In a pool of headtorch light we kicked our way up the steep col, fine sprays of snow coupling with the soft crunch of a well-placed boot or axe. Below, the lights of several other parties floated across the cirque, twisting and flicking in the dark. Halfway up the Bugaboo-Snowpatch col, we were less than an hour into our approach to the Bugaboo’s famous Beckey-Chouinard on the South Howser Tower. Confined on either side by imposing alpine walls, we continued up the ever-narrowing chute of snow and rock, aware that no time was to be wasted. The day ahead was long, and behind us, against a horizon jagged with mountain peaks, the eastern sky was already tinged with red.
My partner, Kris, and I had talked of visiting the Bugaboos for several years. Part of British Columbia’s Purcell Mountains, within the traditional territories of the Ktunaxa, Shuswap, and Sinixt Nations, the defiant granite peaks and spires of the Bugaboos emerge from a cradle of high mountain glaciers: a crown within the wider mountain range and a testament to the erosive power of ice and water. Remote, beautiful and objectively challenging, the area hosts hundreds of stunning routes and is one of the world’s greatest alpine climbing destinations.