Cragging in the Bugaboos

Climbing in the Bugaboos is always a highlight of the summer and definitely one of my favourite places to climb. The rugged hike through wildflowers as you climb towards Applebee, the mystic and grandeur of the spires as they glow in the evening light, and the long shadows draped across the glaciers as a lone headlamp weaves down the Bugaboo/Snowpatch Col.  There is something eternally special about the place.

Last week Simon Meis and I took advantage of a splitter forecast to session the east face on Snowpatch. We decided to forgo the usual journey across to the west side so that we could focus on hard free climbing close to 'home' (Applebee). The locals Chris Brazeau and Jon Walsh have been climbing on the east side for several years now, establishing some world class routes. While climbing with Jon the week prior he was adamant that I needed to sample the routes on the east face.

So, with a large free-climbing rack, a backpack full of puffy jackets we set our sites on free climbing as much as we could with as little walking as possible. In the five days that we were in Applebee we climbed, Sweet Sylvia, Sendero Norte, and Labyrinth.

Approaching the east face, with only a 30min approach
most days didn't start before 10am.  
The 2nd pitch of Sweet Sylvia, a sporty 5.12.
Photo: SM
Simon susing out the right hand variation to pitch 5. The original ascent climbed an overhanging 5.11+  hands to 5" crack, a Craig Luebben classic. The right hand variation climbs a 5.12 hands to fingers to 5" offwidth thus avoiding the 4" section. 
Simon stepping off the belay into a perfect 25m hands to fingers splitter.  
Pitch 6 was a sustained 55m 4" crack, luckily it wasn't overhanging. Even with 3 number 4 Camelots it was still runout.  
Stepping left into the crux second pitch of Sendero Norte.  A stiff .12+ which is often wet at the crux.
Photo: SM
Climbing the Split Pillar of the east (Pitch 4). A spectacular 5.10 hands to fingers layback. As Gery Unterasinger said" one of the better granite pitches in the 5.10 range in Canada"
Photo: SM
The second crux of the 7th pitch on Labyrinth. A slab dyno just below the belay. 
Pitch 3 on Labyrinth, a spectacular .12a overhanging fat fingers splitter.
Photo: SM 

Simon Meis and me topping out late in the pm after another day of  cragging.


North Face of Mt Temple, Greenwood/Locke

On Aug 2nd, Crosby Johnston and I climbed the North Face of Mt. Temple aka the 'Eiger of the Rockies'. There is no doubt that the Greenwood/Locke is a "must do" as stated in the Selected Alpine Climbs and I was psyched to do it with a long time climbing partner.

Crosby is usually a coastal rate, often found grunting up Squamish test pieces or swimming with the seals while kite boarding. He rarely finds himself swinging those medieval-looking-thingies, we call ice tools or pimping up steep limestone.  And, I rarely find myself tying in with him but when I do, I know an adventure will ensue. Crosby is currently lurking in the rockies 'training' for the ACMG alpine exam, which usually entails slogging up 'the classics' all while practising the dark art of guiding. I convinced him (easily enough) that training should also include the 'true' rockies classics and that only when you are strung out on a steep and loose limestone face can you discover the secrets of the dark arts.

We started the day in Canmore, leaving at 3am. After an hour of fast hiking we arrived at the snow cone below the Dolphin (1900m @ 5:15am) . We soloed most of the lower face, roping up just before the first traverse right below the second icefield (I only had aluminum crampons which I would regret). It took us just under 2 hrs to arrive at the first rock band. We started the technical climbing while donning gloves, crampons and ice tools. A beautiful ice runnel in the back of a chimney presented itself half way up the first pitch. One of the best I have ever climbed in the alpine. One 60m pitch brought us to the base of the 'prominent ledge' that traverses the face. We found good ice screw placements on the traverse contrary to the guide book description. After gaining the rock buttress we climbed 6 pitches to reach the top (with a little simul-climbing of course). We climbed all the pitches free with light boots but I would recommend having rock shoes if you are not comfortable climbing 5.10.  The rock climbing was aesthetic and had plenty of good protection. Only the last pitch was really loose (in relation to Rockies standards) but there was still good pro.


  • 1 x single 60m rope
  • 1 x 6 mm tag line
  • Single rack (00-#2 Camelots) 
  • 12 x quick draws (which include 4 long runners)
  • 3 x ice screws
  • 2 technical tools 
  • Crampons (aluminum crampons didn't work very well)
  • Rock shoes (we didn't use ours)
Lake Annette in the early morning.

Crosby marching up the 'right hand' gully as the sun rises on the seracs above. It took us 2 hrs to climb to the base of the technical climbing. 
Topping out above the 'Dolphin' 

Traversing right at the top of the first snow field.  This small section of ice is the only ice we climbed on the snow fields. 

Croby 'the Cosmonaut' Johnston 

Traversing left towards the rock buttress on the 'prominent ledge' that crosses the face. Notice the large amount of rock fall in the snow. This is probably the most dangerous place on the face for rockfall hazard. 

Looking down at the first pitch of rock climbing on the buttress. A previous team had chopped out a bivy site on the snow fin below.  

Crosby starting the 4th pitch, a little loose but with good pro. 

Crosby stepping right on the 6th pitch.