Alpine Fever

Pigeon Spire - West Ridge

Bugaboos, B.C.

August 2010

Dave and Jill, Mike and Jodie


The west ridge of Pigeon is shown behind Jill.  The route follows the right-hand skyline, over two false summits, and finally the top.  This photo taken from Bugaboo Spire.

By Tuesday it was obvious that the Canadian Weather Service used dice instead of computer models to make their forecasts.  With blue skies and a full tank of enthusiasm at our disposal our crew set off for the mighty West Ridge of Pigeon Spire.  A great deal had been made of the treacherous Snowpatch-Bugaboo Col which required a few hundred feet of steep snow hiking to reach.  Accidents occur each year as climbers with superb rock gymnastic abilities but little experience on snow - and even less judgment - get into trouble.  The col is the gateway to everything worthwhile in the Bugs, and therefore, receives an inordinate amount of foot traffic.  To curb accident rates (and further convince me that this park is an alpine amusement park) rangers had installed rap stations leading down from the col.

Enough about the col.  Our group was elated to find elephant steps already kicked in the snow which made reaching the col easier than climbing a ladder.  Except for the wretched smell of feces it was a fantastic resting spot that gave us our first good look at Pigeon and the South Howser Towers.  Being the cautious and safe people we are, our group of four roped for the glacier trudge to the base of Pigeon Spire.  From here the real climbing began, ascending the ridge over two false summits before reaching the base of the true summit.  The combination of rock and exposure were of pinch-me-I'm-dreaming quality, yet never difficult. 

I may be the only climber who keeps one eye on the skies, even when they're completely blue.  If I'm in an unfamiliar place, particularly one that generates electrical storms, I look for any excuse to bale.  A mere pitch from the summit graupel began falling from an otherwise benign cloud.  We turned our rope around and scurried back down the ridge.  Caught up in my paranoia Mike and Jodie did the same.  The retreat became tense when two other parties tailgated us back to the base of the climb.  After some food and a rest we headed back across the glacier to descend the col.  Several parties had converged and their clumsy descent did not inspire confidence in my nervous wife.  Against my recommendation Jill decided to wear crampons.  Without going into further detail, we did reach the bottom of the col safely.  However, when I reached my wife her sunglasses were fogged up and she was sobbing.  Jill is a tightly wound ball of feelings and emotions, and the col had produced a cocktail of fear, embarrassment and fatigue.  Unlike most trips there was another female along, so I let Jodie rebuild Jill's self-esteem with some tough sounding girl-talk. 

Fortunately for us it wasn't to be our last trip up the col.  Jill would avenge her performance two days later.

A distorted view of Jill walking under Snowpatch Spire as she approaches the dreaded col.


Jill nears the top of the col, aided by her ice axe and pre-kicked elephant steps.  Eastpost Spire, our climb from the previous day, is visible in the background.


It's difficult to NOT to smile on the west ridge of Pigeon Spire.


Standing on the granite sidewalk Jill thinks she sees the summit.  Wrong!  This is the last of two false summits on the ridge.


The classic Bugaboo photo.


We lounged at the base of the climb almost as long as we spent climbing the route.

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