August, '05


The West Ridge of

Pigeon Spire

With Lisa and Pavel




    There was no denying it, we were having a great trip. Already we had bagged Bugaboo, Snowpatch, and Crescent Spires and next up was purportedly the best 5.4 on Earth.  It was hard to believe that we had come close to changing our plans at the last minute and going to the Wind Rivers based on bad weather forecasts.  The weather had been brilliant since our second day and we speculated often that we were being rewarded for climbing through the questionable weather on day one.

   A familiar trip up the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col and a casual stroll across the Upper Vowell Glacier took us to the base of the West Ridge. By this point in the trip, we all felt confident and we scrambled along together unroped, enjoying the movement and the vistas and the company. As I climbed I marveled at the thick lichen that covered the rock just a few feet to either side of me. It would be nearly impossible to get off route for most of this climb. We passed a guided party who was using ropes and soon were on top of the first mini-summit.

    I must admit that I was surprised at how difficult the climbing looked on the other side of the giant notch. It made me think of Guy Edwards who soloed this route naked, up and down in 19 minutes.  Standing there I realized just how stunning of a feat that was. We had been climbing for 10 minutes already and we were only a third of the way up.

    Long before the summit I already knew that this was indeed the best 5.4 on the planet. I can't capture the evocativeness of those views in words. We could have been in one of the greater ranges from our perspective. With glaciers spilling around the immense spires and a wonderfully low stress climb to the top of our fourth route, we were maxing out on happy.

    We passed one more party who was descending and enjoyed the summit all to ourselves. For a moment there, we were the A-Team. I started planning my move to Chamonix to be a guide.

     We spent time lounging on the summit, talking and taking pictures. I looked around trying to locate the site of the previous summit which fell off in the winter of 1991 but couldn't decide where it had been.  Too soon, we were off.

    We didn't know at the time but this would be the last climb of our trip. The weather finally caught up with us the next day and we didn't get our chance on the Beckey-Chouinard. It was ok though, we had done plenty and we needed a reason to come back.

    Over the next 24 hours we were treated to a more typical Bugaboo experience as thunder and lightning and hail rained down on us enthusiastically. Lisa, who had pitched her tent on top of a rock mound nearly abandoned it in the middle of the night for fear that the wind was going to blow her over a 30 foot cliff! The following afternoon we said our goodbyes to friends we had made in the Applebee campground and hiked out a day early with punishing loads of wet gear. It was a brutal end to a glorious trip.



Pavel approaching the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col. Note the burly alpine start.



Pigeon Spire as seen from across the Upper Vowell Glacier. The West Ridge follows the right skyline.



Lisa crossing the small burgschrund below the West Ridge route.



Getting started on the ridge. Note the lighter "paths" of lichen free rock.



Pavel and me low on the route. The bottom of the B-C (darker) and the Minaret (lighter and steeper) are visible in the background.



Looking across from the first mini-summit encountered on the West Ridge.



Pavel and Lisa descending from the mini-summit. 



The next section of the climb looks steep as you approach it.



This is a shot looking back up at the mini-summit.



Pavel and me on the West Ridge with our route clearly outlined as a sidewalk of lichen free rock.



This shot typifies the climbing on the West Ridge, easy but with some serious consequences should you blow it badly.

Sneaking a look down the imposing north face of Pigeon.


Posing on one of the most photographed spots on the route. The following picture was taken in the same place but looking the other direction.



Lisa feeling frisky on one of the most exposed sections of the climb with South, Middle, and North Houser Towers in the background. 



A shot of Lisa cruising on easy and exposed terrain.



The B-Team!



Pavel with the mini-summit and South Houser Tower in the background.



Lisa celebrating another amazing summit.



Pavel making the final moves to the top.



Not a bad spot to take a break.



Snowpatch Spire from the summit of Pigeon.



My turn.



The first rappel from near the summit.



A party traversing the Upper Vowell Glacier.



Lisa rapping from near the summit.



Pavel sorting ropes after the second rappel.



One step onto that black lichen and you could easily take the big ride.



Lisa and Pavel descending with Bugaboo on the left. In the middle background is Brenta Spire and below that Crescent Spire and the shaded valley of our camp.



Descending the Upper Vowell with Bugaboo Spire visible behind. The Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col is on the right.



A party of European climbers rapping off after climbing Sunshine Crack on Snowpatch Spire.



Back at the top of the Bugaboo-Snowpatch col after climbing Pigeon.

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