New climbing routes at Vampire Spiers in Canada, by Sebastian Pelletti & Co

Interview with Sebastian Pelletti after the first ascent of three new big walls in the Vampire Peaks area in the Northwest Territories/Yukon in Canada, established with Michael Pedreros, Hernan Rodriguez Salas and photographer Pato Diaz: ‘Viaje Boreal’ on Monte Dracula, ‘ Flow Latino’ on Mount Dracula and ‘Natural Mystic’ on Dawn Mist Mountain.

In August 2022 a small but experienced group of climbers consisting of Michael Pedreros, Sebastian Pelletti, Hernan Rodriguez Salas and photographer Pato Diaz ventured into the little-explored area of ​​the Vampire Spiers in the Northwest Territories / Yukon in Canada. Unlike the expeditions that preceded them, the team enjoyed near-perfect weather and managed to establish three big walls in style, as well as attempt another new route. The climbs are: Viaje Boreal, Mount Dracula East Face (12/08/2022), Pluma de condor, Tail Feather Ridge (14/08/2022), Flow Latino, Mount Dracula South Face (16/08/2022), Natural Mystic, Dawn Mist Mountain (08/20/2022). Pelletti told us all the details.

Seb, tell us about Vampire Spiers. How did you get to these Vampire Spires?
I was researching unexplored ranges in northern Canada, and the Cirque of the Unclimbables naturally came to mind. After reading the various reports in the American Alpine Journal, I realized that many teams have traveled to the Cirque but, without the extra budget to take the helicopter to visit the little known surrounding areas, most climb the classic 5.10 on the Lotus Flower Tower, crowding the base camp at Fairy Meadows, with maybe 5 expeditions on the same route at the same time.

Upon further research, I came across some reports written by Pat Goodman, who has made over 10 expeditions to this area, first in the Cirque and later making multiple trips to the Vampire Spiers. He provided excellent information on the massif. The name itself – Vampire Spiers – sounded intriguing and some still virgin targets were visible in photos of him and in satellite images, so this is how the project was born. Also, I discovered that Vampire Lake could be accessed by seaplane with infamous pilot Warren Lafave, so no private helicopter would be needed.

So what did you expect?
Terrible weather! I had read reports written by Pat and others, who had invested time and money in a trip to the Yukon, only to come home without even a climbable day. In my mind, if we were able to climb anything, anything, we should consider ourselves lucky.

Instead, as soon as you arrived, you ran up the east side of the Dracula. A bivouac, then the summit. Fast and light.
Yes. We started our route in the middle of a storm, the long journey north had driven us crazy, we couldn’t wait to climb the wall at all costs and wanted to be well positioned in case we had a good day. We fixed the first pitches up to a large ledge at the base of the headwall where the real climbing started. Then we saw some good weather coming and spent a night on the ledge, climbing the face in the day and returning to base camp that same evening. This “Yellow Diamond” on the east face of Mt Dracula was our main objective and, after reading about other expeditions and their bad luck with the weather, we couldn’t believe we had achieved our goal after our first four days!

You celebrated it by observing the wonder of the Northern Lights…
Locals had told us that during this time of year we would not see the Northern Lights, a phenomenon I had read a lot about during my pre-trip research. After returning to Base Camp from our route, giant beams of green light began to shine across the horizon, sharpening, twisting and turning, illuminating the entire valley. We woke up the next day with a sense of disbelief; could we really have been so lucky? Not only had we managed to climb our route, but we had also witnessed the most amazing natural phenomenon we had ever seen.

Then came a new route up the south face of the same mountain
After a few days of rest and rain at Base Camp, looking at the surrounding walls we spotted a line on the “Bela Lugosi Wall” that Pat had climbed a few years ago. The rock seemed solid, with less vegetation than the “Yellow Diamond” and we managed to climb fast and lightly, descending the easy south ridge. The rock was stellar and we followed a single crack system most of the way, with big quartz ‘bumps’ to climb like conglomerate. Furthermore, when the cracks became blind, there were always holds and supports on the wall.

Two beautiful new routes. Followed by yet another, right?
Our last ascent was in the valley alongside, on Mt Dawn Mist, a stunning granite grind that you fly over as you approach Vampire Lake. The south face stands perfectly vertical and has a much more “alpine” feel. The sight of the clean white granite, with no vegetation, was enough to convince us to move the tents above the nearby glacier, for one last climb. Mt. Dawn Mist has 3 very attractive pillars, divided with continuous crack systems ranging from finger to offwidth. The summit tower seemed to offer the longest climbs, and a steep pillar in the center of the wall was cut by a singular system of directed cracks which seemed passable in a day. We set off at dawn, passing the glacier thanks to the photos we had taken, totally blinded by the thick cloud that had settled over the valley. A debris chute marked the start of our route and we ventured up the face with virtually no visibility. Although we didn’t get to see the following pitches, we stayed in the crack system we had photographed the day before and slowly worked our way up following our intuition. Halfway up a southerly breeze blew the cloud away and revealed our incredible position on the pillar. This was a much-needed energy boost at the time, and so we kept moving along the summit ridge to eventually reach the summit at sunset.

Sounds cool. Other?
We spent our rest days reading and bouldering when it wasn’t raining too much. We also established a shorter route, 3 pitches up Tail Feather Ridge, a beautiful black granite peak which we nicknamed Pluma de condor – the feather of the condor. We worked and cleaned the first pitch on the slab, to then reach a 60m long dihedral, a sort of arched crack with a crux that leads to the top of the feather-shaped pillar.

Everything seems too perfect Seb! How would you rate this expedition?
The trip was incredible, we saw caribou, bears, mountain goats, northern lights, wild glaciers and big walls… let’s just say it was more than we could have expected. It must be added that the flight is dangerous and only Warren Lafave is able to pass a seaplane through the narrow valley and land on that tiny alpine lake. After he landed with us the first day, he decided he would never fly there again, but I think he could be convinced if someone appealed to his adventurous and maverick nature… Base camp can be set up at Vampire Lake, but for In order to explore a little further, we hauled our gear a few hours downriver over a two day period, establishing base camp below the Yellow Diamond Wall. Many lines have remained untouched and interested parties can contact me at any time for advice. We feel very, very lucky for the experience we had in the Northwest Territories/Yukon. It was amazing.

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New climbing routes at Vampire Spiers in Canada, by Sebastian Pelletti & Co