The towering tooth-like spires and broken glaciers of Bugaboo Provincial Park make this iconic alpine climbing zone the perfect venue for an intro to alpine rock course. The Bugaboos Intro to Alpine Rock climbing course has been designed for people with basic mountaineering and rock climbing skills who would like to progress towards climbing more challenging alpine rock objectives. With the low guide to student ratios on this mountaineering course, you can expect intensive personal instruction tailored to both your ability and objectives. This alpine skills course is based from the Kain Hut in the world-famous Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia.
Bugaboos Intro to Alpine Rock Agenda
Day 1: We meet at the Yamnuska Office in Canmore at 7:30 am for introductions, a review of course goals and itinerary, and an equipment check. After packing up, it’s a 4-hour drive through Radium Hot Springs and down the back roads of British Columbia into the wilderness of the Purcell Mountains in Bugaboo Provincial Park. A steep but stunning hike involving 5 km and 700m of elevation gain will put us at the comfortable Kain hut at 2230m. This will take us between 3 and 4 hours.
Day 2-4: The glaciers and peaks in the Bugaboos will be our classroom to learn the skills required to become an independent alpine rock climber. These three days will have a combination of climbing skills instruction and student lead trips with coaching from your Yamnuska certified guide. Common objectives include The Hounds Tooth, East Post Spire, Crescent Spire, or any of the classic glacier traverses in the area.
Day 5: We will set our sights on one of the larger and more challenging Spires in the area and put your new skills to the test. This will be a combination of instruction and observation as your guide shows you how to move quickly and efficiently on a challenging objective. Common objectives include Pigeon Spire, Bugaboo Spire, and Snowpatch Spire. Expect a big and challenging (but fun and rewarding) day.
Day 6: A final shorter student-led objective in the area will be attempted before we descend to the vehicles and return to Canmore. The Bugaboos have many ideal student-led objectives that will build your confidence and give you the skills to start climbing alpine rock objectives. You will likely begin planning your next trip to the Bugaboos on your way back to the car!
There is considerable flexibility built into the delivery of this course, no course is exactly the same. Snow, weather, and route conditions in Bugaboo Provincial Park will dictate the order to provide the highest quality program.
Key topics will be constantly revisited during the program.
- Snow and Ice Movement Review
- Use of Ice Axe
- Self Arrests
- Snow and/or Ice Anchors
- Walking with Crampons
- Use of Rope on Glaciers
- Crevasse Rescue –2 man rope team systems
Alpine Rock Scrambling Skills:
- Safe Movement Skills
- Route finding
- Managing Loose Rock
- Rope use
- Placing Nuts and Cams
- Clipping Protection
- Building Anchors using gear and natural features
- The Multi-Pitch System
- Map and Compass Use
- Route Planning
Hazard Evaluation and Route Selection:
- Rock Fall
- Snow and Avalanche Conditions
- Accident and Emergency Procedures
ALPINE CLIMBS!!! This is a ‘hands-on’ course and we go to the Bugaboos to climb! Skills are explained, demonstrated in the field, and then put into practice by participants during glacier crossings and peak ascents in the Bugaboos. Expect to be sharing the lead, solving route finding problems, and fully involved in the decision-making process.
Instructors and Group Size
The maximum guide to guest ratio is 1:2. The guides are enthusiastic and extremely talented, they hold guide certification from the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and we are licensed to operate in the area by B.C. Parks. The maximum group size is 8.
The Bugaboos are a sub-group of the Purcell Mountains known for their distinctive spires. They are located west of the Columbia Valley and we reach them by driving west from Canmore to Radium Hot Springs then by driving along an improved logging road another 50km or so. Once at the end of the road we climb 3 to 4 hours to reach the Conrad Kain Hut which is located just below the Spires.
Meeting Time and Place
The program begins at the Yamnuska office at 7:30 am on the first day. The Yamnuska office is located at 200 – 50 Lincoln Park. See this map for location. Should it be more convenient, it may be possible to meet the guide and group in Radium, BC. Please contact us to discuss this option.
Transportation while on the program is not included. We rely on guests’ personal vehicles to reach program locations. Guides generally travel with guests to reach the trailhead. Park Entry Passes are not included in the program cost.
The 45-kilometre road into the park is a fairly well-maintained logging road, however, at certain times of the year, it can be difficult to traverse with a normal low clearance car. If renting a vehicle it is best to go with a full-size car, Mini-van or SUV with higher clearance. Overloading a small car is not recommended unless you allot extra time on the drive.
Please note that program venues may be within National Parks and/or Kananaskis Country. For programs where transportation is not provided by Yamnuska/Canadian Rockies Hiking by Yamnuska, guests will be required to purchase their own pass.
National Park passes are available both online at https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/voyage-travel/admission and in-person at National park gates and some information centres.
Kananaskis Country conservation passes are available online at https://www.alberta.ca/kananaskis-conservation-pass.aspx
Accommodation and Meals
The Conrad Kain Hut, a large attractive hut in a spectacular position beneath the ‘Spires’, will be the accommodation for the course. Sleeping areas are shared with sleeping mats provided. There is propane and hydro from a small hydroelectric generator to provide power for cooking. You will need to bring a small sleeping bag. All meals, snacks, and drinks are supplied from lunch on Day 1 to lunch on Day 6.
Mountain meals are made from nutritious, healthy ingredients and are cooked and dehydrated in our own kitchen by our chef. For guests with dietary restrictions, we are able to modify the program food pack to meet your individual needs. As food pricing and preparation for these diets is more costly, we have implemented the following surcharges. For vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free, soy-free, nut-free, or any similar type of single restriction menu requests, there will be a surcharge. For a diet requiring any 2 or more restrictions, an additional surcharge will apply. For more complex diets our kitchen staff will assess the restrictions to inform you if the diet can be accommodated and what surcharge would apply. Vegetarian meals will not be surcharged.
Please let us know the details by filling out a Food Questionnaire when you sign up for the program.
Accommodation in Canmore is not included. A variety of accommodation options exist in both Canmore and Banff, including campsites, hostels, all levels of hotels as well as condo-style accommodation with kitchens or suites. We recommend that you book your own pre and post-trip accommodations well in advance as all levels of accommodations in the Bow Valley fill quickly.
Excess luggage can be left at your hotel or our office.
Porters may be available for hire to assist with carrying personal clothing, gear, and food for an additional charge. Subject to availability. Please call the Yamnuska office to enquire should you be interested.
Clothing & Gear
The equipment and clothing you bring to this course will play a large role in the quality of your experience. Read the following suggestions and lists carefully. If you have any questions or need clarification, don’t hesitate to call or email.
Group climbing gear such as ropes and hardware is provided, but we recommend bringing your own personal climbing gear. Please let us know if you would like to use the following Yamnuska gear:
- Mountaineering ice-axe (see additional information below)
- Climbing harness
- Climbing helmet
- Belay device with a pear-shaped locking carabiner
- 2 locking carabiners
- 2 non-locking carabiners
- 2 x 5 m prussic cord (7mm diameter)
- 120 cm sling
You will need to bring:
- Lightweight mountaineering boots* (must be crampon compatible, see additional information below)
- Rock shoes*(see additional information below)
- Multiday pack* (60–70 litres)
- Daypack* (30-40 litres)(strongly recommended)
- Sleeping bag*
- Water bottle (1-2L)
- Sunscreen and SPF lip balm
- Headlamp (with fresh batteries)
- Blister kit
- First aid items (Our guides carry a first aid kit, but you may bring your own Band-Aids and anti-inflammatory medication if desired.)
- Personal toiletries including hand sanitizer
- Trekking pole (optional)
- Music player and lightweight reading material (optional)
*These items are available for rent. Please advise us in advance. Gear Rental Price List
When mountaineering, it is important to be able to adjust to the changing conditions. We recommend bringing clothing that can be layered to achieve comfort as you change from periods of activity to periods of rest. Cotton clothing is not appropriate as it causes rapid heat loss when wet.
We recommend you bring:
- Long underwear top and bottoms (lightweight synthetic or wool)
- Socks (synthetic/wool, at least two pairs)
- Light synthetic shirt
- Softshell pants and jacket
- Midweight synthetic or down jacket
- Heavyweight insulated jacket
- Waterproof hardshell jacket with hood
- Waterproof hardshell pants (should have a full-length side zip so they can be put on without taking off boots and crampons)
- Gaiters (big enough to fit over large boots)
- Waterproof mountaineering gloves
- Lightweight synthetic gloves
- Warm hat that fits under a helmet
- Sun hat
- Running shoes or sandals
Additional gear info:
Backpack: It is possible to use just one multiday backpack, as long as it is comfortable enough to wear while climbing. If bringing an additional day pack, this should be very light and compressible in order to fit inside the bigger pack on the approach hike.
Sleeping bag: We recommend a three-season bag rated to approximately 0 Celsius. A down bag will be lighter and more compressible for the weight than a synthetic bag. A compression stuff sack is recommended to reduce volume.
Lightweight mountaineering boots: A good pair of boots is essential. One good option is lightweight leather or synthetic mountaineering boots with either a semi-rigid or a rigid sole. It is possible to buy boots such as the La Sportiva “Trango” which is designed specifically for alpine rock and which can take a crampon.
Rock shoes: A shoe that has a flat sole and is not sized uncomfortably tight will be the best choice for a variety of climbs.
Crampons: Mountaineering crampons should have anti-snow-balling plates, and need to be compatible with your boots. We use the Petzl Vasak crampon.
Mountaineering ice-axe: Your ice axe should be 55-75 cm, and should be equipped with an adze. Yamnuska uses the Petzl Summit Axe.
Please book as early as practical to avoid disappointment. A 35% deposit (including GST) is required at the time of booking. The final payment is due eight weeks before the start of the program.
We ask that you familiarize yourself with our detailed booking instructions and conditions.
Risk is an inherent part of all mountain activities. We strive to manage and reduce it however, it is impossible to totally eliminate. Learn more about our safety and risk management approach here. Please note that you will be required to sign our waiver before commencing the program. Please view our sample waiver copy.
There are two basic types of insurance that most travellers need to consider: Medical and Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance. We offer our guests coverage for both and highly recommend you purchase it.
Emergency Medical Expenses Insurance:
It is wise to ensure that your health plan will cover you in case of illness or accident during your trip. Obtain extra coverage if necessary. In Bugaboos Provincial Park there may be a charge for rescue if you need to be evacuated by professional services.
Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance:
We recognize that our guests’ schedules may change for many reasons; business, family, flight delays, injuries, and other unplanned events. For these eventualities, Trip Cancellation/Interruption insurance is a great way to protect your investment.
For all your travel insurance requirements we recommend the Simpson Group. This agency offers a wide range of travel insurance options including Trip Cancellation/Interruption, Travel Medical, and Personal Effect Loss for Canadian Travelers. We highly recommend purchasing this insurance.
Please note that this coverage is for Canadian residents only. For guests who are not from Canada and who are interested in the ‘Visitors to Canada’ insurance package please contact the Simpson Group directly at JSimpson@simpson-group.com and reference your Yamnuska Mountain Adventure trip.
$2665 CDN includes guided climbing and instruction in the bugaboos, Kain Hut fees, out-trip meals, and the use of specialized group climbing gear.
Not included: Transportation, Canmore accommodation, gratuities, or Goods & Services Tax (GST).
Private climbing departures are very popular and are available from late June to early September. Please visit our Bugaboos Ascents page for more details.
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
Please note you will be required to sign the Yamnuska Release of Liability, and Waiver of Claims prior to commencing the program. Please review the sample waiver prior to booking and call us with any questions.
More climbing: Yamnuska guides and instructors are also available for private climbing in the Bugaboos and elsewhere before and after the program.
Is it for you?
This is a strenuous and demanding climbing program involving lots of height gain, not only to the peaks but also to the hut. You need to be in good shape as this program involves six consecutive days of alpine rock climbing and hiking over glaciers. Basic rock climbing and mountaineering skills are also required. In the context of Yamnuska’s programs, we suggest you have at least the Snow and Ice Long weekend or Intro to Mountaineering and Outdoor Rock Intro or Rock Evolution.
Check out this website compiled by a past guest about this course.