Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Bugaboos-- trip report

Well sometimes a gumbie wants to not just clean cracks but also climb them, so I headed off to the Bugaboos. Both of my partners bailed-- Bones' wife is at the tail end of cancer (she's winning); Rich trashed his ankle. So I went in on my own, carrying two ropes, far too many Sesame Snaps and a distinct lack of proper socks.

Now if you have never been to the "Bugs," you must prepare to have your mind stop when you arrive. There are oh, EIGHT Stawamus Chiefs, minus the lineups on Deirdre of course, sticking out of a vast mostly flat icefield, the effect being that somebody spread billions of free pieces of rock-climbing candy out ona big white blanket and you get to PIG OUT, weather permitting.

I had heard tell of an Austrian hardman looking for partners, and on arriving in Applebee found said Austrian, Gerhardt, who along with his girlfriend Alex was wearing a neon orange pumpkin jacket and shit-talking with a bunch of Greeks. Greeks? Now what Greeks were doing in the bolts here, it's cold...oh, right. Adventure! A minute after meeting Gerhard, we had plans. Then I met one Lauren Evanson and had next day plans, and that was that, partner worries gone.

As I walked up through Applebee my eyes recovering from the G-A neon jacket collection show, my eyes lighted on a MASSIVE PILE OF CRAP which on closer inspection turned out to be a nearly wrecked tent covered in a tattered green tarpaulin of Word War Two vintage. Now there could be only two possible explanations for this. A) Somebody had died and the wardens were keeping their stuff dry till relatives came to gather it or B) Tony McLane, dirtbag, was in the house. Of course it WAS McLane, thank God, but he was away in East Creek, which is where hardmen (or the mentally lacking) go to bivvy befrore trying hard things like Becky-Chouinard or All Along the Watchtower. Anyway McLane was alive and well, and the campground was full of fit skinny people talking in a salad of languages about tomorrow's plans, waving fingers, hands and ice-axes at rock walls, and fiddling with small flickering stoves in the dying light.

I put my tent right beside another tent in the only flat spot I could find, and soon found I'd barged in on the privacy of a Vancouver couple, who were as cold and unfriendly as humanly possible, even when I told them that it was my wont, before retiring, to drink a 26er and gobble a handful of sleeping pills. These are of course not true-- my girfriend always bemoans my uncanny ability to pass out at 11 PM sharp and never wake-- I guess they felt their fuck-fest was over, as the next morning when I woke up....they'd Gravel Central, a larger flat gravel spot in the middle of upper Applebee which in the morning light was full of the yabber of Spaniards who'd had too much coffee and too little climbing and so were hyperactive, and madly gesticulating with the Greeks and, just for the hell of it, with a couple of Quebeckers, in a three-language creole. The cold bitchy Vancouver climbers beside me had been replaced by two Canmorians, who we'll call Major Hottie (there should be laws about what women can wear...oh wait, there are, in Afghanistan) and Strong & Silent. Their plan was to do a one-day assault on the Becky-Chouinard.

Lauren Evanson and I wandered up to do Paddle Flake Direct and I got to lead the whole thing, Lauren calling herself more of an alpinist than a rock-climber. Man, as soon as I sank my mitts into that granite, I was in heaven. Perfect rock, loooong cracks, short cruxes, yadda yadda. Anyway we did the route, complete with the patented alpine "Make Your Own Ending!" ending, where I closed my eyes and randonly threw a piece of chalk upward into the wind, and climbed whatever crack it first touched. The evening was full of the usual stuff: shit talk about routes, wriggling to find a comfy way to lie flat on the gravel, and intermittent random dirtbags walking by saying things like "Uhh can I borrow a #5 tomorrow?" or "Uhh does anybody have any oil?" I was awoken at 3 AM by Major Hottie and S&S who were giggling as they boiled bloatmeal and tea. I pissed and wished them "good luck" and they scampered off across the talus.

here's Lauren on the awesome 3rd pitch.

The day after it was time to get serious, so Gerhard and I marched up to do Sunshine Cracks, which you really could call Verbal Fucking Irony Cracks since there's not a ray of sun on it and I knelt in prayer giving thanks to God for the long underwear I had actually remembered. Now the Snowpatch-Bugaboo col is basically a shooting gallery this season and I was shitting myself as we minced our way across it. Now, you kmay be asking, why does Butch want to climb with a Kraut? Well the obvious answer is, cos the Kraut is a hardman, unlike Butch. And while this would be true, it is insufficient. The real reason you want to climb with the Kraut is that the Kraut can speak impeccable Hinglish. And as we all know, there is only so much of the usual "gee, THAT was a nice/hard/tedious pitch"- type talk that two men can have, so shit-talk in faux Hindi it was. "Vat you are doing?" he asks as I grunt at the 5" crack. "Actually, we are being bamboozled, this is not four inches, yaar" I say, and on it goes.

The route turned out to be one of the finest of my life. Long impeccable bomber granite pitches, varied moves and superb position-- thanks Alex Lowe!
I led the 5.10 offwidth and Gerhard led the 5.11- roof. We arrived at the bottom of the last pitch to find a random collection of five dirtbags and one baguette in various stages of ascent and descent, and I got to lead the amazing looong final pitch where we finally got sun.

That evening I met The Ladies, Fergie and Jewels, who were set to do battle with Sunshine. I fell asleep, and at 3 AM, exactly 24 hours after they left, I heard Major Hottie and S&S return. I wriggled out of bed 5 minutes later, still unwilling to piss in either of my bottles, and found Major Hottie passed out in the gravel, while S&S fiddle with a stove. The next day at 10 AM they, and all their crap, was still strewn about the camp, with no regard for rodents, thieves or rain. Long day.

We get a crack-of-noon start to race Alex and her partner Todd Nichols up Surf's Up, on which Gerhard wants to take photos. We catch them after an enduro-blast interrupts our sunny, lazy, coffee-filled morning, and I promptly irritate the shit out of newbie Alex by suggesting that she use hands, not a glacier axe, on rock. But after that little drama we get on the route, which IMHO is crappy. As we duck missiles on the col, we see The Ladies yo-yoing in icy winds up and off of the offwidth crux on Sunshine. On our route, three shit pitches lead to three nice 5.7 pitches and the ridge-line.

Awesome exposure and cool views:

Great views and pics for Gerhard, and then we get scared shitless by a storm, during which our teeth and rack throb and buzz, and sheets of energy whip and crack around us in the fog and wind. The rap at one point had EIGHT people on one station as we ducked rockfire on the col.

On Monday I had too little food, too many blisters, and it was threatening rain. They say when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Well, in climbing, it's more like, when the going THREATENS to get tough...half the camp eyes the sky and mutter about foiled big-day plans, while the smart ones gear up and go cragging. So I walked my 70m rope down the mountain and went to Invermere for supplies, and felt totally out of place among the swarms of fat RV people. I walked back into Applebee in the pissing rain and found Todd, who said "uhh your spot might be in a river tomorrow," so I moved my tent.

Tuesday was pissing rain. So I stayed in my tent and read until two, when the rain stopped. This proved good enough for the pair of Newfies camped beside me, so we all crawled into their tent and finished our two bottles of whiskey. By 3:00 I was staggering around Applebee howling medicine-man summonses at the reticent sun, which summonses actually worked-- by evening we were drying gear and fantasising about actually climbing! The bitchy Vancouver couple emerged from their tent, which was in a massive mud puddle which must have looked great when dry-- ahh, soft and flat, honey, let's fuck, but quietly!-- and they and the Spaniards, also marroned in a small sea of mud, decided to pack up and bail. The Spaniards wanted to do Slesse. "Why?" I asked, "you're here and the weather looks good!" But the Bitchy Vancouver Couple had clearly infected them and so nos despidimos.

The next day I went climbing on Edwards-Neufeld with one Janez Ales, the Slovenian ("it's NOT a Romance language-- we have a third number category for count nouns!") mathematician who sounds liek a combination of Tony McLane (lives in car, climbs a lot, works very little) and rich fucker (PhD, consultant, works very little). Actually, as Fergie put it, Tony was "making it work on the lesser end of the social spectrum" while the smarty-pants Janez was doing the same ont he other end. Good route name, huh? "Making it work on..." Janez had climbed with some of the Canaidan greats-- Guy Edwards, whose route we were about to do-- and some well-known long-timers liek Mike Spagnut, with whom I'd had the chance to tie in. And Janez on the approach scared me shitless telling first-ascent stories about these guys, making me realise AGAIN what a total wuss I am. "And then I got to the belay, and Guy had two RPs behind a crystal...")

So we did Edwards-neufeld and you coudl immediately see what a hardman the legendary "Fast Eddy" had been: not a bolt in sight, and you know that they didn't bring triples to 6" when they put THIS one up. Anyway, aside from me freaking out on one pitch, and Janez having to hand over the lead cos he'd forgotten to bring water and his hands were therefore frozen from lack of circulation, the route went well. It was hard, it was tricky and it was awesome. While not as aesthetic as mcTech (on which there seem to be 8 parties at any one time) it is more challenging and totally worth it.

I hiked out the next day, wondering if Blicker had gotten on our new route (he had), if my girlfriend still wanted to see me (she did, thank God), and if rodents had eaten my brake cables (nope!). Overall, wow, can't wait to go back.

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