Day 1 - Waking up at 2:30 AM in Courtenay, Casey, Steph and I prepped our gear and loaded it into Casey’s vehicle which we would be driving down. Laurel showed up shortly after and we were on the road for 3:15AM. We took the first ferry to Vancouver and drove over 11 hours straight arriving at the trailhead for around 9:00PM.
We wrapped the vehicle in chicken wire and took off to Applebee campground. The trail in was well maintained with no bushwhacking, a few ladders, fixed chains and bridges. We got up to the Conrad Kain hut around 1:00AM. Our heavy packs slowed us down a lot. Another 1.5 hours took us to the Applebee dome which was busy with minimal to no camp spots. Not wanting to disturb people we pitched our tents in the snow near the perimeter of the camp area and went to bed. Our group was exhausted after over a full 24-hour day.
Day 2 - Eastpost Spire
After sleeping in we got up and took some time to admire the area around Applebee dome. The sun had set in for what would-be five-day period and we knew right away we were going to have a blast. Looking for a warmup objective, Casey, Laurel and I went to climb the west face of Eastpost spire. We had fun on the route and picked out a few of our own adventures climbing some hard single pitch cracks midway up route. Laurel had a great first lead of the trip and after summiting we felt excited for jumping on some exciting new routes.
We had it back to camp and all hung out, regained our energy and set alarms for 5:30AM the following morning after moving our tents to a better dry location.
Day 3 - Pigeon Spire
Planning this trip, Pigeon Spire was our number one objective. However, while speaking to guides who had been in the park a few days before - we were told the upper sections of the spire were still too snowy to safely summit. To our surprise, a party made the summit the day before and with some beta we decided to give it a go.
We all took off at 6:00AM and started the approach towards the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col, a common area for injuries due to the rockfall risk. The snow conditions in the park made for a great approach with minimal to no rockfall on the way in. Hard snow made for a quick ascent. At the top of the col, the four of us roped on for a glacier crossing to make our way to Pigeon Spire. We made quick time and were at the base of the climb by 10:00AM.
Apart from one pair of crampons and one ice axe we dropped all our gear at the base of the climb. Our group was planning on having whoever led on snowy pitches to use this gear and then belay the followers over with boots. We racked up and started the up the first summit.
Shortly after we began there was a short and exposed fifth class move that required you to scramble up on a mini knife edge. As we began this section, we had some heavy winds pick up which made the move very risky. After Laurel, Casey and I made it up, Steph decided that it would be best to head down. We set an anchor, tossed down some rope and had Steph tie in so we could lower her a full rope length to the base of the climb. The remainder of our group continued on.
The rest of the climb went well, our inexperience on the route had us constantly switching between pitching out sections and scrambling. The exposure and perspective of the climb made route appear very steep however in reality most of the route was very manageable scrambling.
We did hit a sketchy snow section before the final summit and used the crampons and ice axe to complete. After reaching the summit we had some well-deserved snacks and made two rappels back down to the snowed section before scrambling down the route to one final rappel where we left Stephanie.
An amazing route and by far our highlight of the trip.
Day 4 (John & Steph) - Rope Skills, Rest, East Post
After a tiring day three Steph and I began our day a few hours after Casey and Laurel left on a climbing mission. We had decided early in the trip that any climbs requiring multipitch belaying would best and most safety be done in two-person groups. From this point on in the trip we split up tackling more appropriate individual objectives for our party.
Steph and I decided to take our day packs and head up to the summit of East Post spire climbing a variation of the west face route we did earlier on day two of the trip. Upon reaching a very cool featured wall I racked up and started leading what looked like very cool horns and ledges. About 20 feet off the ground was what looked like a great horn to sling, so with this in mind I climbed up to this section looking to use this for my first protection. Upon making it I realized the quality of the rock was not what I thought, and I was not confident a sling would have the ability to hold a lead fall should one happen. Not finding any other confidence inspiring protection, we decided to bail and try another line to the right.
This one went much smoother taking good cams in a right facing corner. Steph followed up quickly after swapping leads to a tricky exposed traverse taking one cam and requiring a reverse mantle to a boulder filled gully which we would follow to the main scrambling route of Eastpost. An exciting first trad lead for Steph! She set up a good belay and belayed me over where we took our time to the final summit pitch enjoying some good views!
Upon getting the summit pitch I tagged a rope up to a set of rap rings and belayed Steph up where we had lunch and then rapped down to the lower scramble section.
On the way back to camp we stopped to climb some very cool boulders above Applebee and checked out the Applebee 5.8 hand crack which was still holding too much snow to properly climb.
Day 4 (Casey & Laurel) by Laurel
Looking through the guidebook there was one route that immediately stuck out to me as a gumby trad climber; “Buckingham: the enjoyable way”. Described as a fun 5.8 with mostly 5.6-5.7 cracks. Upon convincing Casey to give it a go with me, we set off at 7 am to a beautiful bluebird sky. And after being completely roasted the day before it worked out quite nice it being on a west facing wall with no sun for the next 5 hrs. After getting up the bugaboo-snowpatch col the climb was immediately on our left.
We asked a group of three at the top of the col what their plans were and it just so coincided that they had the same plans as us. So, we hustled off to get a good head start. After around 5 pitches of mixed 5.6-5.7 really fun cracks with some rambling between we started getting into the more vertical part of the climb with more amazing easy cracks and large hollow flakes.
The final pitch consisted of a short friction slab with 2 bolts putting us on the summit of the west tower of Snowpatch. A fairly straightforward decent with one caught rope which the party above us was able to free.
Day 5 (Steph & Laurel) by Steph
Laurel and I both had our attention captured by Brenta Spire. It’s a less travelled spire, but we had a neighbour at camp that climbed it the day before us who said it was worth the journey. We started our day around 9:30 am, leaving the Applebee camp and making our way to the Eastpost Spire ridge. We ascended the ridge and went straight down the col on the other side. We made our way into the valley and crossed over to the pond. We turned left at the pond and continued on to the base of Brenta. We did some tricky snow travel up the scramble part of the approach, it was entirely snow packed and a vertical ascent. We traversed avoiding some large moats and got onto the rock.
Laurel began the climb by leading a slightly exposed corner, and I followed up. We had fun doing a range of 3rd & 4th class scrambling, and a few 5th class moves. We roped up for sections that felt tricky and enjoyed the experience of practicing rope skills in a new area. We felt at one point we had gone slightly off route but felt confident we could continue on by doing another trad line up a crack. Laurel did great leading this climb; it was challenging but really fun.
I followed up and we had made it to the last part of the climb. Laurel traversed across a large snow patch on the ridge to gain a better view of the surrounding mountains. The view from the ridge was well worth our efforts.
From our spot we could see the summit but decided it was better to start our descent as we were leaving to the Cain hut that same evening and needed time to get back to camp and pack. We did a total of 6 rappels down the mountain including a snow Ballard rappel for the snowed in scramble section.
We made it back to camp in good time making our total time for our day 9 hours. Overall the climbing on Brenta spire felt mountaineering style and provided a great view of the area.
Day 5 (John & Casey)
For our last climbing Day Casey and I had our sights on a climb called “Ears Between” on the Crescent Towers. This climb we could see directly from camp and the line followed a long chimney between the two prominent crescent towers. The upper pitch was a long easy crack and the lower had a cool direct crack start we were eager to try.
A short 30-minute approach from camp put us at the base of the climb. We quickly geared up and I took off leading a short crack to what looked like a belay or bail station. Casey follow up and swapped leads for a very cool face climb with an incredibly exposed first few moves which I found pretty intimidating. Once up, Casey belayed me up, and after the first couple moves the pitch was very cool and enjoyable!
Swapping leads, Casey and I made our way up to the lower headwall climbing a range of easy scrambling, a tricky steep squeeze around a huge flake, and a super exposed traverse around a corner with what seemed like a thousand-foot drop. We made pretty quick work of the lower pitches apart from a slight route-finding mistake which had us down climbing and re-climbing a different section.
Approaching the upper crack, I was excited to be on the sharp end for what was a long rope stretching pitch. I took over a full double rack with nuts and started up a long vertical chimney climbing easy flakes down low, progressing into a steeper chimney crack with good feet. The protection was awesome and very confidence inspiring! 45 meters up I ran out of rope and ended up belaying Casey forward 15 meters so we could reclaim some additional rope to finish the pitch.
We scrambled to the summit from the top of the climb and found an awesome route down the back side following a couple rap stations and numerous slings/webbing stations to get down to the snow fields below. Making quick work of the climb we made it back to camp well before Laurel and Steph and packed up all our gear in prep for the walk down to the hut.
When everyone arrived back at camp we went down to the hut and enjoyed a nice ramen dinner. Laurel and Casey decided to hike out in the dark reversing the long day in as they could crash in Casey’s vehicle and get some extra sleep before the drive out.
Steph and I stayed in the hut so we didn’t have to pitch and break down a tent in the parking lot in the early hours of the morning.
Day 6 – Out Day!
Steph and I got up at the hut around 3:15AM and left for a 2.5-hour hike out reaching the vehicle at daybreak. It’s funny to think of how we didn’t see much of the hike in or out as both trips were done in the dark!
Arriving at the car wide awake after a two-hour hike, I burst into the driver’s door scaring Casey and Laurel out of a deep sleep. They immediately started tearing down chicken wire surrounding the car and getting ready for the long drive home.
1200KM later we arrived at home tired and ready for a good sleep. Until next year!