On the summit of Pigeon Spire in Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia.

I just got back from four wonderful weeks in Canadia, our friendly northern neighbors (although locals pronounce the country’s name a bit differently, something like “kan-uh-duh,” but I stuck with the American pronunciation, just to prove how American I really am). Becca and I were warned about how expensive the beer and cheese were up there, but the granite was good enough to make us overlook this apparent exploitation of the climber’s diet to fund socialized health care, maple syrup production, and one half-decent pro football player a year.

We spent the first half of our time in Squamish, which is, according to the tourism bureau, the “Adventure Capital of Canada.” It certainly offers a whole bunch of fun. The climbing lives up to its reputation, and we didn’t even partake in the most popular of the climbing disciplines: bouldering. Apparently, it’s popular in Canada, too, as by my count there were more crash pads than cams in the parking lot. Alas, we didn’t drive 1700 miles to climb on little rocks, so we meandered past the moss-laden blocks and up to the super-classic one- to twelve-pitch climbs on the Chief and surrounding cliffs. In the two weeks we spent there, we sampled some great cragging and spectacular multi-pitch routes.

Squamish and Howe Sound from the top of the Stawamus Chief.

After doing little more than whetting our palette for Squamish (we’re currently scheming about how to spend most of next summer up there), we drove to the other side of British Columbia to hike into the Bugaboos, “One of the World’s Great Alpine Rockclimbing Centres [sic],” as the guidebook’s cover proclaims.

I found that, by and large, Canadians are a whole lot like us, culturally speaking, so I’m still kind of surprised at how different their grammar and spelling conventions are. Rockclimbing – as one word? Really? And I know that I’m taking on the whole Commonwealth here, but the whole er vs. re and or vs. our is just plain stubborn. No one, in the whole world, says flavour as if it rhymes with hour, so they shouldn’t be spelled the same way. It’d be like measuring things in esoteric fractions of fourths and twelfths and sixteenths while the rest of the world used convenient decimal units of ten. Oh, wait.

For whatever it’s worth, you still order a beer, as sharply taxed as it may be, by the pint in Canadia. US 1; Canadia 0, although with the current exchange rate, it’s technically US .97; Canadia 0.

Back to our climbing adventure, we had a blast in the Bugaboos, too. I had been there once before, and it was a pleasure to get to experience it again with Becca. The Bugs are special in that they are a pretty remote, backcountry climbing area that is, at least in my experience, uniquely accessible. The rock is quite solid for alpine granite; some walls are among the best granite out there. The approaches are generally short if you stay at Applebee Campground, and the routes are generally well developed. There are several folks, both individuals opening routes for themselves and people working for the provincial park, who put a lot of effort into making the Bugaboos a relatively user-friendly place to climb. Many features have well-established trails and descents, often involving bomber double-bolt rap stations. The campground is nicely set up with food boxes, bag hangs, and pit toilets (which are emptied by helicopter, which seems unfair to me that my excrement has flown in a helicopter while I haven’t). Despite all these comforts, the Bugs still have a learning curve, what with fickle alpine weather, glacier travel (which we semi-arid Coloradans had no idea what do with), and the general abuses of the backcountry environment.

I just can’t bring myself to write a long list of the cool, rad climbs we sent (or didn’t send, on several occasions), and that wouldn’t be an adequate account of our adventures anyways. There’s a lot more going on than just hard rock climbing when one travels, especially to places like the Bugs. Instead, I’ve selected a few, no, a lot of photos to give a bit of a glimpse into our experiences for the last few weeks. Here we go . . .

It was raining the day we arrived in Squamish. On the next day, we were psyched to climb, even though it was still cloudy and damp. Somehow, we convinced ourselves to just head up the Grand Wall and see what happened. This is what we saw from the base of the wall. Despite some damp conditions and wet runout slabs, we managed to climb the route in good style, topping out in sunshine in early afternoon.

The Split Pillar and the Sword pitches of the Grand Wall. To avoid a few aid moves on a bolt ladder to get to the Split Pillar, we climbed a variation called “The Left Side.” The splitter crack is visible just left of the white dihedral of the Split Pillar.

The second big route we did in Squamish was Freeway, which conveniently opened from the falcon closure days before we arrived. This shot shows Becca following an extremely tenuous 5.11+ stem and lieback.

The second best thing to climbing the granite of Squamish is climbing the trees of Squamish to get to the granite. Here, Becca sends the 5.8 tree move.

5th-Class Forest.

The last notable thing we climbed in Squamish was a link-up of a route called New Life into The Calling. The sum was seven magnificent pitches of 5.10-5.11+ cracks, the best of which is shown here: The Calling’s second pitch. Granite cracks don’t get any more geometric than this.

And then off to the Bugaboos . . . .

This photo was the last one taken of me smiling for the next 6 hours as I carried that ugly beast up to the campground.

Applebee Campground.

For our first route in the Bugs, we decided to jump right onto the classic Sunshine Cracks. In this shot, Becca is cruising the beautiful yet burly 5.10 fist crack (well, fists for me, not for her) on the last pitch of the climb.

This isn’t a glacier, but it is snow that we had to cross to get onto the Paddle Flake route. As a dedicated rock climber, I try to minimize these kinds of shenanigans.

The Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col, with no less than seventeen people in it. The bergschrund, essential and giant crack in the snow over rocks, is visible in the upper third of the col. This is the reason we didn’t leave the main cirque very often. It’s scary in there.

We got pretty lucky with weather, but no Bugs trip would be complete without at least one day when you wake up to this.

This is me trying to onsight the second and crux pitch of Sendero Norte. While I’m proud of the effort, I didn’t even come close to getting through the the five meters of technical tips locks. Fortunately, those five meters are easily aided at C1. This photo is also proof that my wife needs to learn to angle the camera to make the wall look steeper. Really, this pitch is steep and splitter.

Here is Becca following the crux of Sendero Norte. Even with having to clean so much gear I place on aid, Becca managed to follow the pitch with only a few hangs – a solid effort.

Another shot of Becca finishing the crux tips crack on Sendero Norte.

Higher on Sendero Norte, just before we decided we were tired and started rapping. The route continues nine more pitches of 5.10 and 5.11 directly to the summit of Snowpatch. Despite its enormity, the route is very low commitment as every belay is equipped with a double-bolt rappel station, making for easy descent.

Approaching the last route of our trip, the Power of Lard. This one was certainly our biggest accomplishment of our time in the Bugs. We completed a near team-free ascent of this long and difficult route. Unfortunately, Becca has to aid one reach move. Otherwise, we had a fun, challenging day when we were fortunate enough to have it all come together.

Here is Becca following the “Endless Struggle,” the last and crux pitch of the Power of Lard. The pitch follow a single splitter crack, going from hand jams down to tips, up the overhanging golden wall nearly 200m off the ground. It is certainly one of the more remarkable lines I’ve done.

Pulling the rope off of the last pitch of the Power of Lard. That’s how overhanging it is.

The East Face of Snowpatch Spire, with general lines for Sendero Norte and Power of Lard. These two routes, a short hike from Applebee Campground, are surely among the best alpine rock climbs in the world. They are difficult and aesthetic. Also on this face are Labyrinth (5.12-) and Sweet Sylvia (5.12), which each take lines in between Sendero and Power of Lard and are rumored to be of equal quality. The East Face is 600+ meters tall, excellent compact and clean granite, and numerous stunning lines to be climbed with new ones being established each season.

Really, our time up north was quite a journey, mostly fun, but with enough adversity to make it feel not quite like a vacation all the time. I’ve posted even more photos on the Roconista Facebook page; check those out, too.