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Japanese Team Climbs Early-Season Mixed Route in the Bugaboos

Toshiyuki Yamada stepping off the anchor onto the crux pitch of It Is What It Is (D+ M5 WI4R, 320m, Yamada-Tani, 2015) on the East Face of South Howser Tower (3346m), Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia.

[Photo] Takeshi Tani

The best thing about attempting a new line is also sometimes the worst thing–the unknown.

When my partner and I went to repeat the historic Krakauer line in Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia, we were surprised to find a potentially unclimbed line on the same formation.

After a three-hour approach, Toshiyuki Yamada and I reached the Conrad Kain Hut on October 14. I was anxious to climb The Big Hose (WI4-, 215m) on the East Face of South Howser Tower (3346m), first climbed solo by Jon Krakauer on June 29, 1978. Approaching the tower, Yamada and I saw the obvious ice line we were looking for and another line that we thought may be unclimbed; it looked both beautiful and tempting. After climbing The Big Hose, we stashed our gear at the base and returned to the Kain Hut. That night we checked the guidebook to see if the other line had been climbed.

Yamada following the author’s lead on Pitch 5 (M5), a steep right-facing corner to a gentle snow slope, on It Is What It Is.

[Photo] Takeshi Tani

At 4 a.m. on October 16, we left the hut and retraced our steps back to South Howser Tower in darkness and found an aesthetic line up through the bergschrund, an M4+ chimney for 60 meters followed by a shorter ice pitch which led to the ice route we had spied two days earlier. I brought Toshiyuki up and we stood below what appeared to be the crux of the route. The condition of the ice was rotten and hollow; it looked thin and would only take poor protection for the first ten meters. The seriousness of the pitch made us consider our options.

Eventually Yamada took the rack and started up thin ice on the right side of the face, climbing into a right-facing corner and leading to a snowy ledge with nearby cracks that took solid gear before finishing the pitch. Above the crux, we had a 60-meter M5 pitch that led to the summit snow slope followed by one more section of easy climbing to reach the top where we soaked up the warm sun.

We established our route in alpine style in 14 hours hut-to-hut, without the use of bolts, naming the line: It Is What It Is (D+ M5 WI4R 320m).

Initially, we had planned to attempt Infinite Patience (5.9 M5 WI5, 2200m, Blanchard-Dumerac-Pellet, 2002) on Mt. Robson (3954m) but based on the weather forecast at the time and recent conditions, we agreed to climb in the Bugaboo region instead. I was happy to climb in the Bugaboos in October, as winter climbing season in Japan is usually December through March.

The East Face of South Howser Tower (3346m) showing It Is What It Is (D+ M5 WI4R, 320m, Yamada-Tani, 2015)

[Photo] Takeshi Tani

[To learn more about the author, check out a shot of him by photographer John Price in this slideshow from March 6, 2015–Ed.]

Sources: Bugaboo Rock: A Climbing Guide (Randall Green, Joe Bensen),