June 6, 2015 is International Trails Day. In celebration of the 2015 Hike Season, here is one of CEC’s all-time Favourite Hikes into the Bugaboos.
From trip planning resources to CEC Classic Flora and Fauna Factoids, there is something for everyone in this hike adventure.
Tucked among the numerous ranges of the Columbia Mountains in southeast BC, lie a collection of unique granite spires called the Bugaboos. Originally called “Nunataks,” and later changed to “Bugaboo” during the mining era of the late 1800’s, the term used by prospectors for a Dead-end. Today Bugaboo Provincial Park is a 136.5 square km (52.6 square mile) protected area.
For modern day explorers and adventure enthusiasts, the Bugaboos certainly present endless opportunity.
Considered one of the world’s greatest alpine rock climbing centers, there are almost 300 documented routes on the various spires in the area. The collection of spires bear noteworthy names and heights:
- Howser Spire – North Tower (3,412m / 11,194 ft)
- Bugaboo Spire (3,204 m / 10,511 ft)
- Pigeon Spire (3,156 m / 10,354 ft)
- Snowpatch Spire (3,084 m / 10,118 ft)
- Marmolata Spire (3,019 m / 9,904 ft))
- Brenta Spire (2,958m / 9,704 ft)
- Crescent Spire (2,842m / 9,324 ft)
- Crescent Towers (2,830m / 9,284 ft)
- Hound’s Tooth (2,830m / 9,284 ft)
The trail, camping and climbing areas are located in a provincial park so please follow park rules and treat this area with respect.
Good info, trail reports, and additional external links are available at BC Parks Website.
Climbers will appreciate the quality of information available in “The Bugaboos” (2003), written by Chris Atkinson and Marc Piché. There is a 62 page free preview available from High Col Press.
As always, for more information on trails and hikes, weather, and other Know Before You Go Resources, check out CEC Resources Page.
Location: Southeastern BC Bugaboo Provincial Park. Location overview here
Directions: Travel to Brisco, BC located 76 km due south from Golden, BC or 27 km north from Radium Hot Springs, BC. From Brisco, travel west 45 km on a well signed (active) logging haul road into the mountains and the trailhead. Pass across a section of the expansive Columbia Wetlands and Bugaboo Falls, created by the Bugaboo Glacier.
- Parking lot to the Conrad Kain Hut 720 m (2,362 feet).
- Conrad Kain Hut to Boulder Camp 60 m (197 ft) descent
- Conrad Kain Hut to Applebee Dome 250 m (820 feet)
- 0 km 1,510 m (4,954 ft) Bugaboo Parking lot
- 1.6 km 1525 m (5,003 ft) Boulder field
- 3.5 km 1920 m (6,299 ft) Aluminum ladder
- 4.6 km 2,230 m (7,316 ft) Conrad Kain Hut
- 5.1 km 2,170 m (7119 ft) Boulder Campground
- 5.6 km 2,480 m (8136 ft) Applebee Dome Campground
Hiking Time & Difficulty: Allow 3 to 4 hours to do the steep climb (720 m / 2,362 feet) over the 4.6 km to the Conrad Kain Hut. After the first kilometer, the trail climbs steadily and is slow with full packs. Around 3 km the trail winds up through exposed bedrock and includes some exposure on rock ledges with chain hand holds, stone steps and an aluminum ladder so be cautious if conditions are wet or icy. The last kilometer to the hut is back to a steady climb. No climbing gear is required but good footwear and proper clothing is needed to prevent slipping and overheating.
Where to Stay: There are three choices: Stay at the Conrad Kain Hut, descend from the hut to Boulder Campground or climb to the Applebee Dome Campground. The Conrad Kain Hut is maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada and sleeps 35 people. Hut Information and reservation details are available at the Conrad Kain Hut website. The campgrounds are first come – first serve and fees can be paid online or at the hut.
Boulder Campground, appropriately named with wooden tent pads distributed among immense boulders, is located below the hut and provides tree cover, bear proof food bins, and an outhouse equipped with a glorious view of the Hound’s Tooth Spire and Bugaboo Glacier.
The Applebee Dome Campground is located on an open glacial bench and offers unobstructed views of the Central Spire Group (Bugaboo, Snowpatch, Pigeon) and valley below. The site provides food hangers, billboard style route maps, and epic stone outhouses built onto the side of the rock. Tenting is on exposed rock so tent pegs are of little value and various rock wind deflectors and tie downs are used.
CEC Adventure Log: August 22-24, 2014
Our intent for this trip was not to disrespect the world class climbing opportunities but as first timers to this area, this was all about pure exploration and aimless wandering with our two feet solidly on the ground while countless spidery specks climbed the walls above us.
We began with a Tailgate Party at the trailhead in a style as can only be inspired by the Bugaboos’ rocketing ascent of 200 m climb for each kilometre: a mug of espresso to wash down a banana, two fresh Tim Horton’s doughnuts, and a roll of chicken wire.
Critter Warning: The Bugaboo Trailhead Porcupine Gang is lying in wait for your unprotected undercarriage hoses andrubber tires. Wrapping the lower part of your vehicle with chicken wire is a Must Do. Not only is it a long haul to the nearest parts shop, but brake fluid and rubber bits are deadly to porcupines. Bring your own wire or, at less busy times, it may be possible to get some second hand sheets left behind in the trailhead bins. You may also have to contend with gear chewing bushy-tailed woodrats so may want to secure your gear out of easy reach.
When you first begin, it’s a forgiving grade over just enough length to warm up the limbs after the long drive and get your backpack settled in. As you leave the trees behind and the trail steepens you may not even notice the leg burn for the encouraging view ahead of the Hound’s Tooth Spire nestled in the Bugaboo Glacier. In addition to conveniently placed stone steps, chain-link hand rails, and ladders, there are amazing views as the canyon drops below you and the open vistas all around and the blue dot just up there – is the Conrad Kain Hut.
Just below the Hut, the trail begins to level out into expansive alpine meadows. Fresh glacial water flows beneath footbridges and marmot, pika and prairie dogs dodge in and out of the trail side vegetation. Perched talus lakes perfectly reflect the sky and spires in dizzying clarity. All around there are grinding glaciers, busy making new peaks. And the spires rise above and are a welcome view after the climb.
Climbing into the Bugaboos in mid- to late summer provides an opportunity to leave the blistering summer heat of the lower elevations behind. The nights are cool, particularly noticed when camping rather than sleeping in the Hut. The “Glacial Breezes” will demand warmer gear no matter the daytime temperatures.
Fauna and Flora
In August, the high alpine meadows are a kaleidoscope of wildflower colour. Flowers long gone from the lower elevations are in full glory at 2,300 m. The first colours greet you as soon as the trail starts to open up and although the persistent view of the Hound’s tooth is distracting, the bright pink of the familiar fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) and rich yellow of arrow-leaved groundsel (Senecio triangularis) provide fitting accents to enhance the view. Lush beds of pink monkeyflower (Mimulus lewisii) and river beauty (Epilobium latifolium) seem to occur wherever there is flowing water and distract from other interesting species such as Merten’s rush (Juncus mertensianus), leatherleaf saxifrage (Leptarrhena pyrolifolia), and fringed grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia fimbriata). Scarlet paintbrush (Castilleja miniata) and arnica (Arnica sp.) accent the meadows. At higher elevations you may find moss campion (Silene acaulis), alpine speedwell (Veronica wormskjoldii), black alpine sedge (Carex nigricans), alpine willowherb (Epilobium anagallidifolium) or even the pygmy saxifrage (Saxifraga hyperborea). You may have to do some climbing to find purple saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia).
Among the talus, boulder gardens and glaciers lives a vibrant community of some of the more curious critters around. The classic Hoary Marmot is often seen peacefully basking on rocks and surveying the land below. The Pika sits atop the rock gardens and sound sudden, panicky high pitched alarms as they disappear, only to return atop another rock in a few seconds. Yellow Pine Chipmunks are also busy gathering food in the rocks. In areas where there is some mature tree cover, such as the campground below the Hut, Pine Marten can be found, or rather will find you, as they seem to be unable to suppress their curiosity when a small group of people are holding still. Although not seen on this trip, bushy-tailed woodrat (rope eaters), mountain goat and ptarmigan are common in the area.
While You’re There
Whether you’re taking a break from rock climbing or are on your own exploration trip, there is a lot to see and discover among the spires! Here’s just a few examples of what we experienced.
Don’t forget to put a little glacier ice in your Amaretto.
What was your Bugaboo Adventure like?
Who is planning a trip there this year? Share your resources, tips and tricks with the group.