By Pat Goodman
The Vampire Peaks in Canada’s NWT are one of those remote places on planet Earth that demand attention. Not only is the area quite stunningly rugged in character, the name “Vampire” alone exudes something supernatural that is undeniably engaging.
My sixth outing to the Vamp’s began on July 7th with the putter of Warren Lafave’s DHC-2 Beaver growing in intensity as he circled around the Vampire Lake accelerating into a step-turn and then a hold-yer-breath moment of take-off, just inches from the shore. Jessa Goebel and myself were left on the shore of the tiny turquoise lake by a pile of gear, under a fog of mosquitoes listening as the plane’s roar turned to a deafening silence; one that would not be broken until his return three weeks later. It’s a slap in the face moment realizing the full breath of such solitude and perhaps one of the most incredible aspects of excursions to these far flung locations.
[Flying into the Vampire Peaks. Photo by Pat Goodman]
[Warren Lafave’s DHC-2 Beaver at the Vampire Lake. Photo by Pat Goodman]
The stimulus for this journey was the big, un-climbed southeast face of Moraine Hill. Virtually unheard of, the “Hill” is hardly what the name implies. Surrounded by glaciers this hulking mass of granite is 2 miles long and 2’000 feet tall with a jagged skyline revealing eight separate summits varying in elevation up to 8,750 feet. The desolate moraine and miles of glacial ice are a deep contrast from the lush valley 3 miles below that hosts the Vampire Spire and the Phoenix; the Hill even seemed to conjure up its own foul weather, a hazy cloak frequently shrouded the summit while the peaks to our north would bask in the sunlight.
[Jessa Goebel on glacier during the approach to Moraine Hill. Photo by Pat Goodman]
[Jessa Goebel exploring during the approach. Photo by Pat Goodman]
We battled the archetypal wetness of the region by spending days on end under the protection of tent walls playing Solitaire, reading and drinking tea. The occasional blue sky would lure us from our hibernation into the vertical and the ensuing onslaught commonly resulted in a near hypothermic excursion.
[Selfie on the Southeast face of Moraine Hill. Photo by Pat Goodman]
[A rare ten minute glimpse of blue skies. Photo by Pat Goodman]
Nonetheless, a wonderful adventure was had ─ to me a successful expedition is surely not measured by the number of summits, but the intensity of joy and good consequences of existence while in the mountains.