Bugaboo Provincial Park is located in the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. The park contains isolated 10,000-foot granite spires soaring above ice fields and glaciers with stunning views in all directions. Access to the Bugaboos begins in the small town of Brisco on British Columbia Highway 95. Turn west onto Bugaboo Creek Road and navigate the maze of logging roads for 28.5 miles to the trailhead parking lot. The park provides chicken wire and wood posts to build a fence around the lower half of your vehicle, which prevents the porcupines from chewing the rubber parts off your car!
The approach trail is steep, consisting of 2.8 miles and 2,360 feet elevation gain to the Alpine Club of Canada’s Conrad Kain Hut, and another 0.6 miles and 820 feet elevation gain to the Applebee Campground. In spots, the trail has been carved into steeper rock sections with cables to grasp.
Weather At Pigeon Spire
A hallmark of the Bugaboos is how quickly the weather can change for the worse. A predawn start is required since afternoon storms, some with serious lightning, are the norm. The storms usually come in from the west. In my multiple trips to the Bugaboos, I’ve experienced severe lightning storms, white-out conditions and snowstorms. Always be prepared. Due to the harsh conditions, I elected to bring my old backup camera gear.
The West Ridge route on Pigeon Spire is one of the most classic and spectacular rock climbs in the Bugaboos. The approach to the Pigeon Spire requires experience with glacier travel to traverse the Upper Vowell Glacier and to ascend/descend the steep Snowpatch-Bugaboo Col. Be aware, there have been serious accidents on the col. The climbing route isn’t technically difficult, mostly fourth class scrambling with plenty of exposure. There is one 5.4 technical section near the summit and one other exposed area that may require a rope for extra security.
An alpine start from the hut allowed us to gain the West Ridge as the sun rose and to capture the image before the light became too harsh. When the ridgeline became more pronounced and steeper, I knew immediately this was the Bugaboo climbing image I envisioned. I let the other climbing team in our party proceed along the ridge until they appeared dramatically on the ridgeline. Bright, colorful jackets made them stand out. The soft morning light and the gray granite spire made for an easy, straightforward exposure.
I zoomed in to isolate the most dramatic section of the ridgeline and to ensure the climbers were visible for scale. My main photographic goal was to capture an iconic climbing image, but the location of Pigeon Spire provides awe-inspiring views and numerous photo opportunities, most notably of the Howser Towers.
Best Times To Visit
A trip to the Bugaboos is a serious undertaking, with a limited climbing season from mid-June to September. The best weather is in July. The roads to the trailhead are often closed in the shoulder season. Additionally, the approach trail is usually covered by snow until June.
Plan your photography in the mornings. The midday sun is harsh, and afternoons are either stormy or you’re pressed to return to camp before dark.
Contact: British Columbia Parks, bcparks.ca/explore/parkpgs/bugaboo.