American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Pigeon Feathers: Friday the 13th, Nightrain

Canada, British Columbia, Purcell Mountains, Bugaboo Provincial Park

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Jonny Simms
  • Climb Year: 2018
  • Publication Year: 2019

I VISITED the East Creek Basin on two separate occasions in 2018. On the first trip, I guided a nice fellow I call a darn good friend, Marley Hodgson, on the Beckey-Chouinard and we did some new routing on the Pigeon Feathers. Mainly, we climbed the west face of Lost Friends Pinnacle, which is looker’s right of Fingerberry Tower. We climbed five pitches up to 5.10- and called the route Friday the 13th. We ended the trip by establishing the first pitch of what would eventually become Nightrain on East Pigeon Feather. It had been on my mind ever since.

Industrial Remote Avalanche Control Systems installation can really wear a brother down. Fourteen days on and 14-hour shifts on the hill. The latest Gazex install project is in Kemano, B.C. Power tools combined with thunder, lighting and hailstorms. Tripping around on rubble and boulders while trying to keep the cuts square. One can only look at it as comical. The rebar cage jail you build around yourself before the concrete pour is a test of perseverance. Over the course of three days, you do exactly that. Not sure what is better: feeling like a prisoner in the rebar jail or a dog in a kennel.

Anyways, my time off found me flying into Vancouver. After searching for a partner with no luck, I kind of wrote off going into the Bugs. I hit Squamish thinking I would spend the week there and decided to pay my good friend Jimbo Scar a visit. Yes, the real Jimmy Scar. And yes, the vigilante stories of Jimmy taking the law into his own hands are very true. He is a true legend of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Whether it was Jimmy Scar and his lead pipe on a vengeance against those rotten Squamish bike thieves, or Jimmy Scar and his Scar-bar chopping the unethical bolts of the Smoke Bluffs. Back when loggers ruled the town and crack heads would rob any vehicle left in the Apron parking lot, Jimbo was our batman.

Jimbo has a special spot in my big old heart. So, I paid him a visit around 1 a.m., fresh off a flight and exhausted from days and days of work. Looking to say hello and get a good night’s sleep wasn't in the cards. Paul Bride and Justin Sweeney were also there, putting back a few pops. It might have been dawn when we finally shut it down, but I rose early thanks to an industrial sleeping schedule.

It was the start of the long weekend and the traffic congestion on the Sea to Sky was starting to pile up. I got a call around 2 p.m. from Crosby Johnston, who was guiding out in the Rockies, my neck of the woods. He was looking for a Bugaboos partner. We briefly chatted about hooking into our friend Josh Lavine’s flight the following day, and in no time I was on the road toward my place in Golden to make the flight at first light.

It took all night to get to Golden. I was home by 3 a.m. and packed by 3:30. Leaving by 5 a.m. didn’t leave much room for sleep. We hit the road and loaded the machine. Crosby decided to walk in because he thought it would be a good idea to surprise Josh with his arrival. Seat taken by another young, keen disciple.

Crosby's hike would take two to three hours, so I got a chance for a nap before climbing. After he arrived, we hiked to the base of the southwest face of East Pigeon Feather Peak and began on the right side of an obvious buttress below the face. Tying in, I linked the first two pitches as one. I had previously done this block with Marley a few weeks before. My initial intention was to create some new moderate climbs in East Creek, as there are many hard routes in the area. My focus was to put up something one can just go climbing.

Given my lack of sleep, we planned to do a few pitches, come down, and start early the next day. However, as an alpinist knows, "when the weather holds, we climb!" So we climbed. All pitches were done as rope stretchers and onsight except for pitch two, which we cleaned, buffed, and freed on the second day. We topped out the route in the fading light after climbing 350m of rock up to 5.11. Crosby dubbed me "Jonny Drops It" from my fumbling state of sleep deprivation. I dropped many articles that day, including gloves, a wire brush, water bottle, chalk bag, and a carabiner. Oops.

We named the route Nightrain (350m, 5.11) for two reasons. Reason one is the double all-nighter I pulled to make this trip happen. Reason two comes from one of my favorite childhood bands, Guns N' Roses. The song Nightrain (yes the song is spelled Nightrain) is from the all-time album Appetite for Destruction. Nightrain is a tribute to an infamous brand of cheap Californian fortified wine (Night Train Express), which was extremely popular with the band because of its low price and high alcohol content.

– Jonny Simms, Canada

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