The Background History
Four young climbers dream of climbing the Lotus Flower Tower, a legendary big wall, somewhere in the Cirque of the Unclimbables in the furthest outreaches of Northern Canada. For 800 m of climbing, they will have to face 550 km of dangerous Nahanni river over a whole month of total independence.
Given that they have only limited experience in this type of adventure, they persuade Dom, a seasoned traveller 33 years their senior, to help them get this expedition off the ground. Whereas Dom will be realising his teenage dream of riding the Nahanni rapids, he is also about to realise that the Lotus Flower will be his last ‘Big Wall’ climb.
A poetic and fun adventure of passing the baton between generations, a point where the dream becomes reality.
Packrafting Down the Nahanni
The Nahanni River runs in the Northwest Territories of Canada to the west of the regional capital Yellowknife. At the Virginia Falls, the Nahanni drops down 90 metres, i.e. twice the height of the Niagara Falls. It then plunges into 4 large canyons with rapids bearing the most terrifying names, each one more petrifying than the other, and all witnesses to the multiple attempts that have been made by gold diggers and other trappers. It was only at the end of the 1960s, when man was first setting foot on the moon, that a team of Frenchmen succeeded in travelling down the entire length of the Nahanni for the very first time. Pierre-Louis Mallen described this descent in his book published by Flammarion in 1968: Victoire sur la Nahanni [Victory over the Nahanni]. Roger Frison-Roche has also made the Nahanni River famous in France with his last book published by Arthaud in 1969: Nahanni, la vallée sans hommes [Nahanni, the valley devoid of man].
Climbing the Lotus Flower Tower
The Lotus Flower Tower (2,570m) is a legendary pillar of 800m, climbed for the first time in 1968 by a legendary team of climbers from Yosemite in California: James P. McCarthy, Tom Frost and Harthon Bill. The south-east face consists of two sections: a first section that is easier, but often more humid. This leads to a large bivouacking terrace from which to start the final wall. The latter’s reputation stems from its pillar that is gouged from top to bottom by spectacular fissures. Besides its fissures, the rock of the final wall offers welcome knobs that provide a foothold. The climbing experience is out of this world, without ever being hard, except for a short athletic overhang (5.11a grading). The Lotus Flower Tower is only accessible by helicopter or by travelling 550 km down the Nahanni River. Our adventurers went for the second option, i.e. one month of total independence in the most unspoilt countryside you can find in northern Canada.