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5.10+ R, Trad, Alpine, 1000 ft (303 m), 18 pitches, Grade IV,  Avg: 2.8 from 6 votes
FA: Ed Cooper, Layton Kor 1960
International > N America > Canada > British Columbia > Columbia Mountains > Purcell Mountains > Bugaboos > Pigeon Spire


This route is not direct by any means but it has good quality pitches and some bold scary traversing, especially for the second. My partner and I were able to do the climb in 11 pitches by stretching out a 60m rope. The following pitch descriptions are how we climbed the route.

P1/2: Start near the left side of the East Face and climb a right-angling flake and crack system for one pitch. Then continue up more cracks to the left end of a large ledge (5.7).

P3: Traverse to the right side of the ledge and look for a broken-up crack and ledge system that goes up and left, belay here. (4th class)

P4/5: Climb up the left-angling cracks/ledges and belay below a small roof. Continue up a nice splitter that curves left and belay on a large ledge. This is a variation to the original route but is much better quality (5.9).

P6: Climb up a left-facing dihedral to a ledge, continue up a crack that will probably be wet until you get to a slab, then make some thin moves up and right to an anchor made out of old pins and slings. (The anchor is set in a seeping crack and the slings are in really bad shape, it might be better to belay below the slab before the crack ends). (5.7 or 5.8+ if you climb up to the anchor)

P7: This is where the real fun starts. Traverse right for 100' or so with only about three places for pro along the way till you get to a left-facing dihedral. Down climb to a small ledge and set up a belay. (We stretched this pitch past the dihedral and were force to set up a really bad anchor that was more looks than anything, not recommended). (5.8/9).

P8: Traverse right over the dihedral and climb up on an unprotected face for about 20' till you get to some marginal cam placements and a pin a little higher up. Continue up a crack with good pro to a small ledge with two pins and belay. (The book shows a possible tension traverse here that would get you over the dihedral but when my partner pulled on the anchor point for the traverse it ripped out. It was an old copper head, so I don't think that's an option anymore unless it's replaced). (5.10)

P9: Traverse down and right to a crack at 5.10+, or tension to the crack at A0. Follow the crack up into a left-facing dihedral that gradually gets steeper until you get to a good ledge and belay. This is the technical crux of the route if done free. (5.9 A0 or 5.10+)

P10: There are several options here; we took the crack that splits the middle of the face but there is another crack to the left that would work to. This pitch tops put on a wide ridge either way you go and is covered in lichen.

P11: Follow the ridge up and west with no obvious route, but you should be on the north side of the spire crossing to the south side at a notch in the ridge. Continue traversing west till you get to an exposed ledge that ends at a 800' drop down the south face. Climb up a corner with loose rock above the ledge and your on the summit. (We simul-climbed this ridge and belayed the last corner to the summit).


The East face of Pigeon Spire is obvious from the Bugaboo Glacier. Follow a climbers trail west through loose rock to the Bugaboo Glacier, passing the south side of Snowpatch. Continue up the Glacier slightly to the south of the Pigeon Spire to avoid some large crevasses. Traverse north above the crevasses and drop into a small bergshrund to get to the start of the route.


A standard rack of cams from blue or green Alien up to 3" and a set of nuts should suffice. A 3.5" piece might be useful.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

The traverse pitch
[Hide Photo] The traverse pitch
5.9 variation to get to upper slabs.
[Hide Photo] 5.9 variation to get to upper slabs.
The unforgettable "wet friction traverse"
[Hide Photo] The unforgettable "wet friction traverse"
Start of slab traverse and first piece of pro.
[Hide Photo] Start of slab traverse and first piece of pro.
at the base of the route
[Hide Photo] at the base of the route
GoPro fisheye view of the exposed traverse on the West Ridge
[Hide Photo] GoPro fisheye view of the exposed traverse on the West Ridge
The final moves of pitch 10. From here it is a short scramble on chossy rock to the summit.
[Hide Photo] The final moves of pitch 10. From here it is a short scramble on chossy rock to the summit.
View of Snowpatch Spire from the top of the first pitch.
[Hide Photo] View of Snowpatch Spire from the top of the first pitch.
The strange pin/bolt with a loop of cable that marks the first tension traverse. This section is 5.10 slab if done free.
[Hide Photo] The strange pin/bolt with a loop of cable that marks the first tension traverse. This section is 5.10 slab if done free.
Lower pitches below headwall
[Hide Photo] Lower pitches below headwall
A0 traverse on Cooper-Kor
[Hide Photo] A0 traverse on Cooper-Kor

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

George Bell
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] This route was a Grade V originally, and sounds pretty serious. However we found it to be easier than expected, many of the pitches are not hard and go quickly. We found perfect conditions during a drought, the route was completely dry. We started at first light but made the summit by noon! Jun 15, 2007
Jake Stabile
[Hide Comment] A wonderful route with sections of impeccable granite. As the previous post mentioned there is much moderate climbing which is conducive to rapid progress. An additional consideration is: when attempting this route do so in dry conditions as the upper section can weep snowmelt onto the traverse slab making for certain swing-time. Nov 21, 2007
[Hide Comment] Awesome position but just "ok" climbing (i.e. the route is a big zig-zag, wet in places, etc.) Jul 13, 2010
Hans Bauck
Squamish, BC
[Hide Comment] Fantastic route, and a great option when the Bugaboo-Snowpatch col is out of condition. This year (2014) the Cooper-Kor seemed to be getting climbed a lot.

My partner and I both found the route description in the guidebook to be hard to follow. Here is what we did, and I'm convinced we were 100% on route. If you prefer to be adventurous and figure it out for yourself, don't read on.

P1. Start inside the bergshrund at the left edge of the face, and climb an easy wideish crack to a brilliant right-angling finger crack. This leads to a left angling hand crack and a perfect ledge belay right at 60 metres. Awesome pitch.

P2-5. As described above. Note that the book describes the ledge traverse (~80 metres) as 4th class, but you can walk across it with your hands in your pockets. Definitely climb the excellent hand crack variation for pitches 4-5, which felt a lot easier than 5.9.

P6. Belay below the headwall at the end of the cracks, as described above.

P7. This is the infamous traverse pitch. Make note of a right-facing dihedral near the end of the traverse with some tat for a rap anchor at the top. You will NOT be climbing this dihedral. A second, narrower dihedral is just to the right, and marks the end of this pitch.

Climb up to the headwall/slab and clip the fixed pins. Traverse right, passing a fixed pin to the first dihedral where you can place another piece of gear. This dihedral was very wet and mossy in August 2014. Continue traversing right and then climb down about 3 metres only to a very small ledge (more like a wide foothold) at the base of the second dihedral. Belay here using small cams and nuts. Note that in August 2014 there was a BD#2 about halfway up this dihedral, presumably either stuck or used by a previous party to lower off.

This pitch was quite intimidating to look at, but once I got going it wasn't a big deal.

P8. A short unprotected corner is just right of the belay. Climb this bouldery corner to a good stance and a fixed "bolt/pin" with a loop of cable attached to it. Tension right from the cable to reach good holds, or climb free at 5.10. Follow good face holds past a fixed pin (or 2, I can't remember) to reach a thin hand crack. Belay at the top of the crack at a fixed pin. Great pitch.

P9-10. As described above. Pitch 9 felt hard to me, but was excellent.

P11. Scramble for the most part straight up on loose rock to reach the ridge crest which can be followed easily to the summit (4th class). Aug 27, 2014
[Hide Comment] This route was less than stellar. We climbed it in the afternoon after the Becky-Chounard. We simul climbed to the top of pitch 7. The last few pitches were either scary or wet or both. I would suggest to my friends to skip the route and just climb the West Ridge up and down. Jul 30, 2015
[Hide Comment] AAJ 1961: Ed Cooper: "Pigeon Spire, East Face, Bugaboos. Although a threatening overcast obscured the sun on the cold morning of August 16, I joined Layton Kor, who had been considering this route for several years, and together we climbed rapidly to the lower left corner of the face. The first 1,000 feet is a fantastically smooth slab at a constant angle of 60°, above which the face steepened considerably. We climbed 300 feet in a right diagonal line where we found a large ledge that crosses the face. Following this ledge right to its end, we ascended a left diagonal line for another 400 feet until it was possible to traverse back to the right to the base of a left diagonal roof, which we climbed in two leads, using direct aid, with stirrup belay halfway. Two leads more of freeclimbing placed us at the top of the giant slab on a pedestal from which I managed to pendulum to a crack, and after a delicate lead of -VI, a belay spot was found. The next lead up an inside right corner was also strenuous. Using a piton that sank as I moved on it, I reached a good handhold that led to easier territory. The last problem was a short face leading to the right-hand ridge. We reached the summit 300 feet above as the first flakes of snow hit us. The face had taken 8.5 hours, and some 55 pitons were used to complete this climb, the longest on Pigeon Spire. The rock, in keeping with Bugaboo tradition, was excellent." Apr 27, 2018
Alex SP
Canmore, AB
[Hide Comment] We did this route in late Aug 2020 and there was still some snow melting onto the route, although we scoped it from Bugaboo Spire the day before and saw the slab traverse pitch was dry enough so we went for it. The glacier travel was straightforward and the climbing is fast and enjoyable. Definitely take the optional splitter crack diagonally left across the face after you traverse all the way right on the 3rd class ledge. It's a solid 100m of beautiful crack climbing! We got to the slab traverse and the following 3 pitches took us about 5 hours due to wet rock and a bit of route finding to avoid the wetness. The crux ended up being P9 as the crack was steep dirty and very wet! My buddy was pulling moss out to place gear! In dry conditions this route would be a lot more pleasant, so make sure there's no snow left on the upper slabs that can melt down on the crux pitches. Very adventurous route, have fun! Sep 14, 2020