From The Archives: 1958 Bugaboos to Rogers Pass Traverse

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

Click here to learn more about donating your personal archives!

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3 Responses

  1. b,
    Amazing what one can do with skis, and poles. (ie. tent frame.)
    Ten days in the mountains. How daunting. How exciting. How awesome!
    Teamwork says alot about what can be accomplished when a few passionate climbers put their minds together. I can see how you are so taken with climbing and hiking in the mountains.
    I remember my first trip to Aspen, CO. and looking out over the Rockies and thinking I had never been so close to God and heaven. Climb on!

    • Bren,
      Love the article. My first pair of skies were a used head metal competition ski. 195’s they weighed more than I did at the time. Steel Look Nevada bindings.

      It is great to read about innovation in action. People who make things happen.. very inspiring!

  2. […] Anyway, here is a link to a blog post I wrote up at the AAC library. We are in the process of digitizing a TON of material, so there will be many more cool posts and trip reports. Enjoy: click this […]

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