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Nick Sweeney

[TR] Bugaboo Spire - Northeast Ridge 7/31/2017

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Trip: Bugaboo Spire - Northeast Ridge

 

Date: 7/31/2017

 

Trip Report:

This was a big aventure climb that involved a close call with lightning and a miserable shiver bivy. You can read the full report at Spokalpine.com

 

Gear Notes:

An extra Gu for the morning

 

Approach Notes:

Short from Applebee

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nice TR. thanks for doing that.

 

too bad about the crowds.

 

sometime in the 90's, seems like the weather was usually worse. we sat out a 3 day storm in the hut and watched everyone leave. when the storm left, we had the park to ourselves for 3 days till the climbers eventually came back. that was a golden trip. we had the NE buttress to ourselves but did have to manage with some ice/snow in cracks.

 

I could be wrong but it seems like the weather is pretty good all july and august. climate change.

 

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There is a fellow who runs a web site with beta on the 50 Classic Climbs of N.A. He had attempted, and turned back on a route on Mt. Hunter (sorry Colin, Begguya), that had not seen many ascents. I pumped him for beta for months and he was really great and helpful.

 

After climbing and descending the route in a storm back to camp 2, we met the gentleman and his wife and friends. They were a day behind us. They had taken up the only flat real estate, but they were nice enough to help us dig a platform into the corniced ridge during the storm.

 

Cut to August the following year, TimL and I are at the end of a long queue for the NE Ridge of Bugaboo Spire. The party several ahead of us drops an ice axe on the first pitch, everyone scatters. We climb the route, rap off and go back to the hut to discover it was the fellow from Hunter and his wife who dropped the axe.

 

We had a nice chat, but man, what a small world to run into the same people in two very different locations. I guess 50 Crowded Climbs is apropos.

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maybe the "dropping of the axe" was on purpose? whatever it takes, short of a hand grenade, to make a quiet day in the mountains?

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maybe the "dropping of the axe" was on purpose? whatever it takes, short of a hand grenade, to make a quiet day in the mountains?

 

Could have been pay back for leaving a poorly buried 'cache' that melted out at camp 1 on Hunter.

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a group of 4? WFT assholes?

 

That's what I thought - very poor form, especially on such a popular route, and especially with other teams standing there, ready to climb. Thankfully the team of 4 split into two teams after the first pitch.

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I was behind a team of six Boy Scouts on the Beckey Route on Liberty Bell. They were split into three rope teams of two. The problem was, they owned only a single rack. So, the first leader would climb and set pro, the follower would unclip but leave the pro in. The leader of the second rope would clip the pro, the follower would leave it. The leader of the third rope would clip the pro and the follower would finally remove it and hand the rack back over to the first leader who would then start the next pitch.

 

The surprising part was that they were actually faster than many parties of two I've seen. Negative style points for their choice of approach shoes: sandals. They ended up descending that awful couloir by sliding on their rear ends.

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So, isn't it pretty well known that a cave can be a bad place to hide out in a lightning storm? I seem to remember stories of people getting killed that way on top of Half Dome. I guess the lightning hits the rock and can arc between the walls of the cave?

 

(...and great pictures by the way, nice report. Thanks!)

Edited by chucK

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So, isn't it pretty well known that a cave can be a bad place to hide out in a lightning storm? I seem to remember stories of people getting killed that way on top of Half Dome. I guess the lightning hits the rock and can arc between the walls of the cave?

 

(...and great pictures by the way, nice report. Thanks!)

 

see Figure 1

https://www.climbing.com/skills/learn-this-laws-of-lightning/

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Nice TR and fun running into you up there Nick. Thanks for the miniguide dude!

 

No problem my man! You had an awesome trip, I am really jealous you guys knocked off the Snowpatch Route. Let me know if you want to do some climbing sometime.

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So, isn't it pretty well known that a cave can be a bad place to hide out in a lightning storm? I seem to remember stories of people getting killed that way on top of Half Dome. I guess the lightning hits the rock and can arc between the walls of the cave?

 

(...and great pictures by the way, nice report. Thanks!)

 

Chuck, thanks for the compliments. It's pretty hard to take a bad picture up there! In regard to the cave, we only had bad options to choose from. Here's a little more detail:

 

I had just made the first rappel off of the North summit and was scrambling a somewhat exposed ridge to find the next set of bolts. I approached the gendarme, and noted that the entire rock pinnacle was buzzing. Not just the bolts, but the gendarme itself! My partner began screaming has he was rappelling - he was receiving shocks while he descended. He later said it felt like bees stinging him. I ran back up the ridge and gave him a fireman's belay while telling him to keep rappelling as calmly as I could. By the time he got off rappel, our ice axes were buzzing, the wind gusts had reached 60mph, and things were looking pretty grim. Our choices were to continue descending, stay where we were on the exposed ridge, or scramble up to an alcove. I was not willing to make the next rappel off of the Gendarme AKA lightning rod, especially considering how loudly it was buzzing. Staying where we were wasn't especially attractive since it was starting to rain - if I was going to die, I didn't want to be cold while it happened. We scrambled into the alcove where we were sheltered from precipitation (it was hailing now), somewhat out of the wind, and clipped into a good anchor. Once we got all situated in our perch, the storm cleared and we started rapping again.

 

In retrospect, the ridge may have been safer, with both the gendarme and the summit being higher than I was. But in the moment, it felt like a pretty scary place to be!

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That brings back some bad memories, glad you were safe!

 

We were a little farther down from the gendarme in 2006 running along the ridge to beat the storm coming in from the west. The Howsers were getting drilled by multiple strikes and it looked like we were all going to die. As I was pulling the rope from the last rap before the long scramble, a lightning bolt hit the ridge between me and our other rope team. I got a bad shock thru the rope, and the ridge exploded above me, raining rocks off the mountain. We hunkered in a similar type alcove (again, not ideal) to get out of the rain and hail while the storm passed. We thought the other team in our party was surely dead and began to climb back up to them. Imagine our surprise when they popped their heads up and threw their rope down! They got shocked as well, but otherwise were unhurt. When we got back to Applebee, everyone congratulated us on not dying. They had watched the whole thing in silhouette from the camp and feared the worst when the bolt exploded the ridge between us.

 

I hate lightning.

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