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Areas in The Cirque of the Unclimbables

Bustle Tower 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 1
East Huey Spire 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 1
Lotus Flower Tower 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 1
Terrace Tower 2 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 2 / 2

Description [Suggest Change]

The Cirque of the Unclimbables offers amazing granite rock climbing in a remote, beautiful setting. Found in Nahanni Provincial Park just over the western border of the Northwest Territories, the Cirque is pretty out there. No roads lead to within a hundred miles of the Cirque.

Often likened to the Bugaboos but without all of the snow and harder to get to, the Cirque holds many spires and walls. Most are suitable for climbing, but Lotus Flower Tower and Mount Proboscis stand out as gems. Mid-to-late summer offers the best climbing weather and also offers up to 20 hours of daylight because of the Cirque's northern geography.

Fairy Meadows, the traditional basecamp for all routes in the Cirque except the more remote Mount Proboscis, is a magical, lush, well, meadow. Granite boulders, some house-sized, dot the meadow and present rainy-day bouldering opportunities and shelter for tents. Most objectives in the area are a one-hour walk from the meadow. However, those who plan on climbing Mount Proboscis should plan on a much more involved approach from the meadow, one that takes a number of hours and involves a climb through What Notch, as Proboscis actually lies in a subsidiary cirque.

George Bell's excellent and informative site answers most questions about the area: gibell.net/cirque/

Getting There [Suggest Change]

This is the hard and expensive part. Unless you are masochistic, it is necessary to charter a float plane to fly you into the Cirque. Warren Lafave's company, Kluane Airways is the primary service for the Cirque. He owns the Inconnu Lodge, a very high-end fishing resort, so those who chose to fly with Kluane often are treated to food and lodging at this up-scale establishment. Warren usually stashes a sat phone in the Cirque in order to coordinate trips back to civilization. More info can be found at: kluaneairways.com/unclimbab…

We drove to Finlayson Lake, which is about two hours north of Watson Lake in the Yukon Territories. From here, a float plane picked us up and flew us to Glacier Lake, the major drop-off point for the Cirque. From Glacier Lake, expect a long slog up interminable talus to Fairy Meadows. So, from the lake, follow a meandering trail generally west until you hit the talus at the base of Mount Harrison Smith, a mile-high hunk of bad granite. Take a hard right and follow the talus generally north until you hit Fairy Meadows. It took us a solid half-day to get from the lake to the meadow.

It is also possible, though more expensive, to charter a helicopter to drop you off at Fairy Meadows, thereby bypassing the talus slog. If I ever go back, I am definitely getting the helicopter. After negotiating the talus a few times while shuttling loads, I came to the conclusion that the helicopter is absolutely worth the extra cost.

5 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at The Cirque of the Unclimbables

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 4
West Ridge
Trad, Alpine 4 pitches
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
 16
Southeast Face
Trad, Alpine 18 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
West Ridge E Huey Spire
 4
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad, Alpine 4 pitches
Southeast Face Lotus Flower Tower
 16
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b Trad, Alpine 18 pitches
More Classic Climbs in The Cirque of the Unclimbables »

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If you plan on using a heli for the ride up to Fairy Meadows you can avoid the float plane legs to and from the Innocu Lodge by taking a heli from Tundra Helicopters directly from the town of Watson Lake to Fairy Meadows. It's faster and a little cheaper (at least with 4 people) than the float plane/heli combo. Contact Steve Harrison at tundrahelicopters@hotmail.com / 867) 536-4644 Jul 23, 2014
George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
My guide is now at:
gibell.net/cirque/ Oct 12, 2015
Aaron Formella
Atascadero, CA
Aaron Formella   Atascadero, CA
Chad Copeland's webpage with many great photos and videos about his trip into the Cirque of the Unclimbables with Tim Emmett and the late Sean "Stanley" Leary here:

copelandred.com/cirque-of-t… Feb 11, 2017

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