ACMG guides Tim McAllister & Kirk Mauthner and climber Herb Weller shared a wealth of mountain experience with the teens. © Pat Morrow
learning the ropes from Conrad

Bugaboos Teens Climbing Camp

There is no better living legacy to Conrad Kain than for young climbers to receive professionally guided access to the peaks that he made famous, and learn basic climbing skills in the Bugaboo Group of the Purcell Range in southeastern British Columbia.

Association of Canadian Mountain Guides Kirk Mauthner and Tim McAllister volunteered their guiding services on a three day outing immediately following the Conrad Kain celebration in Wilmer. Six teens (two girls and four boys) from the Columbia Valley and Banff were taught mountain travel knowledge and climbing skills which originated with pioneer guides like Kain and has been transmitted through several generations to the present day.

The Alpine Club of Canada manages the Conrad Kain hut in Bugaboo Provincial Park, and they donated hut space. Climbing ranger and CKCS member Tay Hanson helped to facilitate the first of what promises to become an annual event. 

Despite the typical rainy "bugaboo" weather generated by this cluster of granitic nunataks which rise out of the Bugaboo, Vowell and Conrad glaciers, the group was able to go on a grand tour. This involved roped glacier travel toward Pigeon and Howser Spires, tope-roped climbing of a jam crack in the rain, and a scramble to the top of East Post Spire for a magnificent view of Snowpatch Spire (the mountain that "Conrad could not climb") and Bugaboo Spire (the mountain that he and companions Albert and Bess MacCarthy made the ground-breaking first ascent of in 1916).

On top of all that, this outing helped to kick-start a life-long relationship with the mountains for these teens. This was almost exactly what organizer Pat Morrow went through as a teen in the Bugaboos 40 years ago. "I first read about Conrad Kain in the book, Where the Clouds Can Go, and attempted to climb Bugaboo Spire with my equally inexperienced partner when I was 16. This combination of literature and first hand experience laid the groundwork for a wonderful life of high adventure in my mountainous back yard, and in the greater ranges of the world. For that, I am indebted to Conrad, and his love of the mountains. The least I could do in return was to help set up this program to 'give back' to the climbing community."

Kudos to Canadian Mountain Holidays guest Frank Gould for his contribution of funds to cover our expenses on this trip. Mr Gould loves the Purcell Mountains and pledged to help support endeavours that introduce local young people to climbing.

To this end, there was another climbing camp for 8 teens in August, organized by CMH. The weather was better, and the group managed to make it up Brenta Spire for some fabulous views. 

Anyone wishing to sign up for, or volunteer their services for a similar program next year, please get in touch with Pat Morrow through the email contact page on this site.

And to view more climbing photos, go to Bugaboos Teens gallery.


Claire deBoer:

When I got home from the trip, still wet from being rained on, I was
tired, and, most of all, grinning like a fool. My mom asked if the
trip had been good, and I said: “No. It was awesome.”

For the whole evening, I was glowing, telling my parents and my
sister about the sweetness of the air up there, how much fun it was to
trek up the Bugaboo-Snowpatch col in the snow, even how the rain
couldn’t dampen any of our spirits as we tried to grunt up the
Applebee crack.

I raved about Baiba’s cooking, how there always was
hot soup when we were cold, and the feeling of lightness you get by
being able to look 360° around you and take in the view from the top
of a mountain. I talked about how neat it was to learn self-arrest
from the guides, and to talk with them about their own experiences on
the mountains, as well as what got them started.

That’s just a part of it. I got the impression that ‘us kids’ had
known each other for a lot longer than a few days by the end; we just
sort of worked together. I got this really nice feeling being around
them- it was neat.

The mountains themselves were spectacular, clouded though they were
part of the time. It was really cool to be able to watch them change
as you move around them, looking completely different as you see them
from a different angle. Little things- like the huge boulders, the
little moss campion, and the softness of the snow- all teamed up to
make the entire trip really… awesome.

Thank you very much for sponsoring this trip. It has taught me a lot
about the mountains and enabled me to meet a bunch of really great
people. The guides the really good, CMH was a nice break, and Pat and
Baiba were just perfect.

Graham Kinley: 

First of all I would like to thank everyone that helped out with the camp and its organization.  We all really enjoyed our experince in the alpine and became good friends by the end of the camp. 

Having this climbing experience has really encouraged me to pursue a career in guiding or some other outdoor job.  Our guides, Tim and Kirk really have really inspired me to continue on with my backcountry pursuits and to enjoy the mountains (even when its raining and 4 in the morning)! 

Its great that we could get out in the Bugaboos with all the technical gear.  Many of us had only ever climbed sport routes or indoors which just isn't as much fun as being on a peak at almost 9000 feet in one of the most beautiful places in the world. 

Thanks again to everyone who made the camp a great success and I look forward to the second camp!

Stephanie von Neudegg:

I climb after school, three times a week in an indoor gym in Banff, Alberta. As much as I love climbing indoors and competing indoors, I find that going out to the Conrad Kain Hut to climb brought a different, more awe-inspiring angle to my favorite sport. Backpacking into the hut for three hours, only to wake up the next day at three in the morning to treck across a glacier toward Pidgeon Spire was something I never expected myself to be doing as a sixteen year old. Nor was climbing in Appleby in the pouring rain. Or putting on my rockshoes underneath a boulder to avoid said rain, and then beginning the climb in gaiters under a few inches of snow. I am glad that I got to experience this though, as it has only made the passion that I have for the mountains stronger.

The stories that we heard about Conrad Kain before going up to the hut were inspirational, but I didn't understand quite the difficulty of what he had to accomplish before I was out on the granite of the Bugaboos for myself. Even with 4 accomplished mountaineers guiding us over hours of glacier and steep rock, I must admit I felt relatively unsteady for the first day. As it carried on however, I became more comfortable and I began to appreciate the surroundings, the same surroundings that Conrad Kain had first experienced in the early 1900's. He walked the same path once, and in doing so first, lead our crew of eleven up to the same peaks that he once conquered.

I feel immensely lucky to have shared this experience with other teens from around the columbia valley, as I beleive that they all have the same passion for climbing, mountaineering and witnessing the grandeur that our mountains have to offer.

For these wonderous adventures, I thank you. I can not describe how lucky I feel to have been part of this, and I am so thankful that you helped me, and five others to share the Bugaboos together.