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The Northwest Territories - Un-named Peak

The highest mountain in the Northwest Territories does not have a formal name as recognize by the Government of Canada or the Territory. It is actually listed as the un-named peak by the Federal Government, but is wrongly referred to as ‘Mount Nirvana’ in alpine literature. Since early 2005, James Coleridge, the Summits of Canada Expedition Leader has been working with the Nahanni Butte and Deh Cho First Nations to identify a name that reflects both the people and the heritage of the area.

Mackenzie Mountains
Un-named Peak

2,773 metres
9,098 feet


2,773 m, 9,098 f
61° 52' N 127° 42' W / 61°52' 29"-127°40' 49"
95/E 13 Mount Sidney Dobson
July 15 - September 1
Nahanni National Park Reserve
Fast Facts
CAPITAL: Yellowknife, NWT


A yet unnamed peak in the Mackenzie Mountains, measured at 9,098 ft, (2,773 metres) is located in the Ragged Range of the Logan Mountains, a sub range of the Mackenzie Mountains.

The Mackenzie Mountains are a northern extension of the Rocky Mountains and lies along the southwestern border of the Northwest Territories, and form the headwaters of the South Nahanni River. The range runs northwest between the British Columbia border and the Peel River valley. The range is about 800 km long. It forms the southern border between Yukon and Northwest Territories.

The mountains and broad plateau are composed of limestone. The wide sweeping valleys of the Mackenzie and Liard rivers cut through this region. Rivers slice through the extensive high plateau and mountains, carving deep canyons. Those of the South Nahanni River are best known, but similar breathtaking canyons are found along other rivers in this region. Dense boreal forests of white and black spruce, with stands of jack-pine or lodgepole pine, cover the rolling uplands and terraces above the Mackenzie and Liard river valleys. Extensive areas of alpine tundra are found throughout this region. Named for Sir Alexander Mackenzie, who explored the Mackenzie River in 1789.

In William Buckingham, a mountain climber, coined it Nirvana in 1965 and is referred to as "Mount Nirvana" in alpine literature. The mountain is in the Ragged Range, southwest of the South Nahanni River. For a long time, Mount Sir James MacBrien (2,764 m) 30 km to the north of Mount Nirvana was designated as the highest peak in the Northwest Territories, but Nirvana is at least 9m higher. A native of Port Perry, Ontario, MacBrien (1878-1938) was a distinguished soldier and commissioner of the RCMP from 1931 to 1938.

The first climbing expedition into the area was led by John Milton in 1960. John Milton and Ed Arnold landed at Hole-in-the-Wall Lake, where they were doing ecological research. They decided to head west through the various passes. John Milton climbed Mount Savage, and from there he saw Nirvana, which he referred to as Mount Nahanni.

In 1965 Bill Buckingham and Lew Surdam landed at Hole-in-the-Wall Lake and approached the mountain from the south, but decided it was too steep, so they went around to the west and then north of the mountain. Their camp was in a cirque surrounded by high peaks now known as the Nirvana sanctuary. From here they climbed the peak via the northwest ridge.

The best known peaks in the Logan Mountains are a series of granite spires known as the "Cirque of the Unclimbables". However, Nirvana is in a second group of mountains, known as the Ragged Range, about 30 km south of the Cirque of the Unclimbables. Mount Nirvana is the highest peak in the Northwest Territories.

But though the Mackenzie Mountains game preserve was established in 1938 the vast range's highland have remained largely untouched. Nahanni National Park was established in 1972 in the southern part of the range.


Canoe from Fort Simpson to Kettle River on Mackenzie River.

i.  Landing Hole-in-the-Wall Lake or Lonely Lake, if permitted
ii. 2nd option land on Rabbitkettle Lake in Nahanni National Park
iii. Helicopter into sanctuary on north side of Mount Nirvana
Fixed wing aircraft can be chartered from Watson Lake Fort Simpson, Fort Nelson or Fort Liard.
· Deh Cho Air
· Laird Air
· Simpson Air
· Wolverine Air
· Blackstone Air
· Watson Lake Air

Located in the “Shatu” region in NWT. Fly from Yellowknife to Norman Wells via North Wright Airways, 867-587-2333, October 2003 it was $495 one way