Bugaboo Essentials

With summer fast approaching I’ve started planning for my annual trip into the Bugaboos, an area renown for towering alpine granite spires in the Purcell Mountains of Southeastern BC, which got me to thinking of my last trip.  This past summer I camped at the Applebee Dome campground for a few weeks, a favorite of climbers visiting the area, and met a lot of great people from all over Canada, the US and Europe.  Now many of these people were experiencing the majesty of the place for the first time and most had missed bringing in a key item or two.  Now I’ve taken at least one trip into the Bugaboos every summer for the last 8 years and so have a pretty good idea of what to bring with me.  So, I thought I would put pen to paper (figuratively speaking) and create a brief list of key items to help those first-timers.  Now I’m not talking about the obvious like a tent or rope!  Instead I’ll focus on those little extras that can help make a trip run a bit smoother without breaking the back on the hike in.

Sunset over Eastpost Spire

A Guidebook:  I’m sometimes tempted to lighten my load by carrying in  a bunch of photocopies of the climbs I want to get on instead of the guidebook.  However having the book, in addition to the photocopies, is a great asset.   Mid-summer in the Bugaboo’s can get busy and the weather doesn’t always cooperate.  Having the book means that you always have options for a plan B, C, etc.  Besides, the book can be great reading on any rest or weather days.  I personally believe that the best book for the area is “The Bugaboos” by Chris Atkinson and Mark Piche.  If you don’t get it in advance of the trip you can always grab it more locally in Calgary, Canmore, Cranbrook, etc.

Bug repellent: Just because you’re in the alpine doesn’t mean that you’re completely free of the little blood suckers!  Depending on the wind and temperatures the bugs at the Applebee Dome campground can get quite annoying and it’s nice to have some bug spray.  Back down at the trailhead bug spray becomes a requirement if you want to keep your sanity.

Lip Balm: Hey it’s dry up there.

Large water container:  There is a fresh water tap at camp but it’s nice not to have to walk back and forth to the tap every time you want some more water for cooking, drinking, etc.  A great tool for this is a larger, light weight, water container like the Sea to Summit folding bucket or the MSR Dromedary.

Partway up Bugaboo Spire

Animal Proof Food Container:  There are smart, ambitious and motivated chipmunks and ground squirrels all over the camp.  Any food that you leave out and available, even just to go grab some water, will be eaten or carried away.  There are centralized food storage containers and steel hangers that can be used to stop any animals from getting into your food but it is nice to have something next to where you’re cooking to safely store a bit of food in.  The easiest solution is a Tupperware type container.  Handy to have and doesn’t weigh a lot.

Money:  If you don’t pay for your campsite ahead of time you will be asked to pay once you’re there.  The two main options are by credit card which you can supply to the custodian or good old fashion cash.

Rigid foamy:  It is nice to have something to sit on while hanging around camp.   Unfortunately the newer, and much more comfortable, inflatable sleeping pads are also quite delicate and can be prone to puncturing when placed on a rough granite surface.  The solution to this issue is a good old-fashioned close cell foam mattress. They are relatively inexpensive and can be strapped to the back of your pack for the walk up.  Another option is the Helinox Zero chair, super light weight and comfortable but not inexpensive.

Culvert Beer:  After a great trip into the Bug’s it’s nice to have a beverage of some sort to celebrate with when you get back down to the parking lot.  My personal favorite is to place a couple of beer in a culvert on the way in so they’re nice and cold for the way out.

Lastly, Crampons, Boots & an Ice Axe.    I cannot impress the importance of these items enough.  Many of the spires require climbers to traverse a glacier or at least to pass through the Bugaboo-Snowpatch (B-S) col.  This is a steep snow & ice col gully with loose rock at the top and a large bergschrund about two thirds of the way up.  The B-S col is often the most dangerous part of the day for climbers in the area.  On my last trip into the area I witnessed two incidences in the B-S col, one of which required an emergency helicopter medevac.

Well that wraps up what I would bring, over and above the standard camping and climbing gear.  I hope you found this list worthwhile and enjoy your time in this amazing alpine playground.

Upper pitches on the classic Surfs Up route on Snowpatch Spire.