Minotaur Direct (5.11+, IV) – is a serious, but world-class 16-pitch alpine granite rock climb located on the East face of Snowpatch Spire in Bugaboos Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada. This climb was first established in 2016 by Jon Walsh, Colin Moorhead, and Michelle Kadatz. Sadly, the original https://alpinestyle.ca website has disappeared from the web as of late, which prompted me to create this updated topo and route access information page to try to keep the story going.
Minotaur Direct follows a more direct line that combines several pitches from the original “Minotaur” (5.12-), and the first five pitches of “Welcome to the Machine” (5.11+). Minotaur Direct takes the most direct (and likely easiest) line on the impressive east face of Snowpatch Spire.
Download the full Minotaur Direct & Welcome to the Machine Topo in PDF format here or scroll to the bottom of the page to see the full PNG version.
The impressive east face of Snowpatch Spire is home to many world-class big wall aid and free climb routes thanks to its nearly 700m of vertical relief above the glacier below. (Many of these routes no longer exist, see update below) Other routes include Labyrinth (5.12-), Sendero Norte (5.12+), Minataur (5.12-), Jason/Kruk (5.12-), Welcome to the Machine (5.11+), Men with Options (5.12+/A1), Sweet Sylvia (5.12-), Power of Lard (5.12), and the now famous finger crack, Tom Egan Memorial (5.14) which was freed by Will Stanhope (& Matt Segal) in 2017. This amazing finger crack is featured in Reel Rock 11 film series “Boys in the Bugs”, which is available to purchase here on the reelrocktour.com site.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: A massive rockfall event on the north side of Snowpatch spire has decimated the majority of the climbs on the North/East corner of Snowpatch. Fortunately Minotaur direct and Welcome to the Machine are unaffected, but access may be limited and extreme precautions should be taken when spending any time in this area.
When to Climb Minotaur Direct
The climbing season in the Bugaboos is extremely short and BUSY. At best, the climbing season typically extends from late June until early September most years, with July typically having slightly more unstable weather than August (although longer days). August can be quite warm, however, with access to routes over the B-S col being tricky to downright dangerous depending on the state of the Col. Your best bet for climbing Minotaur direct is mid-July until mid-August, however, be aware that this is high season for the area, and it can get extremely busy with sometimes only around 6-8 weeks of decent climbing conditions available to attempt the routes in the area.
Special Considerations & Access Limitations
The Bugaboos Provincial Park is a pristine alpine environment and one of the premier climbing destinations on the planet. However, exponentially increasing traffic and increased use and abuse of the area are beginning to cause access impacts, and could start to lead to significant restrictions in the future.
To help keep the Bugaboos wild and accessible in the future, please follow these guidelines and DO YOUR PART
- Leave no trace, NO exceptions – Pack out all garbage, human waste, and avoid disturbing ANY plant life you may find in the area.
- Do your part – Pick up any garbage you find and pack it out, bring your own TP, and swap out the poo barrels at Applebee.
- Don’t be a statistic – Climb and travel in Bugaboos only within your ability and give extra room to avoid objective hazards like Snow Slopes, Rock Fall, Crevasses, and Weather.
- Do not disturb plant life – If camping, only camp in designated areas and do not place your tent on wild flora. Only set up on dirt or rock, not on anything growing.
- Don’t be obnoxious – if coming in late from a climb or an approach, or if leaving at 2am, try to keep noise levels as quiet as realistically possible.
- No pets in Bugaboo Provincial park – Leave your pup or kitty at home
- No Mechanized Bolting in the park – Leave your Hilti at home as well.
- No drones – don’t fly your drone without a valid permit and required permission.
- Park only in designated areas – Do not block crucial access corridors with your vehicle.
- No TikTok – Seriously, you are doing yourself and everyone else a favor here.
Accessing Bugaboo Provincial Park
To access Bugaboo Provincial Park, you will need a vehicle that is capable of driving on the relatively well-maintained Brisco road, which is a predominantly dirt/gravel road. While the road is maintained, it does have a number of large potholes most years (particularly on the last 2-3km) and is not suitable for large RV’s or very low clearance vehicles. 4wd is recommended, but not necessary most years.
From Radium Hot springs, drive approximately 26km north along HWY 95 to Brisco. You will turn left from the highway onto Brisco Road, which is paved for a very short distance, and gradually transitions from good gravel to rough dirt, potholes, and narrow sections as you approach the car park.
From the turn-off from HWY 95 to Brisco road, follow the good FSR for approximately 45-50km, following “Bugaboo CMH Lodge” signs until you reach a fork in the road near the lodge. From here, take the rough right-hand fork for a 2.5km to the car park for Bugaboo Provincial Park. The left fork takes you to Bugaboo CMH lodge.
The drive from Radium to the Bugaboo parking lot is roughly 1 hour, depending on your vehicle and road conditions. Use caution and please don’t speed.
Parking and accessing Bugaboo Provincial Park
Once you get to the parking lot, be aware that there can be limited parking during high season. There is chicken wire available at the lot, and it is highly recommended that you wrap your vehicle in chicken wire to ensure your vehicle is protected from hungry porcupines (who love to munch on brake lines!)
From here, a well-trodden trail brings you to the hut in ~4km (700m gain) and to Applebee Campground in roughly 5km (1000m gain). The trail is excellent but quite steep and rather arduous with full gear. Give yourself at least 4 hours to reach the campground if you are bringing overnight gear and all your climbing gear.
Camping in the Bugaboos
All the information you will need to know about the bugaboos is located on the Provincial parks page for the Bugaboos. There are three main options for accommodations in the Bugaboos depending on how much you want to spend, and your preference.
Conrad Kain ACC Hut – The premiere accommodations in the bugaboos. Comfy beds, running water, power (if the dam is working), and cooking equipment make this a very posh option for your climbing trip. However, be aware space is extremely limited and it can be expensive for a couple of nights.
Applebee Campground – Likely the most beautiful campground in the world, perched atop a granite dome surrounded by the massive spires of the Bugaboos. Camping is first-come, first-serve. Be sure you bring cash to pay for your spot. There is unpurified water available, and there are outhouses on site. Be sure you do not camp on flora, only setting up your tent on rocks or dirt.
Accessing and Climbing Minotaur Direct
The route itself is only about 0.5km of relatively level travel across the moraines and glacier. While typically benign, the access route does likely have a few large crevasses that are opened up during the climbing season. Use caution.
Minotaur Direct Topo & Route Map
The route itself is comprised of 16 pitches as outlined below. Please note: Rappel stations, anchors, and route line is approximate, and may be incorrect in certain spots. Please let me know if you find any errors.
Download the PDF version here (8.5×11″) or view the image below
“Minotaur Direct” Pitch Breakdown
Gear/Rack: Full Double rack from #0 to #3. Set of nuts and RP’s. Optional #4 and #5 for P15 + P5 respectively. Extra mid-size cams (#0.3-#0.75 might be helpful depending on comfort level).
Pitch 1 – 2 (5.10-/5.10+) Start off at the base of the East face at the obvious scoop below the large rock scar. Climb up hand cracks (5.10-), cross the scoop (possible gear belay) then continue up the slabby but thinner corner (5.10+) to a two-bolt anchor. This can be climbed in 1 pitch with a 70m (60m may work early season). Difficulty and length are dependent on the amount of snow at the base.
Pitch 3 (5.10+, 30m): Ascend the corner above the belay and through a small overhang. Move up left into a shallow corner until an easy ramp leads back right. Traverse right on flakes to a bolted belay.
Pitch 4 (5.11+, 35m): Three cruxes define this long pitch. Climb through thin tips and crack low into a stemming corner. Once at the top of the corner, climb left through a bolt-on face moves onto the arete. Move right back into the corner. Thin moves with small gear in a corner will put you at another bolted anchor.
Pitch 5 (5.10+, 50m) Move up through a steep fist crack from the anchor, lie-backing over a bulge with a pod feature. Above the bulge, move up to a bolt, then left into a right-leaning corner which features a hand crack. Follow easier climbing up to a big ledge, then move up and left to a bolted anchor with rings beneath a groove above which trends right.
From here, Welcome to the Machine (5.11+) Splits to the left. Anchors for this climb are beneath the obvious flake.
Pitch 6 (5.10+, 30m): From the anchor on the ledge, move up the groove through two knife-blades, and then make face moves up to a bolted anchor.
Pitch 7 (5.11+, 35m): Move up a finger crack, traversing first left, then back right into the main crack. Place gear at the roof and climb it at 5.11+. Above the roof, move up and left on the slab to the anchor.
Pitch 8 (5.11-, 30m): From the anchor, move up to a bolt, then traverse right on the slab to reach the base of a left-leaning, left-facing corner. Move up the corner, protected with micro cams and RP’s. Upon reaching two pins, move up into the main corner (2 more bolts + gear) and to the bolted anchor above.
Pitch 9 (5.10, 55m): Ascending from the anchor, climb easier terrain with a short 5.10 finger crack. Climb up a corner until you are near the grassy ledge. Step right, traversing up ledges to a bolted anchor. This ledge makes an excellent bivy ledge if wishing to complete the route in two days.
Pitch 10 (5.9, 20m): Above the ledge, move up the best of the cracks, passing a belay station on the left. Either belay here, or link into Pitch 11.
Pitch 11 (5.11-, 30m): Move up the right crack with good hands as it thins out into a tricky finish at an alcove with a bolted belay.
Pitch 12 (5.11-, 35m): Climb the left crack for ~5m, then make face moves (reachy) to the right to reach a crack that parallels the arete. Move up this crack and over the lip to a bolted belay. Tricky, and potentially dirty. (can be linked with P13 with 70m rope)
Pitch 13 (5.9, 30m): Climb the easy but runout chimney to the top of the pinnacle.
Pitch 14 (5.11+, 30m): 3 bolts and bouldery moves start out in the thin, left-leaning rack from the belay. The crack will continue to ease up all the way until you reach a comfy belay ledge.
Pitch 15 (5.11, 30m). The money pitch. From the anchor, climb a fist crack up the left side of a large pillar into a splitter (thin hands) which strikes through the upper headwall above. More thin jams await above the headwall. An extra #0.75 or #1 Camalot could be useful for this pitch depending on comfort level.
Pitch 16 (5.10) Finish the crack as it eases up and widens. Move to the right around a bulge and continue up a groove to a bolted belay.
Descent: 2 x 60m ropes are required to descend. Either scramble to the summit and descend the west face or descend the East Face via. Minotaur Direct.
CAUTION: Note the locations of ring stations on the ascent as many rappels will skip stations without rings.