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The Canadian Yosemite

Stay Wild

Story and photo by Brooke Jackson

 

The naturalist and outdoor badass John Muir first climbed Yosemite’s technical Cathedral Peak without a rope in 1869. 

A catalyst for climbing, this moment was followed by first ascents and the evolution of modern techniques on some of the world’s most classic granite. From Half Dome to El Capitan and Harding to Robbins, the Yosemite Valley birthed many legends. However, what was once a wild valley without cars and roads has now become a tourist destination hotspot. Annually, the park can host anywhere between 3.6 – 4.1 million tourists and consists of lodges, hotels, pizza joints, bars, and even a courthouse. The valley has transformed into its own independent commercialization center conveniently named Yosemite Village. 

Closely parallel to Yosemite, both historically and geographically, is another range that remains timeless. Roads that lead to these towering peaks are dirt. Once in the depths of the mammoths, there are no buildings or developed trails. Established campgrounds do not exist and the only structures are decade-old climber cabins. This area is called the Bugaboos, the Canadian Yosemite. 

Discovered by miners during the gold rush in 1895-96, the geological features seemed promising of rich rewards. The only mineral produced was pyrite or “fool’s gold” and many miners left empty-handed. These deceiving granite towers were declared a “dead end” or a “Bugaboo” and the name forever remained. Although there was no gold of monetary value to be found, climbers would argue that they struck El Dorado. 

Famous names from around the world endured the hardships to tackle first ascents. Conrad Kein, Fred Beckey, and Yvon Chouinard are some of the major contributors to the route development in the area and also the construction of the Kein Climbing Hut, which hosts 40 people as a base camp for many of the classic routes. Visitors can drink directly from the alpine lakes and streams. The range is truly a land lost in time. 

How is it that a mountain range with equally majestic beauty and granite spires can still be wild, while Yosemite is on the brink of being a Disneyland? After reviewing the Management Conservation Plan for the Bugaboo Range which the Canadian government approved in 1991, it outlines:

“About 94% of the park will be zoned Natural Environment to protect scenic values and provide for backcountry recreation opportunities in a largely undisturbed natural environment”

Under the above description, Bugaboo Provincial Park is designated as a primarily backcountry park. Even with modern advancements in other areas of the world and country, the park is difficult to access and dangerous once within. Hiking in the Bugaboos requires route navigation, map and compass proficiency, no trace camping practices, the risk of encountering wildlife such as grizzly bears and wolves, and occasional glacial traversing. 

For these reasons and many more, the Bugaboos will forever remain wild. A true experienced backpacker and climber paradise, the range is an image out of a fairytale. As an American, I can only cry with relief that the range has been protected and preserved so adamantly by the Canadian government and sigh with remorse that Yosemite didn’t receive the same preservation and respect.