Vampire Spire, Nosferatu. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon when the three of us reached the oddly sloping ledge 100m from the summit of Vampire Spire. “No one’s ever set foot on this ledge before,” I observed as I crunched across the lichen-encrusted slab. This was our summit push. Doug had just struggled up a hideous bomb-bay squeeze chimney, making some of the strangest noises I have heard from the sharp end of the rope. We would do as many new pitches today as we had done since being dropped off in this wilderness two weeks previously. The weather was nice when Warren LaFave’s helicopter departed, leaving five dirtbag American climbers stranded in the little alpine valley. This soon changed as rain and low-flying clouds, known as “mustard gas,” settled in. I would be climbing with Doug La Farge, a friend from college, and John Sedelmeyer, a fellow Outward Bound instructor. Pat Goodman and Hank Jones were also there, with the intent of freeing a new route on the Vampire. We too had designs to free the Vamp, but our first goal was a first ascent.
During brief day-long intervals of relatively good weather, we pushed our route three pitches, averaging about one pitch a day. This part of our route was the crux. Pitch two features a splitter thin crack that took a triple set of brass nuts, plus a few hand-placed beaks. John did an excellent job on this lead, resisting the temptation to break out the hammer. There is a bolt to start the pitch, though, placed by Pat and Hank the previous year on their attempt. The bolt was justified, allowing passage through a blank section.
The third pitch consists of more thin nutting and a dicey pendulum into a wet seam. The seam soon turns into a finger-to-hand-size splitter. What made this lead so special for me was the hail storm that cut loose when I was halfway up. The chimney system above acted as a huge funnel, pouring millions of hailstones on my head. This spectacular pitch put us at the base of the aforementioned chimney pitch.
We spent the few hours of darkness on the lichen ledge, pretending to sleep, before rappelling the remainder of the route in a light rain.
Rich Ludwig, AAC