The very first people we met in the Bugaboos were two robust older men named Pat and Paul. Pat is 70 years old and Paul is 77. They started the long, grueling approach from the Bugaboo parking lot ahead of us and were resting 100 meters from the campground. Nick and I (Daniel), eager to arrive at the campsite, briefly and politely stopped to chat with the two obviously seasoned mountaineers. Although evidently winded by the steep hike, their beaming grins, deep satisfying breaths, and willing conversation revealed authentic appreciation for the scenery and tranquility of the mountains. Later that evening, they recounted stories of their rich climbing and mountaineering history. We became friends quickly.
After the arduous hike into Applebee campground, Paul told us his knee was giving him problems from old skiing injuries in his youth. Therefore, he and Pat spent the next day resting and preparing for a climb called the Kain Route on Bugaboo Spire. After climbing and dinner that day, Nick and I hunkered down to absorb more stories and tips. We met their friends David and Roger who had returned late from Pigeon Spire.
The following day, Pat and Paul left at 6 AM to start their climb. The first big obstacle on the Kain route is the Bugaboo-Snowpatch col. We left at 11 AM to climb the beautiful West Ridge of Pigeon Spire and surprisingly met them at the top of col an hour later. Obviously, they had taken their time on the steep ascent of the col. Instead of climbing the Kain Route, they decided to head back down. The looming expanse of fourth class scrambling didn't appeal to them the same way it had when looking at the guidebook.
I don't mean to understate their abilities, in fact, Nick and I were impressed with our friends' resilience. They were likely the oldest climbers at the campground by 20 years, and had still ascended a col which frightens people our age.
Climbers in the Bugaboo alpine environment are prone to sustained periods of uncertainty and heightened caution. The approaches are long and steep, and negotiate forever changing mosaics of snow, ice, and rock. Especially in late summer, patterns of snow and ice change daily due to rapid melting. In turn, rocks of all sizes can be heard throughout the valleys shifting and tumbling.
While returning to Applebee after climbing Pigeon spire, we quickly heard news of an accident in the col. At the campground, Pat painfully described how Paul had taken a long tumble down the steep snow and skidded to a halt on the scree and boulders below. Fortunately, Paul was quickly reached by Pat, Will Gadd, and a practicing ER nurse. He was diligently tended to until the rescue helicopter arrived, and brought him to a hospital.
Accidents are a natural part of climbing and of life. However, in the wake of a climbing accident, I usually ask myself why I am climbing. This time, the answer became trivial when remembering how happy Pat and Paul were in the mountains. The inherent dangers and vicissitudes of the alpine environment come hand in hand with its serenity and beauty. Although the accident was a forceful reminder to remain cautious, it did not stifle the joy I experienced in the Bugaboos.
We are Daniel, David, Nick & Erik.
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