Mount Nirvana is much more than the highest point in the Northwest Territories of Canada. It is a remote, difficult, mysterious, and alluring tower of rock that offers a spectacular and difficult challenge of even experienced mountaineers. Its name perfectly captures the extreme sense of accomplishment the rare summiters feel at its airy spire, as if they had ascended to a state of perfect bliss.
The peak was not even approached by mountaineers until 1960, when a summit near Nirvana was climbed and the highest point in the region was referred to as Mount Nahanni, after a nearby river. That same year, noted climber Bill Buckingham was in the Cirque of the Unclimbables, a remote but well-known rock-climbing center, and he his eyes were drawn to the remarkable peak 30 km to the south. Five years later, in 1965, he made the first ascent of the peak after a long and harrowing reconnaissance and named it Mount Nirvana. For almost 50 years this name has been used exclusively in the climbing community, despite lack of an official name.
It is not clear when it was determined that Nirvana was the Northwest Territories high point. Well into the 1980s many reputable publications and maps gave that honor to Mount Sir James MacBrien, high point of the Unclimbables area. Latest maps and surveys confirm that Nirvana is 14 meters higher than MacBrien.
An ascent of Nirvana is a serious undertaking, requiring an air support to even get close to the peak, then days of arduous travel through bogs, brush, talus, and even fifth-class rock just to get to the base of the climb. Rainy weather and clouds of mosquitoes are common. The peak itself is a rock climb in the YDS 5.7 range.
Parties ascended Nirvana in 1965, 1975, and 1996. This author does not know of any subsequent climbs.