Vampire Spires - TR

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nature

climber
Flagstaff, AZ
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 9, 2004 - 09:10pm PT
Edit: I've held out on providing this url but what the heck.

http://www.lafarge.net/vampslarge/vampslarge.html


Mike. asked for this so you can blame him (probably just a ploy to keep me from spewing Shrub dirt - not a bad idea - does lower the blood pressure). I've not written a trip report but I know there are a few interested folks (enough in my book) to put this time in on this forum. I'll probably add as I go but to begin....

If you don't have a highspeed connection this will take some time to load. Sorry.
--------------


Over the summer I (Doug La Farge) traveled to Canada's Northwest Territories with two really good friends - Rich Ludwig and John Seddlemeyer - on a month long climbing expedition. Along the way were joined by two other Americans who I now consider very good friends - Pat Goodman and Hank Jones. Our plan was to be flown into the Vampire Peaks region of the Ragged Range in the Logan Mountains in Northwest Territories. Our goal was to be in the region for a month and establish a new climb on the Vampire Spire. We were in the region for 27 days. Pat and Hank were also heading to the same area (basecamp) to establish the first free climb on the Vampire Spire. Both parties were successful. Not only did we accomplish our goal, we came back alive and we came back still friends. Our party of three established Nosfuratu (V C2+ 5.9). Pat and Hank, on day 25!, established The Dark Side (V 5.11b). I will digress here and say that Pat and Hank are very good climbers with an ethic that cannot be surpassed.

The trip started in mid-July. Rich, John and I converged on my fathers house in Tacoma, WA - I flew in from Flagstaff, they drove up from Eugene. There we drove to Squamish and stayed there for two days (I'm a lamer and did no climbing cuz i was still staging!). We flew from Vancouver, BC to Whitehorse Yukon. The scenery along the way (flight) was mind blowing. It was neat knowing that we had friends in the Waddington Range - which we could sorta see.

After landing in Whitehorse, Yukon we were picked up by our host - the Inconnu Lodge run by the infamous Warren LaFave. After grabbing way to much beer to drink for the ride (remember things are WAY different in Yukon) and stopping at the head shop - in Canada you can say "bong" and "weed" in a head shop and nobody cares - we started on our six hour journey to the Inconnu Lodge. To describe the lodge as decadent wouldn't do it justice. We arrived at Finlansen Lake in eastern Yukon. Immediately upon our arrival the Hughes 500 landed as well as "The Beaver". Next thing we knew we were loading fruit and beer and soda and beer and meat and beer into the chopper and the plane. I should mention that we paid about $6000 CND for this service. At the Inconnu, as a climber, you are not a first class guest, you are first class luggage! You pay for them to fly you where you want to go. You make friends by busting ass and loading beer in the chopper. We made friends.

After all the supplies were loaded we were flown to McEvoy Lake where the Lodge is. We got in late - 10PM though still full daylight. We partied. We were suppose to be flown into the Vamps the next day but the first class clients delayed our departure. I went fishing that day instead. The Inconnu was built to cater to people that wanted world class fishing - I couldn't miss. Seven Greyling later I wasn't unhappy to not be flown out the day. (All catch and release).

Finally the next day were we flown in. Because Hank and Pat had coordinated with us we did what we call "piggybacking". Hank and Pat departed from the lodge in the chopper and were flown directly to basecamp. We departed the lodge in The Beaver and were flown to the Nahani River (boy that was a psycho landing). We emptied the plane on a sand bar. The chopper then came down from basecamp and shuttled us up the Vampire Creek drainage to basecamp. I cannot explain just how exciting this time was. The chopper landed were we eventually would set up our tents. Warren flew the chopper. He thinks we are nuts for climbing - the way he flies that chopper there is no doubt he's nuts (and Pat has the stories to prove it). We get along great with Warren!

I should also mention that the Yukon was on fire! Over 200 fires of such a ginormous nature they are not fought. It was smokey and made for some crazy "sunsets".

Finally in the region we established camp and immediately began to shuttle loads to the base of Vampire Spire. By day two I was climbing the first pitch and pushing our way up. It would take us 14 days to finally finish our route (Nosfuratu). We'd get a pitch in, or maybe only half a pitch, and it would start raining. We spent 10 of the first 14 days in our tents listening to rain or waiting for the rock to dry. We had pushed a camp all the way up to pitch two and had fixed the third pitch. After fixing that pitch we retreated to our ledges and prepared to blast the next morning. Pitter-patter, pitter-patter. Rain. We bailed. Finally three days later we got a window of weather and went for it.

We started at 6 AM, jugged our lines and went for it. I lead pitch four and freed 99.9% of it. There is about 6" on the route i could not free. It was a squeeze and I just could not get through. I removed clothing, helmet, my leg loops, all my gear, my warm clothing but no luck. Finally, after over four hours on a free lead I aided the final section, flopped on to a ledge and about died from being exhausted. The boys jugged and John began leading what would be the final pitch. At about 9:30PM we all topped out on that pitch. We had one more pitch to go - the summit pitch established by Benge and Hollenbaugh in 1994. We summited at 10:30 PM. We were on top of the world as far as we were concerned. Not done yet, we tossed in another nut to the one nut rap, and started our decent. We still had anchors to drill for the rap so getting down took some time. By 2AM we were exhausted but had all the anchors in. We bivied on the same ledge I flopped on to exhausted. To say it was a miserable two and half hours is an understatement. We went sort of light for an open bivy. I had my bivy sack but no padding. For the next few hours, not sleeping, I had a song going through my head - "Cold ground was my bed last night and #4 Camalot was my pillow too". 4+AM came about with the ever annoying sound - pitter-patter, pitter-patter.

We were lucky this time and it was just a few drops. It was enough for us to get going again and get off the thing. By 6 AM we were back at camp. We were "road buzzed" but the party began.

Now, I should take some time to tell you more about Warren LaFave. He loves story telling. He loves to see people happy. He is one of the most incredible people I've ever met. He promised one thing - that one day he'd become the president of the US AND Canada! I'd vote for him. So, Warren has a new story to tell. After an 8AM beer I crawled in my tent. A few hours later I heard the sound of what sounded like a bug - it was the chopper! Warren was delivering us a 15-pack of Coors light, half a loaf of breakfast bread, these peanut butter-chocolate-coconut yummy things and the gallon of fuel (that hank and pat somehow forgot). TALK ABOUT FIRST CLASS SERVICE! That 15 pack didn't last long. Pat and Hank were also on a route and a few hours after we established our route they established "The Coffin" (V C2+ 5.10ish). The timing on everything was perfect. We killed the 15-pack and a few more. We sipped Whiskey and had the phatest party five guys in the middle of nowhere could have.

That is pretty much the meat of the story. We spent a few days hiking around, bouldering or not doing much of anything. Rich's back went out so John and I tried to repeat a route Nan and Pat had established - Sanguain Solution. I was 30 feet of run-out rock away from finishing the route. I puckered. I got scared. I had a full-on meltdown. We were four days from leaving - I wanted nothing more than to be done with climbing. It was pathetic.

When we first arrived in the region we had 24 hours of solid light. By the end of the trip we were lucky to have a few hours of dark. The second to the last night there I saw the northern lights. If you've never seen them they are wild. They look like clouds except they just disappear and then reappear IN AN INSTANT. Wild, just wild.

The journey out was not so exciting. I wanted to leave. We did what seems to be typical of expeditions. -we taxed the med kit, drank the rest of our booze and had run out of any other mental libations days earlier. Sleeping pills get you quite "drunk". A month in the sticks is more than enough. When it's time to go.....

We were more or less required by Warren to have a sat phone with us. Outside contact was not desired. That isolation from news is so incredibly peaceful.

Warren picked us up as we had scheduled. We ended up coming out a few days early. Warren was in the mode of getting rid of us so the next day we were taken back to Whitehorse. *That* is a fun town. We ended up in Whitehorse for three nights (over the weekend). We had gotten in around midnight to Whitehorse on a Friday night. The town was raging! We wandered in to a bar where they had music, women, beer and women. A month in the sticks looking at hairy guys almost gives you beer goggles without the beer part. It was weird. People! Noise! Fun!

From there we hopped our plane to Vancouver, crossed the border and in general, went home. Very anti-climactic from here on out.

--------------


I'll add to the story and augment with photo's. I got on a typing roll and didn't want to get distracted with the photos.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 9, 2004 - 09:33pm PT
Thanks for the TR nature... I am trynig to figure out how to cut loose for at least a couple of weeks and disappear into the Logan Mtns... Vampires, or Unclimbables... wonderful to know that someone gets to go, and then writes about it here.

nature

climber
Flagstaff, AZ
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 9, 2004 - 09:42pm PT
Ed, I've so enjoyed reading you view on things. I'm glad you enjoyed that TR. I hope you get to go up there some day. I know I will go back. My advice - go to the Cirque! The Vamps were fun but the potential is limited and the rock quality is not as good as in the Cirque. I won't go back to the Vamps.

Also, if you can take the time, pay for the chopper ride even if going to the Cirque.

I plan on a return to Warren's Lodge. Heck, he's now a client. I'll be rebuilding and refining his web site. He'll owe me many air miles. I want to return to the Cirque and I want to do the adventure my buddies did years ago - a month long trip floating the Nahani!

Go north young buck!
Mike.

climber
Nov 9, 2004 - 09:48pm PT
Right on! Insane fun. Congrats on bagging.

Thanks for posting it.

Can't wait to see more pix (aye, nudge...).
dave

climber
Oceanside
Nov 9, 2004 - 10:14pm PT
Rad, I always wanted to go there. Got the maps, and the drive but no one whose interested. the float sounds like the best adventure ever. Good job guys!!
nature

climber
Flagstaff, AZ
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 9, 2004 - 10:27pm PT
Chris Mac, your forum is full of bugs. Need a programmer that can debug PHP? I can help.

Where did this last post come from?

I can't edit or delete it. Chris, get rid of this out of my TR report. I'm not a dad and i'm not pu..... errrr.... I'm not!

(OK, i see now that Demented made the above post in another thread. Why is it here?) Actually, screw asking I can tell you why it is here. I debug web applications all day - Perl, PHP, etc. That's my job (as a contractor). What is happening is this. If two people decide to post - if while one is writing the other starts a response, they are both assigne the same post id. That id has not been set asside as unique. What should be unique ID's in your damn database are not (unique). Thus the overlap and cross posting. This is what you get when you write an app like this from scratch - bugs (and I been squashing the fux all week!).
nature

climber
Flagstaff, AZ
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 9, 2004 - 11:30pm PT
I ventured north in hopes that I'd find something new in this world, find something new in me. If I doubted that that would happen I don't remember. This was my first big adventure. It makes climbing El Cap seem like a weekend outing (just don't mention the Hubers, alright?). The planning, commitment, trust, and finances that went into this were extensive. It was every bit worth the cost - both time and money-wise.

Life seems slower now. It seems like I have more time. Every day is full of potential. I just wish I could go back now.

The perspective on the world that I gained this last summer, especially during times like we have now, are invaluable. It really did make me realize that I'm a member of this planet first and a member of this country second. It made me see why it should be no other way. Being outside the fish bowl was beyond enlightening. I was so sad to return to the "real" world. I remember Pat making a comment in the middle of a lot of rain - "well, you could be at home wishing you were in the mountians". We were, and I for one am going back.

I'll add to this more as I remember more neat stories. I do hope you all enjoy this. I hope ya'll can live this adventure vicariously through a dream that I actually lived. We suffered. It was cold, wet, uncomfortable, and at times rather painful. Rich took Demerol for two days to kill his lower back and hip pain - plates and screws that helped heal his hips back together were NOT "happy". That is forgotten and we're now left with memories that can't be replaced.

And with that, I take my last sip of white label (the Celebration Ale is out and it's yummy) and wish you all a good night. May peace be with those that seek it,
Doug
T2

climber
Cardiff by the sea
Nov 10, 2004 - 10:16am PT
Great trip report Nature. I flew with Warren back in 2002 to Proboscis. The Inconnu lodge is a must see to really appreciate. My partner and I spent 21 days trying a new route, but having the worst weather in 20 years (according to Warren) we were only able to climb 5 pitchs of what we figued to be maybe 18. I believe the chopper is a Houghs 500 not a Bell, but what a great ride. I am stoked for you and your compadres on a job well done. The photos make me want to go back and try again

p.s. Isn't Hank really the lead singer for Adioslave a.k.a. Chris Cornell
nature

climber
Flagstaff, AZ
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 10, 2004 - 10:31am PT
Tom, Yes you are correct - it's not a Bell and I knew that. Not sure why I had that in my mind. Though, it is Hughes - I made the change above for good measure.

Did you guys send Warren and his wife framed photos? I seem to remember a name similar to yours on some of the images he has up in the hall. If you did, they are displayed in a nice spot.

Oh, and you should see the new deck he put in. He's also building a new staff kitchen "up the hill".

If my story made you want to go back than I'm feeling better about the time I put in to this TR. It motivates me to want to return - glad it does the same for others.

I don't think Chris Cornell climbs so I don't think Hank is him. Hank did fly in with his guitar and did some signing - now that I think about it, nope, not Chris. Waayyy... not in tune :-) Though, he did play this Ween song over and over again - "buenos tardes amigos". He could be Gene or Dean Ween?
crotch

climber
Nov 10, 2004 - 02:10pm PT
Thanks for the TR and pics. Sounds like a great adventure. Coming back from a trip like that can be harsh for a little while, eh? Makes you just wish you were back in the bush.

I think the "white stuff" you are referring to is "caribou moss".

nature

climber
Flagstaff, AZ
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 10, 2004 - 02:38pm PT
"Makes you just wish you were back in the bush." and never more so than last wednesday morning.

Caribou moss, huh?

Maybe you can tell me more about the plants in these picts. I lost my knack for plant taxonomy years ago...


Picts deleted....
Southern Man

climber
Nov 10, 2004 - 04:24pm PT
Nature:
What a super cool TR. I might just have to make plans to go to the Cirque to the Unclimbables. Very Inspirational!!
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Marin Hot Tub Country
Nov 10, 2004 - 04:57pm PT
Hey nature, I would really like to see the pics, however I can see that they are all
hundreds of K/bytes each. Why not compress them down to the standard 80 - 100 KB
for the web? I will try to look at them when I'm at a broadband connection,
but it looks like many, many Megabytes worth of JPEGS, which would take forever to download.

BTW, did I ever buy you that beer for winning the contest?

I can't remember...

nature

climber
Flagstaff, AZ
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 10, 2004 - 05:10pm PT
HK, No, I've not been paid the beer. Nice to see you are like me - not one to forget a debt! Maybe I should cash in a plane ticket and head out to SF for a long weekend. I was asked today by a good friend when I'm heading out that way. Heck, if nothing else there is free beer waiting.

I'm a Perl programming geek not a graphics guy. Not sure how to get the best results and still reduce file size. I output from GraphicConverter 640X480 but perhaps I need to reduce the pallate? I'll play around a bit. This is gonna cost me bandwidth money at this rate...
Mike.

climber
Nov 10, 2004 - 05:24pm PT
Hey Doug, ImageReady (bundles with Photoshop these days) is a great tool for web-ready-ing graphics. Simple stuff - even people like me can use it.

= )
Southern Man

climber
Nov 11, 2004 - 11:51am PT
Nature:
How about some info. on things you would do differently, is july the best time to go, is 10 rainy days out of 14 the norm, what were the temps, what did you take that wasn't used, etc. The silence up there must have been so very different than all the noise in the lower 48. How many stars would you give your route? Thanks
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 12, 2004 - 01:19am PT
For more info on the Cirque of the Unclimbables check out George Bell's site:

http://www.geocities.com/~gibell/cirque/

I did a lot of research on this last year as I had convinced a friend that we should go. Unfortunately his wife fell ill and we had to cancel. I don't know as much about the Vampire Spires, but there has been a lot written in the American Alpine Journal in the last few years.

Check out the Parks Canada webpage: http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/nt/nahanni/
for information on the park... The Cirque is inside the park I believe, the Vampires are not.

As for weather...
June July August
Average Monthly Precipitation at Fort Simpson
69 mm 91 mm 73 mm
2.7 3.6 2.9
Mean Maximum Temperatures at Tungsten
16C 17C 15C
61F 63F 59F
Mean Minimum Temperatures at Tungsten
4C 6C 4C
39F 43F 39F

...of course you are going to wait out bad weather, this is Canada climbing after all!
Southern Man

climber
Nov 12, 2004 - 10:48am PT
Thanks EH:
Sorry to hear of the illness of your friends wife and subsequent cancelation of your trip. I have a hankerin' to do Lotus Flower. Maybe even do the 200 mile canoe trip back out. Thanks for the Temp. and precip. info. Did you have any specific routes in mind for your trip? Did you have any particular month picked out? How long were you going to stay? Keep those dreams alive, we only go around once.
dave

climber
Oceanside
Nov 12, 2004 - 12:22pm PT
This is a awesome, if I have'nt said it, congrats!!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 12, 2004 - 11:43pm PT
nature-
On the plant ID, I asked my wife, she complained about the lack of photographic detail, but don't take it personally, she complains to me about my pictures too...

The first (top) picture she thought might be epilobium (fire weed) if she had to guess. The second one looked familiar to her, her guess poligonium, but she retracted it and made me swear I wouldn't post it... the third picture she guessed silene (moss pink) but she said the flowers should be pink, and couldn't tell if the flowers in the photo were spent or indicating a different plant. Picture 4 is moss, and she said she only does flower plants... no guess... I didn't realize she was over specialized.

Southern Man-
I cannot claim to have a much better idea then to try to bag LFT. Having been to Canada on climbing trips something like 5 times I know better then to plan an elaborate itinerary, the weather just doesn't cooperate. If I were to luck out and have more then a couple good days in a couple of weeks then there are a number of other established routes, to do. And then if I were really ambitious and in good shape I might look for an obscure line and try it. But I would be satisfied to just be there, and maybe get a climb or two in... and shooting a huge amount of film.

My guess is that early August would be a good time, judging from the averages, and the day length is long... nature said that earlier in his post. These days I would be lucky to take 2 weeks off... but I could probably do that. The one time I was in Canada for a month was between jobs. I am blessed with an infinitely patient wife and a wonderful daughter who have somehow agreed to let me have my climbing obsession... but these days my boss probably wouldn't think it's so great.
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