September is a time to get out and explore – it can be less crowded, and the mountain tops can have a beautiful dusting of snow. However, it is also a time where the weather can change rapidly and be a little less predictable. Although it can be still and settled, this September brought snow a lot earlier than usual, making for some quick planning on changing some pre- arranged backcountry trips. It is – we discovered- a great month for checking out some backcountry huts.
The Conrad Kain Hut in the Bugaboos is one such hut. The Bugaboos Provincial Park is a busy place in mid-summer, a big climbing area as well as family friendly, and first come first serve campgrounds near the hut make it a prime destination. In September , especially this September, as it was pretty chilly early on, all the climbers are gone and you have the place more or less to yourselves.
Even just getting there is an adventure. It is about 50km down a dirt road, which depending on the conditions can be pretty bad. I was heading down with some friends who were driving from Jasper, so by the time we got to the trailhead , about 2.5 hours drive south-east of Golden, BC, we were glad to only be doing an afternoon of hiking.
But first- time to porcupine-proof the car. People we told about this laughed, they though we were joking. But no-one wants to come back from an adventure to a car with chewed-through brake lines. BC Parks has supplied a bunch of chicken wire which you diligently wrap around the lower half of your vehicle, then prop up with sticks and trap the bottom with rocks (after checking out everyone else’s technique to make sure yours is legit!)
The hike to the Conrad Kain Hut is 4.5km long but dont be fooled. You will gain about 700m of elevation in about 3km. First you travel through a beautiful forest, on easy winding trail. You begin to climb after about 1.5km, through rocky boulders, and forest untill you come out of the tree line. If it is clear weather you will have brilliant views towards the glaciers ahead – and the mountains around you will pop up into view.
We had cloudy, misty weather but that made it even better, with an element of surprise when we got a glimpse of the snowy peaks. The trail, in true Canadian fashion was nicely graded and switchbacked until about 1 km before the hut. Here it becomes more of an adventure, you climb a ladder and use chains to assist getting up a more exposed steep section of trail. The bonus is you climb quickly into the subalpine, where larches greet you. We were there a little early for the larches to be changing, but still some nice autumnal colours were coming through in the vegetation.
A few hundred metres later, you finally pop out at the hut, there to greet you in all its glory – it is a pretty spectacular backcountry masterpiece.
Boasting 35 bunks on two different levels, and a lower floor with a fully stocked kitchen, pots, pans, gas hobs and even electrical outlets, and a couple of large communal dining tables, the hut is able to have electricity thanks to the hydro- power from the river nearby. As every hut should have, it comes complete with loos with a view.
And let me tell you, we ate well!
We spent a lot of time chilling in the hut, playing Monopoly Deal, and eating loads- classic hut behaviour. The weather wasn’t fabulous but we managed to get out for a stroll up another 200m/ 1km to get a broader view of the glaciers and to check the hut out from above.