The sun is nearing the horizon and the sky has lightened to a pale blue. The mountains hold mist in their laps as they wait for the heat of day.
The bright moon that spent the night hanging next to Bugaboo Spire has moved on and the glacier sits below, a silent sentinel slowly creeping down the valley.
I am lying here, on my 4 inch foam mattress, peering out the window of the loft while the heavy breathing and occasional snores of my six-year-old punctuate the quiet.
The Conrad Kain Hut sits perched on stone, high in Bugaboo Provincial Park and is maintained and operated by the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC). The Bugaboos are a trad climbing mecca, a place for those wandering souls that are always looking to the mountain tops. Surrounded by glacier and granite spires, it is also a place of inspiration, a place where you cannot help but let your deepest dreams surface.
For many years I’ve look forward to a time when we could take our kids into a backcountry hut (they aren’t as common in Utah) and when the kids would be old enough to handle both the hike in and whatever sleeping arrangements were dished at them. This summer was our summer.
We teamed up with Tanya Koob, a Canadian, friend and co-writer, from Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, to make this trip into the Conrad Kain hut happen.
Honesty, we knew getting into the hut on day 1 would be the hard part and after that it would be a piece of cake. We arrived at the trailhead near mid-day. Found two spots for our cars squished between the other cars and promptly began the Bugaboo tradition of surrounding our car with chicken wire to keep the porcupines from apparently eating the wiring. No one really seems to know if this is still necessary, but no one wants to take the chance either. 🙂
There are restrooms at the trailhead, and hosts of hikers, climbers and peak baggers from all over the world preparing for the trek in.
Day 1: Hiking into the Conrad Kain Hut (2.6 miles, 2,600 ft of gain)
The start of the hike begins with a super mellow first mile, slowly meandering over streams and up the valley.
The forest is cool but we all know the easier it is now, the harder it will be later. Because at some point we have to start gaining that 2,300 vertical feet.
Don’t worry! The trail pitches distinctly uphill around the 1 mile mark. And from previous trip reports, I know it doesn’t let up till we reach the hut.
As we hike steeply uphill, up rock steps (I cannot imagine the trail work that went into this trail), the views of Bugaboo Glacier become more and more amazing.
The best part of the hike (for us and the kids) are the ladders and chains. While the chains are largely unnecessary, they added an element of fun for the kiddos. The exposure is minimal, but there is a feeling of being high, especially due to the sweeping valley below. I’d still suggest caution with young kids.
We know we are nearing the top when we approach the bridge.
All in all it took us 3 hrs, the same amount of time that is suggested for most adult parties as well. Even with our late departure time, we still made it to the hut by late afternoon and had time for some exploring and scrambling before dinner.
Day 2: Exploring up to Crescent Glacier and Applebee Dome
On Day 2 we set off to explore higher into the Bugaboos. We didn’t make it far at first, just to the large boulder for some play time.
Then we headed up towards Crescent Glacier. We didn’t know what all might be in the cards for the day, so we brought our climbing gear (in case we found simple climbing for the kids or needed to rope up on the glacier). After climbing another 1000 feet we started picking our way toward Crescent Glacier, a smaller glacier up above Applebee Dome.
We put our Kahtoola micro-spikes on, but we’re lucky we didn’t have to rope up to explore this gentle glacier.
The decent back towards Applebee Dome and campground was a bit more exciting than we’d expected. Some fun down climbing and snow crossings.
This is Applebee Campground, where many of the climbers camp so they have closer access to their objectives.
Day 3: Going home
Partially due to the fact that I don’t have as many photos of our trip out, this seems like a good place to pause and share some hut experiences!
When we arrived at the hut, welcoming folks adopted our kids and had a little guitar sing-a-long while we found beds for the night and unloaded food into the kitchen. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate people who enjoy our kids, rather than resent the fact that we brought them along!
The Conrad Kain Hut has a large gathering area for eating and such on the first floor as well as a kitchen complete with stoves, fuel, sinks, running, hot and filtered water, dishes and utensils, pots and electricity! Totally plush in terms of backcountry huts!
We shared the kitchen with 35 other people so keeping our gear and food organized was important. I labeled everything with a Sharpie Extreme.
There are two upper levels for sleeping. And the mattresses provided were so comfortable!
We had an amazing adventure and experience for our first hut trip in the Canadian Rockies!
In Bugaboo Provincial Park in southeastern BC
82K/10 (Howser Creek) and 82K/15 (Bugaboo Creek)
2,230 m (7,315 ft)
NAD27 11U 516700 5620754
50°44′ 18″ / -116°45′ 48″
$25 members, $25 others
We geared up for this trip with the help of sponsor, Sharpie Extreme. We’d like to thank them for their partnership.