Bugaboos Rock Climbing

Bugaboo Spires / Purcells / B.C. / Canada

North America’s Alpine Rock Climbing Classics
Custom Trips – ACMG Certified Guides

Bugaboos Rock Climbing Highlights

  • Best alpine rock climbing in Canada
  • Pigeon West Ridge – best 5.5 in North America
  • Lots of long, moderate classic climbs
  • Easy access by car and foot
  • Kain Hut: European-style hut lodging

The Bugaboos – for many the grail of alpine rock climbing in North America – home of three routes within walking distance from each other that made it into the famous “50 classic climbs of North America” book! Only Yosemite Valley could claim such a high density of quality granite climbing.

The current guide book recommends almost 100 climbs from 2 to 22 pitches among two hand full of spires – no surprise that the Bugaboos easily appear as a mountain playground. However, often underestimated is the seriousness of the Bugaboos: Virtually all approaches and descents involve glacier travel, sometimes steep ice or snow, route finding can be tricky and fixed protection is sparse.

Another reason for the popularity of Bugaboo Provincial Park is the ease of access and the infrastructure: 3 hrs drive from Banff, 3 hrs approach walk and the Conrad Kain Hut offers a simple but convenient base from which most climbs can be reached within one to two hours – an almost European experience.

Bugaboos Trip Pricing – Choose your Trip Package
Guide Fees for Standard Climbing Days

1 client per guide: CD$ 600 / day
2 clients per guide CD$ 660 / day (CD$ 330 / person)
3 clients per guide: CD$ 700 / day (CD$ 350 / person)

All prices plus 5% GST

Guide Expenses

Driving cost: If the guide provides transport in his vehicle (rather than catching a ride with you) we charge CD$0.55 / km. = from Canmore = 240 km one way = CD$ 264 both ways. There is a very reliable shuttle service from Calgary Airport to Canmore (takes about 1.5 hrs) at CD$ 55 which we can also include in your trip package.


We can provide home cooked, dehydrated and portioned meals: dinners, lunch & breakfast supplies = CD$ 40 / head / day. Alternatively, you should bring the food yourselves and plan in the guide for the dinners. If so, we ask for a food allowance of $20 / day for the guide to bring his own breakfast and lunch supplies.
Hut Lodging at the Konrad Kain Hut / Alpine Club of Canada:
Your guide sleeps for free, clients pay CD$ 25 each / night. The hut DOES book out in high season and we would recommend to reserve as soon as possible. Applebee and boulder camp ground fee is $10 / person and the guide is not free.

Mountaineering rental gear

We gladly rent you light-weight crampons for the duration of your trip. We can also rent you helmet, harness, ice axe etc. The guide will bring all the technical climbing gear like cams, rope etc.
All prices plus 5% GST.


Bugaboos, Itinerary Examples, Classic Routes

Glacier Travel / Scrambling / Family Itineraries, 7 – 10hrs

4 days, up to 5 participants / guide
Day 1: Drive from Canmore / Banff and approach hike to Kain Hut or Applebee.
Day 2: Glacier tour in the “Glacier Peaks” with several peak ascents as options. Awe-inspiring close-ups of the big spires!
Day 3: East Post NE ridge scramble or top roping close to the hut or Applebee
Day 4: Hike out via Cobalt Lake and Blackforest ridge – some glacier travel and scrambling involved. One of Canada’s most scenic hikes! Drive back.

Moderate Technical Rock Climbs (up to 5.6), 10 – 14 hrs days

4 days, max of 2 participants / guide
Day 1: Drive from Canmore / Banff and approach hike to Kain Hut or Applebee.
Day 2: Pigeon West Ridge (5.5)
Day 3: Bugaboo Spire, Kain Route (5.6)
Day 4: Crescent Spire, Lion’s Way (5.6) – return to trail head and drive back

Difficult Technical Rock Climbs (up to 5.8), 10 – 16 hrs days

4 days, max of 2 participants / guide:
Day 1: Drive from Canmore / Banff and approach hike to Kain Hut or Applebee.
Day 2: Snowpatch Spire, Buckingham (5.8) or Snowpatch Route (5.8, 17 pitches!)
Day 3: Bugaboo Spire, NE Ridge (5.8)
Day 4: Crescent Spite. Ears Between (5.7) – return to trail head and drive back

Very Difficult Technical Rock Climbs (to 5.10), 10 – 18 hrs days
5 days, max 1 participant / guide:
Day 1: Drive from Canmore / Banff and approach hike to Kain Hut or Applebee.
Day 2: Bugaboo Spire, NE Ridge (5.8)
Day 3: Approach hike to East Creek bivi at base, optional climb on Snowpatch Spire or Pigeon Spire depending on weather and fatigue.
Day 4: Beckey / Chouinard (5.10, 22 pitches), descent back to bivi site.
Day 5: Walk-out and drive back

Detail and Logistics

How to get to the Bugaboos

Best way is by car. From the East: 336 km from Calgary AB, 207 km from Banff AB. From the West: 843 km from Vancouver, 124 km from Golden BC. From the South: 326 miles from Spokane WA.
Important is that the last 46 km from Brisco to the trail head are not paved and pothole-ridden. Especially early season, the road can be still be covered with residual avalanche debris and / or very muddy. Commonly a two wheel drive is sufficient with careful driving, however the clearance of a four wheel drive vehicle comes in handy, if you have one. Also, beware of fast moving work and logging trucks coming your way! The road is usually drivable from mid-June to the end of October.

Once at the parking lot, it is recommended to use some of the posts and chicken wire stored there to built a fence around your car in order to prevent omni-present porcupines from chewing cables and even tires!

Lodging / Camping in the Bugaboos

The Bugaboos are a BC Provincial Park and there are rules for staying overnight in the Park.
Kain Hut: (2230m) Reachable from the trail head in 2 – 3 hrs (4.6 km and 720m vertical gain), depending on your pack weight! During summer, there is a custodian and frequently a BC Park Warden based there. The hut holds 36 people, offers electrical power and gas as well as all necessary kitchen equipment, outhouses and mattresses. For reservations please call the Alpine Club of Canada in Canmore at (403) 678 3200. Fees are $22 / person/ night – your ACMG-certified guide goes free, courtesy of the ACC.

The hut does book out frequently in high season, especially on weekends! Also, please note that the hut is closed from November 16 to April 30 due to avalanche hazard and it has been hit previously at least three times.

Camping is restricted to the Boulder Camp site (2170m, 8 sites, 5 minutes down from the Kain Hut) or more popular, the Applebee Camp (2480m, 250 vertical meters and 1 km up from the Kain Hut, 20 sites). Please pay your fees to the Kain Hut custodian or self register in the hut in the absence of a custodian. Fees are about $ 5 /person/night.

Bivouacking in the Bugaboo / Snowpatch Col and the Pigeon / Howser Col or anywhere close to the Pigeon West Ridge is not permitted. If you wish to bivi close to the Becky / Chouinard on South Howser, you have to descend into East Creek, which is outside the Park. If you have to bivi on routes, please minimize your impact!

Meeting Point

Depending on our client’s preference, we can either meet you a) at the trail head of Bugaboo Provincial Park or b) in the towns of Golden or Radium in the morning of the hut approach or c) in Banff or Canmore. The latter option is advantageous, as we can do a pre-trip briefing with equipment check and if need be, replenish food and equipment in the many shops in town. Also, in most cases it makes sense (and saves cost) to car pool with your guide.

Recommended Season, Weather and Temperatures in the Bugaboos

Climbing season in the Bugaboos is late June until the end of September, however, like anywhere in the mountains of the Interior Ranges of Western Canada it can snow to valley bottom any month of the summer too.
Depending on snow coverage from the winter one can generalize: The earlier in the season (July) the easier are the approaches and glacier travel however you might still encounter residual snow on climbs and descents. Later in the season (August), the rock routes tend to be entirely dry however some of the approaches become more icy, cumbersome and exposed to rock fall, namely the often used route through the Bugaboo / Snowpatch Col and the access to the Pigeon West Ridge. Come September, fresh snow can become an issue for both glacier approaches and climbs.

Bugaboo-specific Equipment Needs
The key-word is: Go light! With the glacial approaches, you often have to carry mountaineering equipment through technical rock routes, namely for trips like the NE ridge of the Bugaboo spire.

Essential pieces of equipment are:
Light mountaineering boots, light-weight crampons – best aluminum (for rent to our clients or included in our trip packages), light weight ice axe or combi tool, comfortable rock shoes and a GOOD head lamp.
Heli-Hiking with Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH) in the Bugaboos
If you are looking for a very special vacation you should look into a heli-hiking trip with CMH. The CMH Bugaboos Lodge is only 15 minutes from the Bugaboos trail head located in a world class setting, excellent food, great rooms, a roof top spa and hot tub and daily sorties into the surrounding ranges of the Bugaboos with groups of all levels.
CMH also offers peak ascents with helicopter support, however CMH helicopters may not land in the Bugaboos Provincial Park during summer. Hence, mainly the high peaks at the Park’s periphery lend themselves for a climb with helicopter support – such as the south side of the Howser Towers and especially the West Ridge of Pigeon Spire. Please feel free to inquire directly with us or CMH about your “heli-mountaineering options.


FAQ and a bit of Personal Opinion for Climbing in the Bugaboos

Where do we bast base ourselves in the Bugaboos? Kain Hut or Applebee Campground?
We encourage to stay at the Kain Hut. It does add a bit of walking (20 – 30 min) for most approaches but it greatly reduces the amount of weight you have to carry initially as you can afford bringing a lighter sleeping bag, no pots, no fuel, no dishes, no mattress, no tent. Staying at the hut seems to provide to give people a better rest as live is easier with running water, light and a fully quipped kitchen at hand.

Are the Bugaboos the best place for rock climbing in the Canadian Rockies? Am I getting the best bang for my buck?
The Bugaboos are one of the most stunning alpine climbing areas in North America. However, most climbs require pretty long approaches, mostly on glaciers, For Pigeon West Ridge for example you usually spend about 6 hours walking and 5 hours climbing. The Kain Route on Bugaboo spire has 5 good pitches of climbing, the rest is scrambling and boot kicking in 40 degree snow and ice on the way to Bugaboo Snowpatch Col. If you want to maximize the time spend on rock relative to your approach time, there are much better places for alpine climbing in Western Canada than the Bugaboos.

What is the best area for a “warm-up” Climbs?
We recommend doing a warm up day in Canmore or Banff, climb a lime stone climb with a short approach of 4 – 13 pitches and get ready for the Bugaboos, including an early start the next morning. Commonly we can offer slightly lower day rates as most of our guides are based in Canmore or Banff.

Gear List

1. Technical Equipment

• Approach shoe, a sturdy trekking boot for alpine approaches
• Running shoe or light approach shoe for easier approaches
• Rock climbing shoes*
• Climbing backpack (30-35 liters) with rain cover if possible. Some have built-in rain covers (Deuter backpacks). Rain covers can also be bought separately. Otherwise bring a big plastic (garbage) bag as an inside liner for your backpack.
• Climbing helmet**
• Collapsible ski poles* (recommended on some approaches, better for knees)
• 1 harness with gear slings**
• 6 quickdraws** (2 carabiners with a short sling of webbing)
• Minimum of 4 regular carabiners**
• 2-3 locking carabiners**
• 1 HMS (large locking) carabiner**
• 4 long slings of webbing (single shoulder)**
• 2 long slings of webbing (double shoulder) or one cordelette (8mm)**
• 1 figure 8 or other belaying/repelling device**
• 2 prusiks: (3,5 meter long rope slings, both 5-6mm wide)**
• Single rope (10-11mm wide, 50-60m long) or double rope (8-9mm wide, 50-60m long) per climbing team**
• 1 set of wired nuts (stoppers) per climbing team**
• 1 set of cams (friends/camelots) per climbing team**

All items marked ‘*’ can be rented from a rental shop locally.
All items marked ‘**’ can be provided by OnTop. Let us know ahead of time if you need any of these items. Please bring your own equipment if you have it.

2. Clothing

We suggest using the ‘layer system’: Light technical clothing that doesn’t take much space in your backpack and dries quickly if sweaty or wet. Layers can be put on and taken off fast if weather conditions change during the day.
• Wind and waterproof shell jacket with hood (Gore Tex or similar)
• Wind and waterproof over pants with side zippers (Gore Tex or similar)
• Mountaineering pants
• Fleece or heavy jacket
• Medium weight fleece sweater
• Long underwear or running tights (e.g. Capilene or polypro)
• Undershirt – preferably long sleeves (e.g. Capilene or polypro)
• Warm socks for trekking/mountaineering boots (wool/synthetic outers)
• Lighter socks for rock climbing shoes
• Warm hat, covering your ears
• Lightweight gloves (fleece)
• Sun hat, with a wide brim if possible
• Bandana (optional)

3. Hut lodging (if included in the program)

• Spare underwear, socks
• Down vest or light insulated jacket (optional)
• Light cotton sheet or youth hostel sleeping bag for the huts for sanitary reasons, wool covers are provided by the huts (optional)
• Light hut slippers (optional). Usually huts provide slippers, especially in France and Switzerland
• Light stuff sacs or zip lock bags to keep your backpack organized (optional)
• Toiletries and small towel
• Alpine Club card (if you are a member)
• Ear plugs (optional but very useful)

Client / Guides

Above pricing is guide fee only with two guests per guide. Please see under “trip packages” for pricing detail.

Group size depends on climb.

Beckey/Chouin. 1/1
Bugaboo Spire 2/1
Pigeon 2/1
Snowpatch 2/1

Glacier travel/scrambles:
Up to 6/1

Bugaboos Rock Climbing
  • All levels!
  • Technical rock climbing in large scale glaciated terrain
2019 DATES
Bugaboos Rock Climbing

Custom Trips and Private Guiding
June – September

Bugaboos Rock Climbing

CA $330 + 5% GST

Above pricing is guide fee only with two guests per guide. Please see under the “Pricing” tab for more detail on guide rates and other expenses.

On request, we can quote you in your preferred currency