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Cirque of the Unclimbables

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This was my big trip in 1998. In August, we traveled to the the Cirque of the Unclimbables, in the Northwest Territories of Canada, to climb the Lotus Flower Tower.

Cast of Characters

Dave EnglishBob McMahonAndrew TryzenkaJohn Krog
Dave Bob Andrew John

The Story

Almost a year before we left, Bob floated the idea of putting a team together to climb the Lotus Flower Tower. I said "Yes" immediately. John and Andrew were soon added, and we had our climbing team. Our objective was the Lotus Flower Tower, a 2000 foot sheer granite wall in the Northwest Territories of Canada.

There is not an official guidebook for the area, but George Bell has put together a excellent site for info about the Cirque. Other resources are on George Bell's Cirque links page.

The trip itself was almost as interesting than the climb. We left Portland on a warm August Sunday evening in a Boing 737 jet and flew to Vancouver, BC. We spent the night in Vancouver, leaving in the morning on an airBC DeHaviland Dash-8 turbo prop. We had a short layover in Terrace, BC, where we transferred to yet a smaller plane (Central Mountain Air, BeachCraft 1900D). From Terrace, we continued on north, making a quick stop in Dease Lake. As we left Dease Lake, the pilot had all of the passengers sit as far forward as possible since the plane was tail heavy because of cargo. (Do you suppose 4 climbers with 120 lbs. of gear each, had anything to do with it?) Eventually we landed in Watson Lake, Yukon Territories.

Watson Lake is an old W.W.II airlift airport, so it has a HUGE runway in the middle of nowhere. It is also home to the Sign Forest. There is supposedly something like 80,000 signs here, from all over the world. At Watson Lake airport, we were met by 'Stitch' who works for Warren LaFave, owner of the plane that was flying us into the Cirque. We also met with another group of climbers from Chicago who were going to attempt the Original Route on Proboscis. Two of the guys had driven all the way from Chicago. Whew!

From Watson Lake, we rode for 150 miles up the Robert Campbell Highway (read, good gravel road) to Finlayson Lake where Warren has a float plane dock. By this time it is getting on toward evening, but Warren did get all 8 of us ferried the 10 minute hop from Finlayson Lake to Inconnu Lodge on McEvoy Lake before it got completely dark.

Inconnu Lodge is an amazing lodge run by Warren and Anita LaFave. It is a hunting and fishing lodge in the heart of the Yukon Territory, Canada. It is truly a beautiful building, and every piece was flown in by Warren on the trusty Truck. I can't say enough about how well Warren took care of us. He fed us and let us sleep on his floor well above what was was included in the price of the airplane ride. If you get a chance, check out his place.

After spending the night at Inconnu, we took a 80 minute ride in Warren's DeHaviland Beaver float plane to Glacier Lake at the base of the Cirque valley. By lucky timing, we were able to split the cost of a helicopter ride with the Chicago guys who were going over to Proboscis. A short hop from the lake up into Fairy meadows in the Bell Jet Ranger finished our long, strange trip to the Cirque.

Lotus Flower Tower Cirque Overview Photo Map of BC and Yukon WatsonLake sign forest Warren and the Truck

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Cirque of the Unclimbables

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