In 1969, Bugaboo Glacier Park and the Bugaboo Alpine Recreation Area were set aside to preserve and protect this outstanding area of the Purcells. In 1972, the Alpine Club of Canada erected a three story quonset building for climbers. The Conrad Kain Hut was named after renowned alpinist who made many first ascents in the Purcell and Rocky Mountains during the early 1900s. In 1995, the park and part of the surrounding recreation area were combined to create the Bugaboo Park.
Over time, the erosive forces of mountain weather and glacial ice removed much of the weaker overlying rock, revealing granite masses and sculpting them into the spectacular spires that characterize the Bugaboo region. The heavy snowfall of the Columbia Wet Belt continues to create the vast glaciers that dominate and shape the rugged Purcell Mountains.
The steep, V-shaped valleys of the Purcells challenged early explorers, miners, loggers, and climbers from Europe and North America. News of the spectacular spires of the Bugaboos was a magnet for some of North America’s most renowned mountaineers. Harmon, Longstaff, A.O. Wheeler, and the legendary guide Conrad Kain visited the Bugaboo region in 1910.
Kain returned with the MacCarthys in 1916 and climbed the North Howser Tower and the south ridge of Bugaboo Spire, which he considered his most difficult Canadian ascent. Thorington mapped the area and then climbed with Kain in 1933 on Crescent Spire. In 1938 and 1939, the Northpost, Eastpost, and Brenta Spires were ascended by easy routes.
Snowpatch, beyond the techniques used in Kain’s era, was climbed by its southeast ridge in 1940 by Arnold and Bedayn. By the 1950s, climbers such as Fred Beckey, Ed Cooper, and Layton Kor put up the first ‘face’ routes on Snowpatch, Bugaboo, and Pigeon Spires. Chouinard traversed the Howsers in 1965 and Chris Jones pioneered on their 600m ascent of West Face in 1970.
Today, those early routes, first done with many pitons and bolts, are often repeated by free climbers who use only the less damaging aluminium chocks for protection against falls. Free-climbing techniques enable faster ascents, resulting in reduced exposure to the frequent lightning storms. Modern climbers have continually opened new lines of ascent in an area where the elements of glaciers, firm rock, significant altitude and violent weather all combine to create world-class mountaineering challenges.
Alpine ecosystems are particularly fragile, and all users are requested to practice Leave No Trace camping and climbing techniques.
- Gas stoves must be used for all cooking. Open fires are not allowed.
- BC Parks is attempting to rehabilitate alpine meadows damaged by human activities. Please help us in our efforts by not walking on these areas.
- The park’s lakes and streams are the source of drinking water.
- Wash yourself, clothes, and dishes at least 30m from lakes and streams. Even biodegradable soaps will pollute water as will food scraps from dirty plates.
- Where there is adequate soil (at least six inches) but no toilets, bury human waste and burn toilet paper. Otherwise collect and deposit human waste in toilets.