I would like to know what Conrad Kain would think about the Baer Gryles deodorant commercial. If you haven’t seen the ad, Grylls (a.k.a. the boy that climbed Everest and Born Survivor in the United Kingdom but branded as Man vs. Wild in North America) runs cross country to an American desert rock wall and proceeds to climb it. The style, cinematography and monologue have been reminiscent of the Vertical Limit don’t-forget-the-explosives days. Kain died in 1934, but I know he would have told Grylls and the director, this commercial does represent climbing.
Kain would certainly point us to something less pretentious and more pure. I think he might have directed us here, where a false, or just inaccurate, image is difficult to carry: The image above is of what is possibly the most memorable peak in the Purcell Mountains — which are in Eastern British Colombia, parallel to, but not part of, the Canadian Rockies. This edition of Mountain Drool is about Bugaboo Spire.
The climb is classic alpine in the European sense, complete with nearby huts. It was first climbed by Kain in 1916 shortly after he was invited by the Alpine Club of Canada to come from Austria and climb in their backyard as a guide. He lead many parties up several peaks, but the Kain FA route up Bugaboo Spire’s south ridge is one of his most memorable. The region was called the Bugaboos because miners seeking useful metals only found a dead end. The ACC and Kain’s exploration instead found a new set of climbing opportunities.
While the northeast ridge, shown more prominently in the image, appears to be more popular today, the Kain route (seen partially on the left side of the picture) still offers several quality pitches with a long scrambling section and lots of exposure. All that through only about 1,400 ft./400 m. of ascent. The approach from the Conrad Kain hut has glacial hazards often necessitating roping up and wearing crampons.
Various sources list differing elevations for Bugaboo Spire. The heights listed by climbers on SummitPost.org and Peakbagger.com are conflicting and confusing. Toby Harper of the ACC helped clear it up somewhat. While not everyone’s figures matched up with all the details, some appear to take for granted that Bugaboo Spire does in fact have two peaks. According to The Bugaboo Spires, the definitive guidbook by Chris Atkinson and Marc Piché (2003), the higher south summit is 10,512 ft./3,204 m. SummitPost.org and Wikipedia apparently did their research.
Kain’s work wasn’t limited to Bugaboo Spire, of course. He lead many other routes in Canada and New Zealand. You can check more into his leadership in alpine climbing through this webpage by the Conrad Kain Centennial Society.