Northwest Territories

Thunder Mountain (Mt Nirvana) (9,098ft) – Highest Mountain in the Northwest Territories

Susan rappelling the north ridge of Paija, with Thunder Mountain in the background, during the 2015 expedition.

2015 Expedition – Attempts on West Face

June-Aug, 2015

Eric Gilbertson, Dave Custer, Susan Ruff

We helicoptered in from Watson Lake to the base of the West face. Over the next 3 weeks we attempted various routes on the west face, reaching a highpoint 16 pitches up, and roughly 3 pitches below the summit ridge. However, we had to turn around in the face of unprotectable rock. We did make the first ascent of the west face of Paija (Peak 33). After the climbs, I spent a week hiking out to Hole in the Wall Lake, climbing many unclimbed peaks along the way. There I met up with Len and Ron, and we took a quick float plane to Rabbitkettle Lake. We all paddled back out to civilization over the next two weeks, down the Nahanni River.

Link to full report of expedition.

2016 Expedition – First Human Powered Trip Without Air Support

June 2016

The East Face of Thunder Mountain, during the 2016 expedition

Eric Gilbertson and Len Vanderstar, accompanied by Ron Vanderstar and Luke Weyman

This was the first unsupported ascent of Thunder Mountain. We drove to Tungsten, NWT, and paddled down the Flat River for a few days. From there we bushwhacked several more days in to the East Face of Thunder Mountain. Len and I climbed partway up the East Face, but had to retreat in the face of avalanches. We returned the next day, and successfully made it to the summit on June 21. Our route roughly followed the route of Jack Bennett’s ascent. We napped on the summit ridge to let the snow firm up, them rapped back to camp, arriving 51 hours after we left. Over the next week we climbed over to the north cirque  and hiked back out to Tungsten, making a first ascent of Peak 46 along the way.

Link to full report of expedition.

2017 Expedition – First Ascent of West Face

Dave climbing the West Face during the 2017 expedition

July-August, 2017

Eric Gilbertson, Dave Custer, Susan Ruff

We helicoptered in from Watson Lake to the base of the West Face of Thunder Mountain in mid July. Over the next month we established an advanced base camp on a ledge halfway up the face and attempted various routes from there. The weather was very wet, and none of the routes worked. During the last possible weather window of the trip Dave and I attempted a route on a different side of the face, the left side, which worked. We climbed up to the northwest ridge, dropped over to the north face, and climbed to the summit from there. The new route was 30 pitches up to 5.9, and took 41 hours camp to camp. Shortly after returning we helicoptered back to Watson Lake before a long spell of bad weather came in.

Link to full report of expedition.

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