Aaron Jones, Mountain Fellowship Fund recipient in 2003, wrote this great trip report about his climbing trip to the Bugaboos. He completed several impressive climbs, many of them solo. Read his report below.
I left Salt Lake City for Calgary, Alberta on July 28th after working for two weeks at the OR show. I intended to go on this trip solo but was able to convince my best friend, Dave Turner, to come along last minute. This turned out to be crucial given the amount of glacier travel required and the state of the crevasses on the Upper Vowell And Bugaboo glaciers.
The snow conditions were much worse than I expected from what I had heard from climbers familiar with the area. I was under the assumption that the Bugaboo/Snowpatch col, the most easily accessible passage to the majority of climbing in the Bugs, was a simple snow hike barely requiring crampons and easily glissadable, in good conditions. This was a low snowfall year and a hot summer quickly melting most of the snow in the couloir. I only ascended this col once, to free solo the west ridge of Pigeon Spire. It was steep ice and the receeding snow was causing wicked rockfall from above. I epiced climbing this in my tennis shoes with strap-on crampons and using one tool. I swore to never do it again and then nature interfered and caused a huge rock slide that obliterated the right side rappel route, effectively closing it to all but the most oblivious of climbers.
The alternate approach is a long glacier crossing to the Pigeon/Hoswer col. This is where having a partner was crucial. There were numerous crevasses with narrow bridges which necessitated roping up for the hike. This was very good for me as I had very little glacier experience prior to this trip. I learned a lot from Dave about crevasse rescue and glacier travel techniques.
The climbing in the Bugs is spectacular. The rock is the most perfect alpine granite imaginable, white and clean with amazing texture. The peaks are also set up perfectly for long ridge traverses and link ups. While there I summited 7 different peaks. Eastpost spire is a 4th class scramble above Applebee campground, I ran this in only 15 minutes camp to camp. This was my main diversion on rest days other than endless reading. I also did a traverse of whipping post spire along the crescent spires and the north crescent tower. I had intended to add the NE ridge of Bugaboo spire but ice filled chimneys deterred me so I descended back to camp. I later free soloed this route in under 2 hours to the summit. I also free soloed the SE corner of Snowpatch spire several times. These are all fairly easy climbs but of the highest quality imaginable!
I fell short on my main objectives of the trip, the Howser towers. I attempted the Beckey/Chouinard but bailed after free soloing off route into some 5.9 choss. I spent almost an hour up and down climbing the choss before finally reversing my moves and reaching the belay ledge. I roped up and did one more 5.10 pitch before calling it quits and descending back to the east creek basin. It really rattled me at the time but in the end it was a very good experience for me. If you free solo it you better be able to get down without the rope! Later in the trip Dave Turner and I attempted a route on the Minaret, Doubting the Millenium. The Minaret may be one of the most beautiful rock formations I have ever seen. We bailed due to inadequate rack after I spent an hour leap frogging our 3 bird beaks up a super sustained beak seam, lowering down after placing them to clean and re-use them.
All in all this trip was a great learning experience for me. I am much more comfortable on snow and glaciers. I feel more confident moving in the mountains and in my ability to forecast weather patterns. I may not have accomplished the big objectives I set out to do but I am pleased with my performance and the experience I gained. I would like to offer my deepest thanks to the American Alpine Club for helping me go on this trip and their continued support of young aspiring alpinists like myself. Your grant programs really do help to fuel and support the dreams of climbers around the world.