American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Northwest and Yukon Territories, Logan Mountains, Vampire Peaks, New Routes

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2000

Vampire Peaks, New Routes. Pike Howard and I flew to Summit Lake in the Vampire Peaks area on July 8. Our intentions were to explore the peaks west of Mount Mulholland on the Moraine Hill Glacier and continue the exploration of the Vampire Peaks. We established Base Camp at the foot of the Phoenix in rainy weather near the terminus of the Moraine Hill Glacier. The rain continued for seven days and deposited several inches of snow on the glacier and nearby faces. Hoping that time and good weather would stabilize conditions, we headed up to the Vampire Spires, which had escaped much of the snow. A window of good weather opened as we hiked and for the first time we saw blue sky. Not wanting to waste the opportunity, we rushed toward the Canine, an 800-foot, free-standing granite tower, and glassed a line for the next day.

The Canine had been attempted by the Childers party in 1998 (see 1999 AAJ, pp. 269- 271), but they were forced to retreat in the face of poor weather. We found predominantly moderate climbing, although loose and unsavory at times, on our route, Rabies Shot (IV 5.10 C2+). A long (180'+), loose, and lichenous offwidth was the first major obstacle. Having grunted our way up that, Howard battled a bizarre comer formed by the convergence of two plates of rock (5.10 C2+). Protection in this section was difficult as cams would hopelessly umbrella in a chimney behind the façade of an otherwise normal-looking crack. A final pitch that included 5.10 face and crack climbing ended on a spacious ledge 15-18 feet below the true summit. Alas, the summit block was composed of rotten, vertical, and decomposing stone. I tried to lasso the summit, but that trick ended when the flake I snagged nearly chopped the rope after it peeled off the wall. We decided against a bolt ladder, and I drilled a single bolt for a rappel. This was the only bolt or piton used on the climb. Considering that fact and our alpine location, we felt justified in our restraint.

After a rest day, we started up the Vampire Spire. Our route took a direct line up the center of the south face on clean, golden rock. The first three long leads (5.9, A2+, 5.10/A1) follow a large dihedral before meeting The Infusion below a difficult (5.10+) offwidth. No bolts were used on the direct start, which we called The Undead (IV/V 5.10+ A2+). After a day off due to rain, we headed back up, hoping to summit via the final pitches of The Infusion. Sleet and rain once again sent us fleeing for the tents just before a pendulum onto easier ground. The next morning, we awoke to six inches of snow. Having only one day’s food left, we headed down to our food cache to eat and dry out. To our surprise, our metal bear box containing two weeks of provisions and our radio was gone. “Into Thin Air” was a fitting title to that chapter of the trip as we searched fruitlessly for our provisions. A large grizzly had eaten our canned goods and simply walked away with a 60-pound food box. Seven days of rain, snow and hunger followed until a break in the weather allowed us to hike back up to the Vampires and retrieve our gear. Luckily, our bush pilot Warren LaFave flew in to drop off a crew from Colorado. On the fifth day of good weather out of 23, we wished the newcomers good luck and flew away. I wish only that Mother Nature had been more hospitable. Future parties are warned against the unpredictable weather.

Jack Childress*

*Recipient of the Boyd Everett Fellowship Grant

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