Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bugaboos- Fingerberry Jam

The Beckey-Chouinard had worn us out, but the weather was good so we had to climb.  So we decided to take a Bugaboos "rest day" and do a "short" route with a "small" approach.  The obvious choice was Fingerberry Jam, a seven pitch 12a.  Makes sense...

Fingerberry Jam ascends the clean, white panel of rock on the right side of the Fingerberry Tower.
As we approached the route, we nervously stared up at the first pitch- a very thin 5.11a finger crack.  Although it was more like 11c, it took great gear and climbed brilliantly ending just below a small roof.

A great view of the Beckey-Chouinard.

The second pitch pulls the roof and continues up a perfect finger crack.  About 30 feet up the crack V's.  Head left into a corner and over a roof to the next belay station.  Unfortunately, I headed right, which led me into a hideous flared crack that pinched down to a slopey offset feature.  I had to aid past about 10 feet to reach easier terrain and then tension traverse to the left to reach the already mentioned belay.  If anyone is interested, the pitch I aided would probably be around 13a.

The third pitch is the crux.  An easy hands section leads to opposing 5.11 thin seams which require stemming skills to pass.   More 5.10 Fingers and hands bring you to a hard left traverse into another 5.10 corner that eventually turns into a hollow flake traverse out right to a nice belay ledge.  Poor route finding skills lead me past the hard traverse and straight into a dead end at the top of the original crack.  Damn!

Looking up at the 12a pitch.
Taylor High on P3.
Taylor on P3.  So proud of Ben for taking some pictures!

The fourth pitch is an amazing 5.10 obtuse corner system.  I might say that this was the best pitch on the route.  Certainly the least stressful.

Ben starting up P4.

Ben higher up on P4
From here things kind of deteriorate.  Unbeknownst to us, most people rappel off after P4, doing the best pitches, and forgetting about the summit and the hassles of getting off the formation.  In other words, a nice short day of climbing.

The view from the top of P4.
However, we didn't know this so we pushed on towards the summit and into a part of the route that few people climb. All the sudden, the good rock and easy route finding turns into tiptoeing on choss and wondering where to go.

Pitch 4 is a 30 foot 5.8 corner crack that ends in a notch. Pitch 5 climbs into a 5.9 corner filled with hollow flakes and lichen that pops you out on a ledge.  Pitch 6 is low angle face with more hollow flakes and huge blocks that heads up and left and then right towards the summit. 

Ben on P6.
Cool formation.
Once you are on top, keep heading North to a rappel station that gets you off the Fingerberry Tower, but not on the glacier. 

The Fingerberry Tower rappel.
Ben on the rap onto the snow.
So instead of a short day of climbing, Fingerberry Jam turned into a full day of hard climbing, difficult route finding, and a stressful decent.  Typical Bugaboos stuff.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bugaboos- Beckey-Chouinard

After a rainy and miserable three hour slog to East Creek Basin, we set up camp below The Beckey Chouinard.  This was the ultimate objective for our trip, and the line didn't disappoint.

The BC follows the skyline.
Since an electrical storm rolled in when we arrived, we watched some climbers retreating just below the white headwall.  A reminder of the unpredictable weather in the Bugaboos.

video

After the weather cleared up we spent the evening greeting the other climbers and learned that we had a celebrity in our midst.  More on that later...

No shit!
We woke up at 5:30am and were approaching the route by 7:00am.  We soloed the first 1000 feet of easy slab and roped up at the first 5.8 corner.  From there we simul-climbed all the way to the first 5.10 pitch.  At this point, we ran into another party and the process dramatically slowed.

Me on the first 5.10 pitch.  Notice the guy above me.
Another picture of the first 5.10 pitch.  I am just below the crux.
Ben on the tails of another party.
First view of the headwall.
Looking up at the second 5.10 pitch.
After a few more pitches, we ran into two more parties that graciously let us pass.

A nice view of the lower half of the BC.  Also note the other parties on the ledge.

The route finding was simple, and every pitch threw something different at you.  Most of the climbing was wide, slightly flared, and thuggy, but the occasional finger crack and roof kept things interesting.  Gear placements are abundant, and I never felt runout or scared.  Belays are very obvious, and higher up you simply climb until the end of the rope and set up a station instead of worrying about the "right" belay spot.

A typical pitch at the top of the BC.
Me on the 5.10 traverse at the top of the route.
The ridge traverse was not trivial.  After the initial rappel, we had no idea exactly where it went so we just kept heading up and right.  Some of the spots had 5.6ish moves and I was very glad to be roped up.

Me on the summit of the BC.
The rappel was fully bolted and fairly easy to find.  We had a 60 meter rope and a 6mm tag line which worked great.  Without a tag line, you would probably need a 70 meter rope.

I think we got off route on the second to last rappel...
Final rappel over a schrund to reach the glacier.
One the way back to camp I kept imagining how much different the route was in 1961 when it was put up.  No crowds, no topo, way more involved decent, less advanced equipment.  This route was a true adventure.

Which brings me back to the mystery climbing legend.  It was Fred Beckey!  It was his first trip back to East Creek in 51 years!  He is 89 years old and still climbing.

Me with Fred.
Fred walking to the helicopter pick up site.  I was really nervous watching him walk across the snow.
Anyways, I had to get my picture with him.  Thanks Fred!  You are truly inspiring! 

Alpenglow.

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