The very first time he laid eyes on the Bugaboos in 1993, a collection of tall granite spires jutting straight up from the glaciers at their bases, Marc Piché admits he was, quite simply, blown away.
“I’d never seen anything like it. It was the first big granite mountains I’d ever seen,” Piché recalled. “The alpine environment and the quality of the climbing — it’s a really special place. Once you’re out there, it’s really remote; you have to take it seriously. You can still have very real days and very real experiences there.”
As assistant manager of Canadian Mountain Holidays’ (CMH) Bugaboo Lodge for the past six years, from where he guides heli-skiers through the winter months and climbers through the summer, Piché, 34, has since become intimately familiar with “the Bugs”, an area revered among climbers around the world as one of the great alpine playgrounds.
And although Piché is a resident of Canmore, Alberta, he estimates between his work days and his own personal climbing time that he spends between 150 to 200 days a year in the Bugaboos, which are located in the Purcell Mountains of southeastern B.C., just southwest of Golden.
But while the Bugs are well known and deeply loved by countless members of the climbing community, until the last couple of years, Piché said, those climbers were helping themselves to giant helpings of pleasurable adventure, without giving back to the area that provided their experiences.
But now, after several years of dedication, the Friends of Bugaboo Park, a group spearheaded by Piché, recently earned its official status as a registered society.
Following its mission to act as stewards of Bugaboo Glacier Provincial Park by working with government and stakeholders to maintain the natural and recreational integrity of the Bugaboos, FOBP members are helping care for the wilderness area by organizing volunteer groups to carry out much needed access trail maintenance and other projects, and through raising funds and collaborating with B.C. Parks and the Alpine Club of Canada, who operates the area’s Conrad Kain Hut.
Working alongside Piché, a fully certified guide with the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, are his wife, Lilla Molnar, also an ACMG guide, and Squamish’s Chris Atkinson, an ACMG guide who with Piché co-authored the area’s essential guidebook, The Bugaboos: One of the World’s Great Alpine Rockclimbing Centres, published by Squamish based Elaho. Rounding out the FOBP board are Invermere climber Tim McAllister, Canmore based assistant ACMG guide Sean Isaac and Calgary biologist Matthew Collins.