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From The Archives: 1958 Bugaboos to Rogers Pass Traverse

Posted on: April 28th, 2010 by AAC Library

L to R: Briggs, Corbet, Neale, French.

One of the many things that makes the AAC Library special are the unique archives and personal papers donated by our members.   The library is much obliged to Bob and Jenny French for the donation of slides and supporting documents about his pioneering trip and for their hard work in captioning and description.

AAC library clerk Brendan McDonald provides the following summary.  All of the slides are available for viewing on the AAC’s Flickr page.

In June of 1958, four members of the Dartmouth Mountaineering Club set out to complete the first Bugaboos to Rogers Pass Traverse. Proposed by Bill “Brigger” Briggs, the traverse started at the Bugaboos Camp near Spillamacheen, B.C. and ended at Rogers Pass, the heart of Glacier National Park. The route travelled through 100 miles of wilderness, 80 of which were unmapped. Accompanying Briggs were Barry Corbet, Sterling Neale, and Roberts French, who all also taught at the Bill Briggs Ski School. “After a challenging drive (some road-building required) from Spillamacheen, B.C., to Bugaboo Camp, we began our trip on June 2.”

Road building at Bugaboo Camp

According to Bob French, 3 recent innovations made the trip a possibility:
“(1) Head metal skis, a recent innovation. A broken ski would have caused major problems, since we were in such remote territory. We drilled the tops so that they could be used as tent poles and, if needed, as an emergency litter. (2) Kelty packs, again a recent innovation. By concentrating the weight upon the hips they made extreme skiing possible. (3) Trima climbing skins. We had the attachments drilled into our skis. It was easy on, easy off.” Carrying food for 12 days, the team departed for Rogers Pass.

Ski tent poles

Beginning the traverse

With 43 pounds of weight each (plus the weight of worn items such as skis and poles), Brigger, Corbet, Neale, and French completed the “Bugs to Rogers” traverse in only 10 days. Arriving in a total whiteout, the team was “able to navigate by compass on our way to the trail leading to Rogers Pass. We arrived within 100 yards of our destination. Close enough.”

"Brigger" under blue skies

Repeated by a party that included Chic Scot (author of Summits and Icefields, Columbia Mountains which details the traverse) in 1973, the traverse has gone on to become a classic. Roberts French comments “His [Scott's] book mentions five huts along the way. We found one, at the end. Chic also mentions that food drops can be arranged about midway, at McMurdo Hut, and that arrangements for flying in must be scheduled in advance. Food drops? Flying in? Our trip was definitely low tech.” Chic’s book details the Bugs to Rogers, as well as the other Canadian Grand Traverses, and is available in the AAC library!

Riding out of Rogers Pass in an open boxcar while enjoying the extra 2 days of rations, you have to wonder if the Corbet, French, Neale, and Briggs realized they had pioneered a traverse that would test countless skiers for years to come.

Brigger, Neale, and Corbet descending to East Creek Cirque

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