A true rugged wilderness experience awaits outdoor thrill seekers who are drawn to scale the awe-inspiring granite spires (many of them 3,000m and more) which have been sculpted by nature over eons of time.
“One of the World’s Great Alpine Rock-climbing Centres” – this is how the 13,646 ha (34 acre) Bugaboo Provincial Park has been described by Chris Atkinson and Marc Piche in their book of the same name; their assessment is accurate to a fault.
The Bugaboos were first brought to the world’s attention when, in 1909, the Alpine Club of Canada hired 25-year-old Austrian mountain guide Conrad Kain to be Canada’s first professional guide. Over the next quarter century, Kain conquered a massive number of first ascents, some of which were in the Bugaboos. He became a role model for guides and mountain climbers to follow into the future.
There is a memorial to Conrad Kain in Wilmer BC, just outside of Invermere and one at a scenic outlook along Hwy. 93/95 near Brisco, BC. It’s well worth paying a visit while you are in the Columbia Valley BC.
Things to know before you go
Hikers and climbers in Bugaboo Provincial Park can make base camp at the Conrad Kain Hut during the season and are urged to do so in order to reduce visitor impact to the fragile timberline area below Snowpatch Spire.
Some considerations when contemplating a climb in the Bugaboos:
Bugaboo Provincial Park is in a remote area
There are no supplies or equipment available other than what you bring with you. All arrangements must be made ahead of time
Only experienced climbers should attempt a climb in Bugaboo Provincial Park. If you are not experienced in crevasse rescue and properly roped, you should not venture onto snowfields and glaciers
During avalanche season the Conrad Kain Hut is closed
Weather conditions can suddenly become perilous in the area. Lightning storms with hail and snow are common in the summer months.
Visitors should wear strong, waterproof, lug-soled boots and carry a day pack with rain-gear, warm clothing and food.
For overnight trips in Bugaboo Provincial Park, bring a sleeping bag, ground pad, waterproof tent or bivouac bag and lightweight stove.
Climbers should check in with the hut keeper and register.
Domestic animals and fires are prohibited in the park
And one last thought. Small animals love to chew on rubber brake lines and tires, so when you park your vehicle at the beginning of your Bugaboo Provincial Park adventure, be sure to wrap a net of chicken wire around it.
Location & more information
Bugaboo Provincial Park is situated in the Purcell Mountains between Golden BC and Radium Hot Springs BC, west of Hwy 95. For more information on visiting the park in winter and early spring, contact the Ministry of Environment office at 250-489-8540.
Perhaps, after all the dire warnings, you are wondering if your dream of climbing the Bugaboos is such a good idea. The reward is the incomparable scenery as you get to the heights that most mortals wouldn’t dare to attempt. It’s a never-to-be-forgotten experience of a lifetime. Don’t miss it!
Cecil and I drove 10 hours from Seattle to spend 2 days there. The first day we got rained off the Kain route on Bugaboo Spire before even starting. The second day we were able to free solo the fun and easy 500M West Ridge of Bugaboo Spire (5.4), considered “the best 5.4 in the world” we were told (and we have to agree). For years I’ve wanted to visit this place and I finally had the chance. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited on earth.
Video music: “What Everybody Wants” from Soderbergh’s Solaris remake soundtrack (Cliff Martinez).