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North America, Canada, Vampire Spires, Phoenix, Wallflowers to Near Summit

Phoenix, Wallflowers to near summit. On June 30 a tiny Hughes 500 helicopter dropped Amelia Patterson and me at the base of a stunning 2,500' granite face known as the Phoenix. It is the largest feature in the Vampire Spires group of the Ragged Range in Canada’s Northwest Territories, 15 miles north of the famed Cirque of the Unclimbables. Thanks to our adventurous spirits and the generous support of the Alpine Club of Canada, we hoped to complete the first female ascent of the Phoenix, either by establishing a new route or completing a second ascent of one of the several previously climbed routes on the granite face.

After fixing and hauling three pitches, we committed ourselves to our route and spent five nights on the face. We climbed 13 long pitches, mainly aiding the dirt-and-vegetation-choked coarse cracks characteristic of the region. There were no nights, due to the midnight sun, but we were frequently forced to take cover in our cramped portaledge by daily rain showers and our fatigue. Less than 200' from the summit an ice-filled chimney halted our progress. With nowhere to place pro and no ice gear, we retreated.

Our route, which we named Wallflowers (VI 5.8 C2+) to commemorate the colorful flora destroyed by our efforts, linked the unfinished After School Special with the upper four pitches of Freebird (Childers-Shull-Young, 1998) in 13 pitches, one of which was previously unclimbed. We placed no protection bolts, five belay bolts, and used only clean aid. The route could go free with enormous amounts of cleaning and a willingness to climb sharp off widths.

Thanks to The Alpine Club of Canada’s Jen Higgins Memorial Fund, other sponsors, and many fellow dirtbags who lent us gear.

Jasmin Caton, Canada