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[TR] Pigeon Spire - Cooper-Kor 8/6/2009

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Trip: Pigeon Spire - Cooper-Kor


Date: 8/6/2009


Trip Report:

Ever since seeing the East Face of Pigeon Spire from the summit of Snowpatch in 1993, with Mark_L, I've wanted to do this route. The smooth upward sweep of it burned visions of gradually steepening, crack-split slabs into my imagination. The reality was a day of hard work, problem-solving, and worry on this challenging route.


Arriving at Kain Hut on Sunday, 8/2, we had big plans to do this and two other routes in succession, under clear skies and the blessings of the bluebirds. Monday, Tuesday, and then Wednesday we spent doing a lot of reading. An entire fat murder novel and every climbing rag in the hut passed before me. 60, then 70 PoP and TS was the forecast, so we sat. It finally changed, we packed up and were out at 4:30 next morning.


Moving around the South end of Snowpatch Spire in early light



Dubious was Otto, without crampons, having forgotten to bring them. This is Madcap hitting the ice



Initial view of the objective



The schrund proved easy to go around, and the slope not too steep for those without crampons



The start of the route is seen here as the thin, left-slanting line at the right side of the photo



The Snowpatch/Pigeon col has a newly-bolted rappel route, down the cliff on the right side of this picture. From the dirty spot on the top-most ice, six single-rope raps gets one down. We paid close attention to this as it was to be our return route at day's end



Madcap gearing up



Otto relieved to be off the ice



Wideness at the start. We had glossed over this 6" crack when reading the topo, and had only one #4 cam



There would be no wandering off-route on the second pitch



The end of the 4th class ledge



The standard way up the Bugaboo-Snowpatch col was reportedly very melted out and dangerous. Instead, folks were coming around the South side of Snowpatch and Pigeon to do the Pigeon West Ridge



Snowpatch Spire from the 4th class ledge



Blocks and flakes lead up to the headwall



On the high traverse, the first available pro comes at 30 feet out



Carefully moving right down the ledge



On the next pitch, Madcap following the tension traverse weighting the green rope. Leading it was easier the more rope was let out, so Otto kept calling for slack until more than 30 feet below the pendulum point. The rope rubbed over an edge, making one think about the sheath



Pigeontoe from above, photog playing with the 15x zoom



The next-to-last pitch finishes the wet groove with blocky ledges to pull over



Bugaboo Spire



We changed into mountain boots here for the scramble to the top



Walking up ramps to the summit



Snowpatch West face behind



Near the summit, with the Howsers behind



The Vowells



One couldn't help but look at Bugaboo again



Garden near the trail back to Kain Hut



We barrelled home on the highway next day, listening to Emmylou and Knopfler and some other twang, merging it with thoughts of the climb...


"This is us, on a high traverse

This is us, hope it doesn't get worse

Standing on a sloping ledge, gliding out along the edge

Connected by a looping line, hoping that it turns out fine"


photos: Bill Enger



Gear Notes:

Double rack to 3.5" and one 4", would have used a 5"


Approach Notes:

The snow on the glacier around Snowpatch is fast disappearing, slots are opening up fast. We saw one leader go in up to the armpits on the glacier between Snowpatch and Pigeon.

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Great TR, looks like a cool route. How much longer was the approach on the south side of Snowpatch? I was there last week and the Bugaboo/Snowpatch col was crappy, but definately not the horror show that people made it out to be. The worst part was the lineup for the two rappels at the end of the day. Each party had to complete both and clear out to avoid rockfall from the next. We were waiting for around an hour and a half...

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It must have been a bit longer, maybe an hour or two, with more glacier travel and crevasses to pass. But one party that started out with us made the summit at 12:30, approaching the West Ridge that way. So, still a reasonable day from the hut.

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I don't think it is all that much longer to reach the West Ridge of Pidgeon via the south side of Snowpatch and I believe that parties headed over to camp below the Howsers often go this way as the easier of the two choices but it might add an hour.


I am always surprised at how difficult people seem to find the Bug Snowpatch col when there is a little slop over some ice but in such conditions the alternate is probably a little less dangerous for folks who don't have a lot of snow and ice experience although it is not entirely without a bit of mountaineering in that (1) some scree and scrambling is involved where you round the ridge below the standard route on Snowpatch, (2) you'll encounter bits of bare ice that are not flat and crevasses a little higher where you get back on the glacier, and (3) a few more crevasse obstacles as you climb up past the south face of Pidgeon. I was amused to read about someone fallig in up to their armpits on the flats below Pidgeon and Snowpatch -- that is the only place where I have ever fallen in a crevasse and I, too, went in up to my armpits.


The view of the south face of Snowpatch from the flats below it is spectacular.

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Best picture I have of Bug/Snowpatch col conditions. Could carefully pick your way up the right hand choss or stick to the ice/snow option as we preferred on center right.

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I was there last week and could the Bug/Snowpatch Col scary. The big problems we had with the Col was falling rock ( we saw several car size blocks run right past us) and the blue ice. The ice was so hard that no amount of kicking would get purchase.


Nice work up there, we were in the Hut too but I'm not sure if we saw you up there.



Edited by eldiente

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Forgot your crampons did you Bill? I know you better than that. Good way to save weight. I was not too far from you, climbing the East Peak of the Gothics on that day. Report forthcoming.

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