The Bugaboos are the one area close to the West Kootenay that are truly world famous – for its rock climbing and mountaineering. The hiking is also amongst the world’s best – the day hike I describe here is my #2 best day hike in the world (second to the Towers hike in Torres del Paine in Patagonia). 1000m spires rising straight up from giant glacier fields present a unique topography. It is easy to convert this 8-hour day-hike into a 3 or 4 day (or even longer) backpacking trip. It is a perfect loop with an off-trail section with trails at either end. Opportunities abound to scramble or climb.
Geology. The Purcells, at 1.5 billion years, are much older than the Rockies, yet the Bugaboos are relatively young, about 100-138 million years old. They formed as molten intrusions that squeezed between cracks in the older and softer Purcells. They also resisted erosion better than the Purcells.
Pigeon and Bugaboo Spire are over 3000m and the Howser Spires top out at 3398m (11,150’). Huge glaciers remain sitting between bare rock or boulder strewn valleys. Trees disappear above 2000m (6500’).
Fauna. Because of the high elevations, cold winters, and deep snowpack (16’ average at Bugaboo Lodge), large mammals are rare. Grizzly and black bears are common in the Vowell and Malloy Creeks in the summers. Mountain goats are year-around citizens.
History. The origin of the name is debated – a worthless mine or a place of dread? Arthur O Wheeler and Thomas Longstaff surveyed the area starting in 1910 (Conrad Kain was in the crew). Conrad Kain (1883-1934) was an Austrian guide and returned to the Bugaboos in 1916, making many first ascents.
In 1959, Hans Gmoser started guiding there and in 1965 established CMH – Canadian Mountain Holidays – with his first lodge in at the Bugs offering heliskiing an heli-hiking.
The area developed into some of the best alpine mountain climbing in the world. Bugaboo Provincial Park was established in 1969 and was significantly enlarged to almost 14,000 hectares in 1995.
Maps 82K/15 Bugaboo Creek and 10 Howser Creek.
Activities. Alpine rock climbing, mountaineering, helicopter hiking are all common.
The Cobalt Lake Trail and Conrad Kain Hut Trail provide access to the park and are either end of the above loop trail.
Conrad Kain Hut (open June 1 to September 30) was built in 1972 by the Alpine Club of Canada and accommodates 50 people. Propane and stoves are supplied. Boulder Camp is a campsite 100m from the hut. From November 16 to April 30, the hut is closed to all overnight use due to avalanche hazard. During the shoulder season (May 1 to end of June, end of September to November 15), a custodian is not present, all bottom floor windows are covered with shutters & all hut systems (water, propane, hydro, grey water) are winterized and non-functional. While use of the hut is possible during this time of the year, it is not recommended.
Boulder Campground. 100m from the Conrad Kain Hut
Applebee Campground is a 45-minute hike above the hut.
The Bugaboos – One of the World’s Great Alpine Rockclimbing Centres’ is a comprehensive and accurate guidebook to climbing and mountaineering in Bugaboo Park. It is written by Chris Atkinson and Marc Piche and published by Elaho Publishing (ISBN #0-9733035-1-4).