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FA of Run for Cover
July 2001 :: Canada :: Cirque of the Unclimbables

Matt Childers offers this report on his trip to Canada in July, 2001.  His route, "Run for Cover," is an amazing new line in the Cirque of the Unclimbables.  This trip was supported by a Lyman Spitzer Award, an annual AAC grant.  Read the full story below!

On July 20th Chris Van Leuven and myself were dropped off in the Cirque of the Unclimbables in Canada’s Northwest Territories.  We had 11 days to spend in the Cirque before we were flown into the Ragged Range for some exploratory climbing.  After hiking two loads up to Fairy Meadows from Glacier Lake five miles away, Chris and I attempted the Lotus Flower Tower.  We climbed up to pitch thirteen on this attempt before we were rained off.  Three days later the weather opened up and we made another attempt.  Once again it began raining on us on the thirteenth pitch but we kept going.  The weather cleared again as we approached the top.  Unfortunately, by the time we summited a full-blown storm unleashed on us.  Hail, snow, and driving rain hammered us as we made the four-hour rappel from the top.  We were both very impressed with the route and happy to be down safe.  The weather continued to hamper our other climbing plans in the Cirque.  Chris and I then spent a day collecting trash around Fairy Meadows for the Cirque 2000 Project.  Overall Fairy Meadows was in good shape and well taken care of.

On August second Chris and I were picked up from the Cirque in search of virgin terrain.  Our first attempt to find the East sanctuary of Mt. Nirvana found us in an area to the east with no flat ground to land on and a distinct lack of appetizing peaks.  We would later learn that this area was aptly called _Valley of Chaos_.  After aborting that flight we went back the next day with better directions.  We landed on an incredible alpine meadow on the east side of Mt.

Nirvana, the highest peak in the North-West

Territories.  We knew of only one other climbing party to visit this area, Jack Bennett and team summated Mt. Nirvana in 1996.   Our objective stood out like a beacon in a storm, the untouched south face of the Minataur rose dramatically out of the glacier for almost two- thousand feet.   

We were experiencing the best weather of the trip at this point and immediately began humping loads.  There was a beautiful line that spit the south face and led continued to the summit corner systems.  After a five-hour approach we fixed the first two pitches of the route.  We returned the next day with plans to blast the wall in two days.  The climbing turned out to be a frightening/loose/awesome mixture of free and aid climbing.  The steepness of the wall dictated hanging belays when the rope ran out.  We bivied about a thousand feet up the climb after the first day.  That night the temperatures plummeted and a storm dumped over a foot of snow on us.  This forced us to retreat the next day.    

After gathering our wits and resting for 2 days, the weather finally looked like it would give us a shot.  Being familiar with the terrain allowed us to gain our highpoint earlier and get one more pitch in before dark.  As we were setting up the portaledge snow began to fall again. Luckily we woke up to a cold, but clear morning.  We high tailed it out of camp and raced for the summit.  We gained a chimney and corner system that split the upper wall.  The climbing was consistently loose with iced up wide, cracks that were often times unprotectable.   Chris continued to step up with bold free climbing as we aimed for the top.  The weather was alternating snow and sun all day.  As I pulled the summit mantel it was dumping snow, but by the time I set up the anchor the weather had cleared.  The summit offered a brilliant view of Mt. Nirvana and the surrounding peaks.  We rapped the route and touched the ground without placing any holes on the entire route.

Chris and I can_t thank the American Alpine Club enough for their support of our trip.    Without the opportunities offered by the AAC our expedition would not have been possible.  This encouragement helped us complete the most intense and rewarding climbing experience of our lives.

New Route:  Run for Cover V 5.10 A2, South Face of the

Minataur, Ragged Range, Northwest Territories, Canada