Huge New Route in Canada's Vampire Peaks

9/11/12 - A team of American climbers has made the first free ascent of the 800-meter-tall wall known as The Phoenix in the Vampire Spires of Canada's Northwest Territories.

Pat Goodman, Jeff Achey, Jeremy Collins, and James Q Martin climbed The Phreenix (VI 5.11, 18 pitches). Finding exceptionally ice-free conditions, they also made the first ascent of the massif's true summit (ca. 2,600 meters), which added about 2,000 feet of third- and fourth-class ridge scrambling.

This was Goodman's fifth trip to the Vampire Peaks, and his second attempt at a free climb on the feature. The Vampire Peaks first saw climber activity in 1994; The Infusion (IV 5.11 A2+) was the only route in the area, on Vampire Spire. Several years later, another team flew in and established three new climbs on neighboring walls: The Phoenix, Golden Wing Buttress, and The Fortress. Despite being only 15 miles from the popular Cirque of the Unclimbables—where sits the utterly classic Lotus Flower Tower—climbers have not gravitated toward these peaks. "It's remote grandeur at its absolute finest," says Goodman. "And the Vampires host some very impressive, unclimbed gems."

Since Goodman's first trip to the area, he's established about a dozen aid and free routes, including the first free ascents of Dark Side (IV 5.11b, Vampire Spire) and You Enjoy Myself (V+ 5.12, The Fortress). "The establishment of Phreenix marks the completion of the 'trifecta'—making the first free ascents of the Vampire Peaks' three proudest features," Goodman says.

Like Lotus Flower Tower, the Vampires are comprised of granite. A Climbing feature from summer 1995 describes the rock as "gold" and "highly crystalline, with tiny quartz knobs for the feet, and clean, with only minimal lichen."

Goodman and Collins were among the 2012 Copp-Dash Inspire Award winners for this expedition. In addition, Collins is in the fourth and final year of what he calls "finding beautiful and classic free routes in the four cardinal directions." This was his north climb. In 2009, he completed Border Country (5.12c, 13 pitches) in Yosemite Valley with Mikey Schaefer and Dana Drummond (west). In 2010, he climbed The Wolf and the Medallion (5.11, 9 pitches) with Mark Jenkins, Tommy Caldwell, Corey Rich, and Hayden Kennedy in the Keketuohai Valley, China (east). In 2011, he traveled to the Gran Sabana Jungle in Venezuela to attempt a climb on the Acopan Tepui; it is currently unfinished, and he will return with Pat Goodman in winter 2013 for another attempt (south).

Date of ascent: August 2012

Source: Pat Goodman, Climbing


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