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Vanishing Ice in Cirque of the Unclimbables

The Cirque of the Unclimbables is a collection of granite peaks in the Northwest Territories and their glaciers are vanishing.

In a recent report by the World Glacier Monitoring Service noted that hundreds of studied glaciers around the world are losing up to one-metre of ice every year.

The main glacier at the Unclimbables are the Brintnell/Bologna and it is the last major icefield in the interior of Northwest Territories. Scientists recently discovered it is losing three times more ice than the global average.

The effects will be far reaching and when combined with warm winters and low snowpacks in the Mackenzie Mountains, the results could mean low river levels and up to 40,000 lakes drying up in the Mackenzie Delta.

Flowing glacial creek with Mt. Harrisson Smith in the background. The Cirque of Unclimbables, a circle of granite walls, is a rock climbing mecca which draws climbers from all over the world. Nahanni National Park is one of the world's top paddling/canoeing rivers, and Unesco World Heritage site. The Nahanni River is also a Canadian Heritage River. Northwest Territories (NWT) Canada.
A flowing glacial creek with Mount Harrisson Smith in the background. Photo by Peter Mather

The mountain range got its name after a 1955 America climbing trip brought a group of climbers to the icefield along the Yukon and Northwest Territories border. They described the peaks as a collection of 3,000-metre ice-polished granite spires that bore an uncanny resemblance to Yosemite.

Arnold Wexler, team leader, said to his partners that most of the peaks were “unclimbable.” While a number of expeditions visit the remote cluster of mountains, there remains a number of new objectives from big walls to steep ridges.

In 2013, Tim Emmett and Sean Leary wanted to climb the most famous peak in the range, the Lotus Flower Tower, and wing-suit off. Here’s their story:

The Cirque of The Unclimbable’s from Chad Copeland on Vimeo.