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Routes in Bugaboo Spire

Cooper-Gran (East Face) T 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b A0
Divine Intervention T 5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
Kain Route (South Ridge) T 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
Midnight Route T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a A2
North East Ridge T 5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c
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Type: Trad, Alpine, 1500 ft, 10 pitches, Grade IV
FA: Craft/Isles - Sykes/Turner August 1958
Page Views: 56,554 total · 388/month
Shared By: Chris Owen on Nov 21, 2006
Admins: Kate Lynn

You & This Route

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A classic moderate alpine rock route of the highest caliber. Excellent rock on one of North America's great peaks.

The route begins at the Crescent/Bugaboo Col, to reach this cross the Crescent Glacier, then climb Class 4 rock (pretty scary in the dark) to the Col. Make an alpine start.

The route starts on the left of a small pinnacle, and for the first three pitches keeps left of the crest of the ridge proper (5.7 maximum). The rest of the route follows the crest, up fun cracks, and then chimneys (5.7 maximum) to a final puzzling bit up over a block to the North Summit, so around to the right (SW), and then up to the top.

Descent (avoiding the South Summit):
Take exposed ledges on the NE side and head for a vee notch left of the South Summit. There's a rappel anchor here which will take you, with some scambling down to the Kain Route - descend the Kain Route, rappeling when necessary until easier ground and scambling leads to the Bugaboo/Snowpatch Col. Descend this with caution.


Standard alpine rack. An ice-axe and perhaps crampons are also required. Double ropes might be handy for the descent.


Tyson Arp  
I've got several photos and a trip report here. Feb 22, 2007
Meredith DB
Boulder, CO
Meredith DB   Boulder, CO
Great route.

People will tell you to do the Kain route before the NE ridge, so you are familiar with the descent. The party we met who ignored this advice and wound up spending 2 nights on the spire can confirm that this is good advice. Dec 7, 2007
Santa Fe NM
pierceadams   Santa Fe NM
this was the first REAL BIG route that I did, though I didn't lead any of the pitches. We got pinned down on the rappels by lightning, which actually buzzed us three times. Was pretty darn scary, but the climb location was astounding. May 5, 2008
More photos and a TR at

Brad Jan 19, 2009
Goodhue   Colorado
Meh, we had no problem "on-sighting" the descent. Was my first BIG alpine route over 1,000' too. Just stay skier's right as much as possible when coming down the Kain, and constantly be checking your partner's ideas for where to go ("hm, maybe we should go this way instead").

Otherwise, awesome route. This little New England climber in the big Bugaboos had his mind blown. The setting and exposure were incredible. Aug 12, 2009
Ken Trout
Golden, CO
Ken Trout   Golden, CO
November 2010 update: Due to extreme melting, The Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col rappel anchors were removed late summer of 2009. Last summer (2010) new rappel bolts were put in and using the col was much improved.

The photo shows my crude map of alternative routes used to get around the bugs. I'll post a better map for this route this winter.

Feb 25, 2010
I disagree completely re: adding anchor stations and cleaning the NE Ridge. I climbed the NE Ridge after the rockfall in the col this summer. Descending the Kain route was no major problem, and we went down the Snowpatch rappels. It added to the "adventure" of the whole day, if anything.

Don't turn the NE Ridge into another cragging route. It doesn't need fixed anchors, and it should never really be necessary to use it as a descent, as far as I'm concerned.

Edited: Since Ken edited his post, mine makes a bit less sense now. The way around Snowpatch (Snowpatch rappels) does suck for people camped at Applebee. It's demoralizing to climb back up to your campsite after a long day. We did it, and if you were really blasted after doing the NE Ridge, it would really take a toll. It's not ideal, but we wanted to avoid that col. A couple of groups did come down the col (one of them in the middle of the night, no less), but it looked pretty sketchball to us. Feb 25, 2010
harihari   VANCOUVER

After Summit scrambling across the col from the North Summit to the South, you have the option of either

a) doing an epic reach and 5.10 move up (and to climber's left) for about 6m to gain the summit.

b) Rapping down about 15-20m, then traversing to climber's left, and up (a short pitch of 5.6 or so), to find another rap station just off the South Summit. You then have to rap off the South Summit.

You can save yourself one pitch and one rap if you do (b), and from the bottom of the rap, lead out and traverse slightly down to climber's left in an easy, 20m 5.5 pitch. This takes you to the chains from which it is one rap to the Gendarme. Aug 9, 2010
harihari   VANCOUVER
The Kan Route, IMHO, is a piece of junk, unless you cannot lead 5.7. It is long, wandery, with tons and tons of crappy snow and scree walking, and only a few pitches of decent exposure.

If you have the Elaho guide (Piche/Atkinson) the descent should be no problem, esp. when following the fifteen other parties sure to be on the route with you ;-)

I would honestly say, do not waste your time doing the Kain as rekky. Save your energy for something way more the Snowpatch Route! Aug 9, 2010
Robert Hall
North Conway, NH
  5.8 PG13
Robert Hall   North Conway, NH  
  5.8 PG13
I agree with "harihari" no need to recon the Kain route. About the only thing you need to know is the rap from the Gendarme goes down the unlikely-looking East Face side, to a hidden ledge...but all the guidebooks point that out now. (They didn't in 1969 when we did the (North)East ridge as our first route in the Bugaboos.)

Unknowingly, we rapped down the face of the Gendarme with our single 60m 9mm rope. I suspect the 2" Aluminum bong (piton) is probably still in the crack in the nitch I found very near the end of the rope!...because no one goes there either on the "up" or the "down" these days! Feb 29, 2016
Andy Munas
Phoenixville, PA
Andy Munas   Phoenixville, PA
After two years of climbing experience, this route blew up my perspective of what I can achieve. What an amazing day! If you are even just kind of entertaining the idea, don't hesitate - get to the Bugaboos.

The "solo/simul" climbing to the col seems to be hit or miss for some parties. My partner and I simul-climbed to the col in what would have been 3 or 4 pitches. Very easy climbing but happy to have the gear in. The route itself is well described and hard to miss. I think we traversed the "wrong" way around one of the ridges between the North and South Summit, but no real issues encountered. And we weren't interested in bagging the South Summit, which turned out to be a problem for us. We rappelled at the "V-Notch" just below the South Summit and instead of hoping up to climbers left, halfway down the rap, we kept looking for a station that didn't come. The correct way to do it, if you use the "V-Notch" rappel, is to go down halfway and then exit up and left to 3rd/4th class terrain to gain the Summit and the official start of the rappels. No major worries though, one extra pitch of climbing off of the East face and we were back on track. Agree with everyone else that the Kain Route is not necessary to get the descent beta and it might not have even helped us with our mix up.

A write-up I did here:…

And my brother-in-law won Nat Geo's 2015 photo competition with a shot of me gaining the col:
adventure.nationalgeographi… Apr 8, 2016
Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
Great photo Andy. Apr 8, 2016
Does anyone know how long the rappel is down the V notch by the South Summit. I've seen some photographs that shows the climbers ending the rap on a very small precarious ledge so I was concerned. Jul 19, 2016
Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
There were four of us - so we used 2x 60m ropes to rappel down from the v-notch. I think this put us very close to the Kain Route. Jul 19, 2016
You can bail from as high as the third pitch on the north east ridge. The Belay anchor at the end of the third pitch is several slung pitons. A double rope rap will bring you to the first belay which is also several slung pitons and then another double rope rappel to the ground. You can also do three repels with a 60 m rope which will get you to the ground. The intermediate repel is a Slung horn. Jul 26, 2016
Robert Hall
North Conway, NH
  5.8 PG13
Robert Hall   North Conway, NH  
  5.8 PG13
If you look at the photo of the north face of Bugaboo that is posted on the page for the Vowel Group ("AREA") you'll notice a snow-covered ramp that goes up and Right from the E. Ridge, and then "zigs" up and Left in a "zig-Zag" pattern. One would think that in an emergency, and without snow, traversing/downclimbing that ramp system would allow a party to circumvent the first 3-4 difficult pitches of the East Ridge. Jul 25, 2017
This summer a guide offered us great beta for skipping the rappel from the V-notch below the south summit and the long scramble/climb to gain the top. Instead of rapping from the V-notch, stand in a sling clipped to the bolt anchor and grab jugs above (this bypasses the reachy 5.10+ move formerly described here). Pull up, place a 2 Camalot (gold), and climb fun, juggy cracks to the top. The summit is 50 feet away over flat ground. Much, much faster than going around....and pretty fun too! Aug 24, 2017
Can anyone please advise - What is the minimum recommended footwear to carry up Bugaboo Spire NE Route to get to and back across the snow in late July? Do we take an ice axe? May 9, 2018
Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
I had rock shoes for the climb and lightweight mountaineering boots for the descent, plus an ice-axe - I didn't take crampons. May 10, 2018
Martin le Roux
Superior, CO
Martin le Roux   Superior, CO
Re the rappels, Steph Abegg's topo photo (…) tells you almost everything you need to know, but be aware that there's a short traverse and a scramble up to a notch after rappel # 2 (the one on the E side of the gendarme). When I first did this route in the early 1990s there was a party behind us that didn't know this. It was getting dark and they continued rappelling another 1,000' all the way down the E face, sacrificing most of their rack in the process. They finally reached the glacier sometime in the small hours of the morning.

Peter Mobberley: You'll need an ice-axe, and footwear for glacier travel and downclimbing steep snow. You may or may not need crampons. This year (2018) there was still good snow cover on the Bugaboo-Snowpatch col in late July, and crampons weren't necessary. In 2016 the top of the Bugaboo-Snowpatch col was down to bare ice by mid-July. Jul 31, 2018

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