A week in the Bugaboos

The Bugaboos have always been a place that I have heard reference to, as THE mountain group for alpine rock climbing in Canada.  A year ago, my good friend Leif spent a week in the range, and his report, along with others, brought me to consider traveling to the range more seriously.  After a phone call from Leif this spring as he exited the Grand Canyon, I bought my plane ticket and the trip was on.

I flew into Cranbrook on a humid, mildly hot afternoon with dark clouds spinning as if on a rotisserie.  This certainly did not bode excellently for the beginnings of our trip, but meeting Leif and getting some great eats for the trip kept the psych high as we cruised Leif’s civic to the trailhead.  After a little over two hours of hiking and conversation, we made it to Applebee dome and set up our basecamp.


With the weather forecast murky for the second day, Leif and I headed for Pigeon Spire’s west ridge, a classic scramble of the range.


Leif on the approach to Pigeon, under the ultra epic Snowpatch east face.


Leif in the cloud and fresh snow at the base of Pigeon.  A cold place for rock shoes!


Enjoyable scrambling on Pigeon Spire.

The scrambling on Pigeon was solid and exposed.  We roped up at the base of the summit pyramid due to verglas and water ice in the gullies.


Atop Pigeon Spire, as it snowed.  This would become a theme on summits for the trip.


The Howser towers emerging from the storm while descending Pigeon.  This was the least cloudy the Howsers got for the duration of the trip.

After descending Pigeon, we returned to camp to grab more gear and sunglasses and climbed Between the Ears to the eastern summit.  An enjoyable route, close to camp.


Leif excited to be back in the Bugs and atop a new spire, with Bug Spire in the background.


Walking back to camp and strategizing dinner.


And executing the strategy.

The next morning, we decided to head up Snowpatch Spire via the Snowpatch route.  Although there looked to be perhaps more snow than in the route description, Leif had not yet climbed the route, and I was psyched to get on Snowpatch.  We descended around Son of Snowpatch, and began simul climbing on the ridge.  With 19 pitches of climbing, and an uncertain forecast, we tried our best to make good time, despite dropping Leif’s axe!!


Leif leading some simul climbing low on the Snowpatch route.


Leif coming up to a belay near pitch 13 or so, as it started to snow.


Looking down pitch 16 after the snow quit.


Looking up the crux pitch, a wonderful corner.


Leif climbing to the ridge of Snowpatch.


On the summit of Snowpatch Spire! Super psyched, cold, and getting ready for some snowy, long rappels!

We returned from Snowpatch tired and happy, and spent the next morning reading and stretching before cragging closer to camp the next afternoon.  With a forecast of moderate rain and snow the next day, we packed for the Northeast ridge of Bugaboo Spire, perhaps the most classic climb in the Bugs.

We left around 8am from camp, and scrambled to the base of the route mostly in silence, having gotten into a rhythm of climbing and resting the past couple of days.


Leif climbing pitch two, which was a mostly solid line of flakes.  

At the top of pitch five, we reached a large, comfortable ledge.  Just as we reached the ledge, snow began to fall, and fall hard.  Soon we were inside a snow globe, and Leif began leading the 5.8 variation, perfect splitter hands right on the ridgeline.  At the top of this pitch, under heavy snow, we started simulclimbing, and continued simuling through a chimney for maybe 500 feet.  Leif used every piece of gear he had, with the last piece being a small nut directly clipped to the rope on his belay locker.  Once atop the ridge, we knew we had a difficult couple of hours ahead.  The snow had made the ridge quite slippery, and there was little room for error on this complicated ridge.


Leif scrambling along the exposed ridge towards the south summit of Bug Spire.  The east face, the left side of the ridge, falls steeply back to camp, while the west face combines small ledges and slab.


Leif rappels on the Kain route, during a prolonged spell of bantering in Chilean slang.  The gendarme of the Kain route and Snowpatch Spire can be seen in the background.


Up at the south summit of Bugaboo Spire, feeling a bit less than halfway through.

We carefully made our way down the ridge, and it gradually let up until we were down at the col, boot skiing towards camp.  Although we had planned to spend two more days in camp, Monday’s weather was looking properly bad and we exited the range the next morning.

It was wonderful to be able to spend a week in the Bugaboos with Leif.  The climbing was certainly challenging, and the weather provided some more anticipation to the routes, but despite these challenges, climbing these spires was a great way to spend a summer week! Thanks to Leif for showing me the area, and for being great company all week.


Snow fall above the gendarme while descending Bugaboo Spire.  The ridge in the foreground is the descent route.

I am now back in Squamish, and am focusing the remaining summer months on trail running and paragliding.  Excited to spend time learning these new sports and building new experiences in these coastal mountains.

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Beginnings of Summer: Local Running, Regional Mountaineering

With the ski season and college completed, summer time has arrived and I am really enjoying it! Every year, the transition out of ski boots into runners and alpine boots feels better and better.

I am now working to build speciality timber frame beams in Squamish, and the flexible schedule and hours has let me take advantage of daylight and outside opportunities.  The amount of time I have spent outside has increased since graduation, with some weeks including over 20 hours a week  outside beyond working full time.

This post covers the last two weeks of running and climbing.  Excited to keep the momentum going!


Post running fire dinners.  Another perk of summer.


Eric Carter booting through 30cm of recent snowfall on a run in the Skypilot group.


Another day in the Skypilot group, this time on Skypilot’s standard route, solo.  No other parties had climbed the route since the recent snowfall, giving the route a fresh and quiet feel.

Eric Carter called me up to see if Kyle (my girlfriend) would be interested in doing a weekend Rainier trip with his girlfriend and him.  We readily agreed, since neither of us had climbed the peak before, although I had attempted the peak with Iris Neary in early May of 2013.  Eric and I decided to go for the Emmons route on the north side of the peak, and drove down Friday night.  We had a leisurely Saturday climbing to Camp Shurman, and then summited Sunday morning, and walked out and drove back to Squamish.  At this time of year, the route is well filled in and very cruiser.  We didn’t rope up until around 13,000 feet, and used trekking poles more than axes.  Regardless, it was a great experience to slow down and spend a night out on an aesthetic, glaciated summit with friends.


Eric and I hiked up to the Prow above Camp after dinner.  Eric brought his large camera, and took some great photos of the surrounding area.  I was mostly happy to enjoy the sunset and look at future route options.


The crew cruising the lower section of the route Sunday morning.


Kyle climbing towards the summit, with Liberty Cap in the background.


Kyle and I on the summit, along with some of my sister’s christmas marzipan to share!

Beyond the snowy climbing, I have been getting out running more regularly, on the great trails in Squamish.  The town is a great place for running for a person like me who likes variety from day to day in the kind of trails.  From steep trails on the chief and the evac trail on the Gondola, to alpine running above the Gondola, to flat fast running in the estuary or hilly running in Alice lake, there is always something different to do and keep the motivation up.


Afternoon running above the Sea to Sky Gondola.  With the snow melting from the high country, this place really transforms into an excellent running venue!

I am excited to keep running and climbing this summer, and to keep this blog more regularly updated.  See you out there!

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Winter Season Review

This past season was perhaps my busiest yet, due to a necessary balance of university and skiing time.  The balance of these activities led to timing restraints that meant that time on the computer was spent on my senior thesis and coursework rather than this blog.  It is my hope to post more regularly now that my university studies are completed.

My ski season totaled around 70 days and a little over a quarter million vertical feet of ski touring.  This season was my first year with a Suunto watch, which was really helpful in getting a better idea of my training volume and skiing time this winter.  It will certainly be helpful next year in comparing the winter.

While this blog post cannot begin to describe all of the ski days from the year, I will describe three that were enjoyable outings in Southwest British Columbia, near the towns of Pemberton and Squamish.

Matier Massif Triple North Face Linkup, Solo

I spent my birthday skiing three top to bottom laps on a sunny Anniversary glacier with a close friend.  During that day, I got a sense for the relatively stable conditions that were coming into shape in the Duffey Lakes area and decided to go for a linkup two days later on the north faces of the Matier massif, including Joffre, Matier, and Slalok.  While the conditions were not as good as two days previous, they allowed efficient passage and still some cold snow on the northern aspects.  I brought along a single axe, steel crampons (useful for some alpine ice on the North face of Joffre) and Billygoat ascent plates for solo bootpacking.

Leaving the car just after eight, I kept a bright pace up to the glacier, passing several parties on the shoulder heading for Matier. I soon began trail breaking up Joffre North face and was alone on the face.  Steep snow climbing had me atop the line, and once I began descending the shaded aspect yielded good snow conditions, especially in the icefall with the cooler temperatures.


Looking back down through the short section of alpine ice on my route up Joffre North Face.  The combination of petzl lynx, billygoat plates, and Spitfire boots worked well on this kind of linkup.

After regaining the Anniversary Col, I began ascending Matier North ridge.  Several people had already ascended the quite moderate route over the previous days, making travel up the route smooth.  I did not use either the plates or the crampons on route, but did use my axe occasionally.  As I neared the summit, clouds obscured the view, and I moved quickly to descend off the summit in quickly worsening weather and increasing winds.  Although a relatively easy route, being up on the summit of Matier in the weather, alone, felt adventurous and I was happy to begin skiing.  The skiing went smoothly down the 250 meter north facing glacier, and I began descending Matier glacier towards my final objective, Slalok north face.



This photo looks back at Matier glacier and Matier summit (in cloud), from my vantage close to the ridgeline of Slalok Mountain.

Unlike Joffre and Matier, I had never summited Slalok, or skied its north face before, adding to the adventure at the end of the day.  I was in a hurry to beat the weather, and pushed to gain the ridgeline.  Once again, the summit was enveloped in cloud, and the expansive north face of the Stonecrop glacier was made more complicated by the lack of visibility.  Without any tracks on the face, and low visibility, I began descending the face cautiously, knowing that I did have steel crampons if I did need to downclimb.  After descending the first 500 meters of the upper glacier, I began skiing into a couloir on the skiers right side of the face, that continued in sections for the remainder of the face.  In total the face is perhaps 1200 meters.


Finishing the last turns of the Stonecrop Glacier couloir before the north facing, open slopes that finish the Slalok north face route.  I skied this linkup on the Voile Vector 180cm, which was a perfect ski for this extended outing.  Light and stiff, but confident in deep snow for the north faces of the Matier massif.

After descending the entirety of the face down to Upper Joffre Lake, I put in the headphones and skated and skied to the road, in a little over 8 hours.  The Matier Massif, while popular, really has some great skiing opportunities, and I am excited to keep exploring new lines next winter in this mountain group.

Million Dollar Couloir with Kyle and Zahan

The end of March was the height of the ski season for Southwest BC.  The beginning weeks of March had dropped almost three meters of snow, and the end of the month saw generally clear days with stable avalanche conditions.  For Kyle’s birthday, we decided to check out Million Dollar Couloir on Cayoosh Mountain, a summit neither of us had climbed and a route we had not skied.


Kyle punching to the ridgeline on Cayoosh East face.  The trailbreaking on this section was deep! 

After skinning onto the glacier and gaining the eastern col of Cayoosh, another party was ahead of us and we caught up to them.  It turned out to be Zahan Billimoria, a mentor and friend from Jackson.  It was a great surprise to meet him and his client up there, and we shared the rest of the ski day together.


Kyle descending the northern glacier of Cayoosh, with the East face behind her.

Together with Zahan, we dropped into the Million Dollar Couloir and enjoyed deep conditions through the choke, and enough space in the wide couloir for fresh tracks.  While the terrain was not especially severe or intense, it was an enjoyable day with close friends in a beautiful area of the Duffey.

Warren Glacier Traverse via Garibaldi Summit, Solo

For most of the winter, I had been thinking about summiting Garibaldi Mountain inside a traverse of the Garibaldi area.  In 2014, I had attempted to climb Garibaldi in February along with Eric Carter, Gary Robbins, and others, but we had stopped a mere 200 meters from the summit due to concerns about daylight.  Ever since, I have wanted to summit this mountain, which towers over the town of Squamish on a clear day.

The route I ended up choosing was the Warren Glacier Traverse, which traverses under Atwell Peak before climbing the glacier to the base of Garibaldi.  From this high col, the summit of Garibaldi is perhaps only 300 meters or so.


Before dawn, with the first sunlight on the tantalus range.  It took probably another hour to gain the glacier just after sunrise.


Looking back towards the end of Howe Sound and Squamish in the early morning light.  The ridge just below the water in the photo is where I climbed up to begin the traverse in the pre-dawn hours.


Early morning light over the wonderful Mamquam icefield and the Misty Icefields behind.

From the high col, I booted up to the summit in firm, chalky snow, and enjoyed the views on the summit before skiing the northwest face.  By getting an early start, the refreeze was still strong on the descent to Garibaldi Lake, and Garibaldi lake was quick skating.  However, due to recent warm temperatures, the snow level had risen substantially, and I walked for over an hour back to the trailhead before hitch hiking back to Squamish.  Stats for the day were a bit under 8,000 ft of gain, 26 miles, in 8:10.


The tool of choice, the Voile WSP, atop Garibaldi Mountain, with Atwell Peak in the foreground.  My home of Squamish can be seen below.

This winter had me feeling more comfortable in Southwest BC mountains, and while I am excited to keep skiing these mountains in the future, my mind is now fully tuned to running and climbing.  I will update this site through the summer on adventures without all the heavy winter gear!

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Solstice Season

This blog covers the activities From early December to late January.  This is normally a training period of many ski days, blurred together through similarity.  This was certainly the case this season, although perhaps mellowed by more time spent with family and new relationships.  I will detail a selection of these days during this block, chronologically.


Rad trip through Rogers Pass on the way back to Montana. This was taken on NRC, with Iris Neary and Florence (pictured).


After a couple weeks of storm skiing in Montana, the weather opened up and allowed for some great skiing with stable conditions.

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Trees and shadows. Transitioning from storm skiing to alpine days. It is so fun to be immersed in the changes in the weather, flexible in the cycle of storm and sun.

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Looking into the heart of the Crown of the Continent. The home range is so inspiring!

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At the bar the night before, Blake Votilla, Kevin Grove and I decided to try skiing right gully on Mt. Brown.  It seemed like a better idea in the bar than the Park.  More known as an ice climb, but with some rappels it made for a nice change from standard ski touring.  Here, Blake investigates some suspicious windslab close to the first rappel.

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Blake descending the first rappel on Right Gully.

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Before descending Right Gully on Mt. Brown. In the background is one of the raddest ridge enchainments in the Livingston Range, the Stanton-Heavens. Blake Votilla photo.

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Two female Moose on our exit from Right Gully.

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Kyle ascending out of Marion. The Middlefork was the busiest I have ever seen it this season.

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One of the last large Whitebark Pine in the Marion basin.

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Once back in Squamish, I had about six really rough ski days. My first day up the Gondola finally came together, and Ryan and I soloed Copilot in the storm.

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Solo days up the Gondola! This day gave me deja vu from Chile. Solo, light snow on top of a crust, and no one else around.

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Downclimbing down to my skis to get into the couloir! Fun days on the Sea to Sky Gondola.

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Rad day up in the Duffey with Jason Kruk. We climbed Matier and skied the classic north face and several other lines on Joffre.

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Jason cruising down the north face.

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Onset of Coastal Winter

This fall feels different.  I feel comfortable in the place that I am, with the people who surround me, and the mountains that I look up to.  I am inspired, and that is making all the difference.  Here are a few photos and trips from around the south coast.


At the end of October, we took an impromptu trip to the Haberl hut, close to home and challenging terrain.After ten hours of approach, across rivers, through dense forest, wet slab, and even some steep glacier travel, we made it to the hut.  An incredible sunset with close friends closed the evening.IMG_4414[1]

Light below Serratus.IMG_4424[1]

Kyle and Madeline cruising towards Dione early on the second morning.IMG_4481[1]

Don’t fall! Kyle negotiating some tricky bergshrunds.IMG_4497[1]

Lunch spot in the sky.  Couldn’t believe the glacier falling off behind me.IMG_4517[1]

Parker put in some strong work on this climb! Some hard, snowy 5.8 crack was something to watch with the mountains boots.  Here he is stacking before the rap to the col.IMG_4551[1]

After descending the gully system and repeating the bergshrunds, we descended the glacier under the moonlight.  Over the next days we climbed other routes in the range and then hiked out to the canoe.


After the transition to winter and the end of fall, skiing started up and I caught up with friends who had already been out.  After a couple weeks, it was deep enough to head to a favorite zone and put tracks into some couloirs.  The crew didn’t mess around and put down two pizzas each to climb into the zone.IMG_5033[1]


And it was good! No one in the zone and lots of snow.IMG_5052[1]

Cristian putting in work! Never seen someone skin like that on Dukes.IMG_5087[1]IMG_5089[1]

Heading into another couloir on the face of Steep Peak.  Feeling the grip of steep powder with Cristian.  Love it! IMG_5207[1]

Late in the day after a long day.  Last light into the depths of Pemberton, before heading back to the hut.IMG_5222[1]

More storm days.  We keep finding the snow up high.  IMG_5393[1]IMG_5407[1]

After a great fall, I am back in Montana for the holidays and then back to the coast to finish college and get some big days in the mountains!  Big thanks to Voile Manufacturing, Julbo Eyewear, and Hammer Nutrition for the support this season.


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Fall Alpine: Joffre Traverse and Alpha East Ridge

After some health problems relating to a bruised heel, conditions, friends, and school schedule allowed some nice days in the alpine.  This blog post covers a trip with Eric Carter and Paul Greenwood on a traverse of Joffre Peak, south to north, and an ascent of Alpha Mountain’s East ridge.  This was my second time on the summit of Joffre and my third on Alpha.

10/01/2015 8:01am

Eric, Paul and I made an early departure from Squamish and were on the trail to Joffre lake on a decidedly fall day.  Eric did excellent work guiding us through the talus and we passed over the Matier glacier with ropes on.

Matier from the Anniversary Col.

Matier from the Anniversary Col.

From the base of the climbing on the South ridge of Joffre, looking back at Matier's north face.

From the base of the climbing on the South ridge of Joffre, looking back at Matier’s north face.

From the base of the South ridge, Eric and I traded leads back and forth up the three pitches of 5.7 and 5.8, before gaining the easier terrain closer to the summit.

Eric leading into the crux of the South ridge of Joffre.

Eric leading into the crux of the South ridge of Joffre. Climbing through the wide fists crack was the crux of the route.

Near the top, we had excellent views of the extensive snow that had fallen less than a week ago and was still fresh on the north face.

Almost at the Summit of Joffre from the south ridge.  Photo Eric Carter.

Almost at the Summit of Joffre from the south ridge. Photo Eric Carter.

After some rappels and boulder hopping, we returned to the glacier and descended to the car, spending only about twenty minutes with headlamps.  I would recommend this route for its mix of scrambling, climbing, and an aesthetic setting in the Joffre Massif.

10/4/15 7:46 AM

A few days later, with the weather holding, Parker Sorenson and I went to attempt the east ridge of Alpha Mountain.  This mountain has been a special one for both of us, as it is a prominent landmark from our house.  We climbed the route from the river in eleven and a half hours.

Morning light above the glacier before ascending the East ridge.

Morning light above the glacier before ascending the East ridge.

Looking South to Niobe, Pelops, Omega and the lake from high on the East ridge.

Looking South to Niobe, Pelops, Omega and the lake from high on the East ridge.

The crux is very short, perhaps thirty feet of 5.8, directly at the base of the ridge.  Above this, the route is pleasant third and fourth class scrambling with great views down the north face.

Parker on the fourth class above the crux.

Parker on the fourth class above the crux.

Looking to Tantalus (R) and Serratus (L) from the summit.

Looking to Tantalus (R) and Serratus (L) from the summit.

North facing shade.

North facing shade.

On the descent to the lake.

On the descent to the lake.

Days are getting shorter and the fall climbing season is close to its terminus.  Hope to see you in Sea to Sky country!

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Home Ridgelines

August 22, 2015

The morning had an unusual, stark coolness in the air as I began running.  I ran to the highway, hitchhiked to near West Glacier, and made up for the gaps in the hitchhiking with some road running.  More rides had me running from Logan pass, through about an inch of snow in the alpine, adding definition to the alpine features that have defined my childhood.  Rounding the south face of Clements, I pushed hard to the saddle, and began the climb to Mt. Cannon.  On the summit ridgeline, the snow covered north face fell below me, all the way to Mcdonald creek almost 5,500 feet below.  Wind blew snow particles into the air and I was reminded of snow covered ridgelines only days before in South America.


On the summit of Cannon.

On the summit of Cannon.

On the descent of Mt. Cannon, which is pleasantly runnable.

On the descent of Mt. Cannon, which is pleasantly runnable.

I was making a conscious effort to run as much as possible on this day, to increase the efficiency on easier terrain.  The run down Cannon and through the meadows beside Hidden lake went smoothly, and the climb into Sperry Glacier was enjoyable even without a clear understanding of the best route (it was steep).  After a fast descent to Mary Baker Lake, I endured the endless boulder hopping below Sperry Glacier, an unfortunate event from recent low snow winters.  I had debated whether to add in the Little Matterhorn, but as I got closer to Comeau pass, it felt close enough and I stopped to enjoy it.  It was fun to remember the route from last year and enjoy the excellent perspective from this summit.

More boulders.

More boulders.

Sperry boulder hopping.

Sperry boulder hopping.

From the summit of little Matterhorn.

From the summit of little Matterhorn.

After the scramble descent, the legs were still feeling good enough to run almost to Comeau pass, and once I reached the pass I mixed running and walking as my legs allowed all the way down to the road.  I enjoyed this day, feeling the free legs without skis and moving through familiar terrain.

Day stats:
22 miles, 6,500ft gain, 9800 ft lost, 9.5 hours
Logan Pass-Mt. Cannon-Floral Park-Sperry Glacier-Little Matterhorn-Lake Mcdonald

10:30 Logan Pass
11:45 Mt. Cannon Summit
12:45 Hidden Lake
2:30 Mary Baker Lake
4:40 Little Matterhorn Summit
5:35 Comeau
8:00 Lake Mcdonald


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