vicinity of the Beckey-Mather or Vertical Party (TD+ 5.9 A2, Arbos-Clotet, 1993), sometimes on virgin ground.

The soaking wet 5.11-tips-corner fourth pitch ended at a roof and bolts of unknown vintage. Crosby then swung from big hand jams out the roof, and I wondered where the hell we were. I think the most recent guidebook may have drawn the routes incorrectly, but I’ll leave it to someone smarter and more interested than me to figure out exactly who climbed what and when. The upper half of the face had confusing, lower-angled crack and corner systems. We followed the cleanest and driest to the top of the wall, never finding much of either.

We topped out (700m, 14 pitches, V 5.12- A0; I’d guess half the route new) and ran the ridge north. We hit the fixed raps of Sendero Norte as it was getting dark, and the descent tested our onsight rappelling skills, but we made good time and soon swung across the moat and high-fived at the base.

The Bugaboos are a gift to climbers. Where else can you find splitter walls a short stroll from your tent and enough good weather to facilitate 10 o’clock sleep-ins, crux-out high above a glacier, and know that cocktails are never far away?

Jason Kruk, Canada

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