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Follow The Climbs - Northwest Territories:
Un-named Peak (Mt. Nirvana)

The Summits of Canada Expedition began with the first climb on June 25, 2006. This time (July & August, 2015), the team heads north to the western boundaries of the Northwest Territories to make their second attempt on its highpoint. This mountain will include some more technical rock climbing.

But they have to get there first, and in addition to a flight in from Watson Lake, this expedition will also entail a one week paddling trip down the Little Nahanni River.

For more information and details about the highpoint of the Northwest Territories, click below:

NWT - Un-named Peak

Un-named Peak, Northwest Territories
Northwest Territories

The Agenda

Summits of Canada team leader Len Vanderstar, will be accompanied by a number of climbers for this year's adventure to the Nortwest Territories. This trip encompasses paddling and climbing in a number of areas with people joining in and taking part during various parts of the trip. Indeed, one almost needs a certificate in time scheduling and transportation management to keep track of it all.

On June 28th, a 3 member team consisting of Dave Custer, Eric Gilbertson and Susan Ruff headed to SW Nirvana to begin their first climb with an attempt on a technical and new, uncharted route up the SW face, weather permitting.

On July 13, Len Vanderstar and his brother Ron will begin the initial stage of their trip paddling approximately 220 km down the Little Nahanni River and the South Nahanni Rivers to Rabbit Kettle Lake. They will then rendezvous by helicopter with the team at East Nirvana on July 20th.

July 20 - 26: the team grows to 7 - Len and Ron Vanderstar (Canadians, eh) and Dave Custer, Eric Gilbertson, and Susan Ruff (to be helicoptered in from the South Base Camp) are also joined by Greg Slayden (American contingent) & Marc Aymerich (Spanish team member) who will also be helicoptered in. The team will then begin their climb up the East face of Nirvana.

July 27 - 31: following the climb, the team hikes out to Hole-in-the-Wall Lake (Len Vanderstar, Ron Vanderstar, Eric Gilbertson, and Greg Slayden).

Another new team member (Rick Taylor from Colorado, being helicoptered in from Watson Lake) to join Dave Custer & Susan Ruff for a flight into the Cirque of the Unclimbables for more climbing until around August 20th.

Marc Aymerich catches a return flight to Watson Lake.

A float plane shuttles Len, Ron and Eric from Hole-in-the-Wall Lake to Rabbit Kettle Lake to rendezvous with an additional 4 paddlers while Greg Slayden catches a flight out on a Beaver (the plane, not the dam-building critter) to Fort Simpson.

August 1- 13: South Nahanni paddle with Len and Ron Vanderstar, Eric Gilbertson and the 4 new members that are to arrive by Beaver float plane: Barry Watson, Lana Pflugbeil, Shelley Browne & Luke Weyman.

After 380 km of paddling down the South Nahanni River, the team will finish on August 13 at Blackstone Landing on the Laird River. The expedition is planned to be completed as of mid-August upon a 2 hr return shuttle drive to Fort Simpson.

Challenges that the team are prepared for include steep and rocky terrain, black bears, delays and/or more diffucult days due to inhospitable weather, swarms of biting insects (lots of them), and white water negotiation - all just a normal part of traveling in the wilderness landscape of the region.

Team progress can be tracked via the "Maps & Route" link (see below).

Click the buttons below to view a variety of multi-media items
from the climb and/or related to the climb and the area or region.

Nortwest Territories

Photos from the Climb
Expedition Video
Climbing Guides & Resources
Maps & Climbing Route
Climbing/Trip Summary

The following provides some further details regarding Nahanni National Park and the areas that were traveled through. (Note - some information is compliments of Parks Canada’s South Nahanni River Touring Guide.)

Located in Canada’s Northwest Territories, Nahanni National Park Reserve was created in 1976 to protect a portion of the Mackenzie Mountains natural region. Park expansions have since occurred twice. The Park protects the largest remaining glaciers and the highest mountains in the Northwest Territories, large alpine plateaus, karst features and important wildlife habitat.

Nahanni National Park is located within the traditional territory of the Dehcho First Nations, and the Park is co-operatively managed by Parks Canada and the Dehcho First Nations. In 1978, Nahanni National park was declared a United Nations World Heritage Site for its exceptional natural beauty and its globally unique geological processes. In 1987, the South Nahanni River was designated as a Canadian Heritage River. It's a premier wilderness river area with magnificent scenery and offers a great opportunity to discover the local culture of the area. Other rivers worthy of paddling consideration within the Park include the Little Nahanni River and Flat River. Parks Canada has a South Nahanni River Touring Guide that highlights the river from its headwaters (Moose Ponds) to its confluence with the Laird River, 565 km downstream. Ken Madsen’s book, Paddling in the Yukon, also describes the Little Nahanni.

The highest mountain in NWT is known by the Dehcho elders as Thunder Mountain (in translation), and by the climbing community as Nirvana. It is presently officially un-named, but this is expected to change. This mountain is located in the heart of the Ragged Range, so named for the spectacular formation of jagged granite peaks. The Range was formed 110 million years ago when molten igneous rock deep within the earth’s crust was forced to within 3,000 meters of the earth’s surface. As it hardened and cooled, it pushed sedimentary rock up from below, and over time the upper layers of sedimentary rock eroded, exposing the granite of the Ragged Range. The last period of glaciation, which ended about 10,000 years ago, sculpted the formation seen today. Cirque of the Unclimbables is a featured area associated with the Ragged Range, well known to climbers world wide.

The largest tufa mounds in Canada are situated in close proximity to Rabbit Kettle Lake. Interpretive hikes are offered by Park personnel from this location during the months of July and August.

The more recent Wisconsin glaciation that shaped the Ragged Range did not reach the South Nahanni River valley from Rabbit Kettle Lake to Virginia Falls. This broad u-shaped valley was carved by glaciers more than 130,000 years ago. Below Virginia Falls, the Park has not seen glaciation in more than 200,000 years. Flowing water, rather than ice, shaped the lower canyons. As the mountains grew over time, the river was able to stay its course, more or less, carving through the rising rock strata, creating the canyons and preserving the meanders that developed when the river flowed across a flat valley.

Northwest Territories
Northwest Territories
Nahanni National Park
Satellite View


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"Teaching Canadians and the World about Canada - One Step At A Time"