American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Interior Ranges, Bugaboo and Vowell Groups

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1964

Bugaboo and Vowell Groups. Our party made two minor first ascents in the Vowell group and variants on routes in the Bugaboos. On August 9 Leigh Andrews and I left Boulder Camp, crossed the Crescent-Bugaboo col, traversed the Vowell Glacier to its north lateral moraine and scurried up several hundred feet of talus and snow to the eastern end of the Archduke Trio, a thin, ½-mile-long flake protruding about 800 feet above the glaciers to the east of Wallace Peak. The ridge was an easy scramble to the initial and highest gendarme, a block some 30 feet high. A moderate crack gave access to the pointed summit. From there on, the ridge became knife-edged and exhilaratingly exposed. After climbing down and traversing, we rappelled 50 feet into a notch and ascended the second gendarme. After traversing farther, we climbed down a long, loose slab to another notch. After crossing two rope-lengths onto the north face, we reached the final summit by means of an awkward chimney. The summit was indeed peculiar, being split by a six-foot-wide chasm, some 100 feet in depth and length. In fact the whole formation is an architectural marvel, as its base is probably no more than a few hundred feet in thickness. Three long rappels and scrambling brought us to the glacier. We used three pitons, one for protection, one for a tie-in and one for a rappel anchor on the 7-hour climb. The traverse also appears feasible from west to east, but technical difficulties will be greater. The delightful climbing was reminiscent of the classic ridge traverses in the Chamonix Aiguilles. On August 13, I returned to the Vowell group with Charles Fay to attempt the east ridge of the so-called East Peak. From a bivouac on the west flank of the east ridge, we scrambled to a prominent notch in the ridge. To the right lay the easternmost gendarme, named East Peak Sub- one by the 1938 Hendricks first-ascent party. Turning left, we ascended the next major sub-peak (c. 9500 feet) in four pitches of moderate difficulty. There, a surprise thunderstorm forced our hurried and anxious retreat. In accordance with the current unofficial nomenclature, this should probably be designated “East Peak Sub-two”. Later in August, Fay, Andrews and I made the second ascent of the Buckingham route of the north summit of Snowpatch Spire. We climbed the “bolt pitch” free, using delicate friction holds 15 feet left of the bolts. When we reached the great notch in the summit ridge, we rappelled into the snow-choked gully on the east face, rather than into the notch proper as had the original party. An inside corner was climbed artificially (Al) for 50 feet, at which point we regained the original route. (Apparently this pitch was also climbed by the Gran party in completing to the summit its west face route which ended in the great notch.) The Buckingham route is one of the more rewarding of the reasonable Bugaboo routes and should be done more frequently.

Robert Kruszyna

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