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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