The Grand Bugaboos

When David and I first met, he lived in Boston while I was in Portland. We saw each other pretty frequently even given the distance, using work trips, holidays, and any means we could. I’d frequently spend a long weekend in Boston, typically tacked on to a work trip to the east coast. As much as we could, we’d include a visit to Marblehead to see David’s Grandparents, Jim and Jane. We loved picking up roast beef sandwiches and crab rolls at Kelly’s on the way and going to the Marblehead Lighthouse. Most of all, we loved spending time with Jim and Jane and hearing stories of all their adventures. They were a true inspiration for our trip, as we hoped to create stories half as exciting as theirs. Jim and Jane biked around Europe, road tripped across the United States in a tent camper, and skied into their late 70s. One of our favorite stories of theirs is from the Bugaboos, just southwest of Banff. The provincial park looks small and unimpressive on Google Earth, and likely would never have been on our radar.

The red arrow indicates the Bugaboos.

Jim and Jane summited and named Mt. Kelvin, a trip requiring determination, lots of experience, and guts. While David and I might be determined, we knew we didn’t have the experience or guts to summit Mt. Kelvin, as much as we wish we could. We decided the best we could do was the main backpacking trip in the park up to Applebee Dome Campground. This is the basecamp for climbers as it is surrounded by peaks and some of the best climbs in North America.

September 2, 1953.

After buttressing the Gnar Wagon with chicken wire and sticks (the area has a lot of porcupines that are fond of chewing brake cables), we hiked up to Conrad Kain Hut and then on to Applebee Dome Campground. We lucked out again with great weather, at least on the first day of the trip. We picked a spot on the rocks at Applebee Dome Campground, which was occupied with about 20-30 others. Based on their gear, we estimated 90% of the others there were climbers. We had a great view of the Bugaboo Spire, which Conrad Kain amazingly climbed in 1916. As David and I are both hesitant bouldering in an indoor gym, I could not fathom the guts it would take to climb the peaks around us. Bugaboo Spire looks like a shear face of rock and nothing like we’ve ever seen in other places we’ve backpacked.

While our spot on the rocks provided a beautiful evening view, it also left us exposed to the wind and rain that visited us throughout the night. Luckily our tent kept us dry and a break in the rain the next morning gave us time to retreat down to the Gnar Wagon. We left the Bugaboos awed by its grandeur and even more impressed with Jim and Jane – what ideal role models for living life to the fullest!

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