Unplugged and on top of the world

Unplugged and on top of the world

Three days in the Bugaboos

Conrad Kain Bugaboos Teens Climbing Camp, July, 2015.

Pat Morrow, Chair, Conrad Kain Centennial Society

It wasn’t looking too good for this year’s Conrad Kain Bugaboos Teens climbing camp.

On the morning of July 25, a team of ten East Kootenay youths, three ACMG guides, a BC Parks ranger, a mountain author and I set out from the Conrad Kain hut into a light drizzle, hoping for a break in the weather.

We had practiced violent art of self arrest with our ice axes on steep snow slopes the day before, and today we hoped to tackle one of the iconic granite peaks that makes this area so famous in the mountaineering world. However, the malevolent weather gods assured us that we’d have to be content with learning about roped travel on the remnant glacier beneath the east face of Snowpatch Spire, and pray for visibility so we could at least get a glimpse of the peaks we had come to climb.

After some hours, the outing turned out to be a test of the waterproofness of our rain garments, and our patience for coping with hypothermic conditions. We decided to abandon this character-building exercise and head back to the warmth and camaraderie of the hut. It was here that we first heard radio reports of climbers stranded on Howser Spire, the highest in the Bugaboo range.

Photo by Josie Ruoss

A team of two had ignored the weather warnings of the day before, and were now lost in the clouds with an airborne SAR team from Golden trying to locate them. In the very last light of day the clouds parted and the rescue chopper was able to sling them to safety. They were lucky to emerge from their lapse in mountaineering judgment with only superficial bruises to their pride.

Our third and final day dawned clear, but with a forecast of more rain on the way, we got an early start. A couple hours later, with route-finding and roped assistance from veteran guides Jennifer Olson and Tim McAllister we stood atop 2697 meter East Post spire, watching the clouds roil behind Snowpatch and Bugaboo Spires.

Satiated, we lowered off this fantastic vantage point just as the first flakes of snow began to alight on our upturned faces. Another year, another seminal experience shared by a great group of kids – Christine Constable, Matt Swallow, Ben Wiegert, Bryn Muir, Nathan Cuell and Kieran Moore from Invermere, Kennedy Sterzer from Kimberley, Josie Ruoss from Cranbrook, and Maya Streloff and Karlee Hall from Jaffray.

Despite the inclement weather, Josie Ruoss was impressed: “The Bugaboos are something I believe everyone should experience to truly appreciate the beautiful world we live in. I feel refreshed, humbled and inspired to create some more artwork. I am excited for my next adventures in the mountains.”

The CKCS would like to thank the Alpine Club of Canada, BC Hydro, the Columbia Basin Trust, the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, Canadian Mountain Holidays, BC Parks, the membership of the CKCS, Leigh Cormier – teacher of the Outdoor Ed class at Mt Baker high school in Cranbrook, and the many others who contributed their time toward this annual event, including the parents who provided the shuttle service to and from the trail head.