TREKKING through fog and swirling snow while navigating a crusted glacier was just one of the challenges that battered three climbers in what was the first-known ascent of Mount Priestley north of Terrace.
The towering Nass Valley peak looms at 2,359-metres elevation and had been previously unclimbed when the three Lower Mainland climbers set out on the four-day trek June 18-21.
And though the summit was shrouded in cloud the day they reached it, John Gill from North Vancouver said it was “quite a surreal feeling knowing that no one else had even been there.”
“This trip for me was not so much to climb a mountain that no one had ever climbed, but to experience true exploration,” said Gill. “We couldn’t Google how to do the climb, we were completely reliant on our own skills. The area was very remote and untouched. We were utterly cut off (except for the satellite-phone) and it felt truly wild.
“Needless to say, I have the bug now.”
Gill climbed with Drew Copeland and Jordan Craven from Squamish and Victoria, and all in their early-30s and late-20s. They met through the online “Outdoor Explore” community.
They set out from Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park on June 18, bushwhacking and following old logging roads, hiking along an exposed ridge, and traversing the first section of a glacier to where they could catch their first glimpse of Mount Priestly.
“The basin seemed enormous,” wrote Craven of the view. “And the glacier between us and the base of Priestley was intimidating.”
Glimpsing the huge area, he said he questioned whether they’d be able to conquer it.
The trio bedded down for the night, and wound up stuck there, crammed in the tent for nearly two full days because of the snow and fog that rolled in.
Weather cleared enough on day three for the team to set out, traversing the rest of the large glacier and ascending a 50-degree snow slope to the east ridge and up to the Priestly summit.
“It was an amazing feeling to reach the summit and stand where, so far as we know, nobody else has ever stood,” said Copeland.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get any good view,” he added. “It was just pure whiteout, like socked in, you couldn’t see anything,” he laughed, adding that they were hoping to survey the lava beds and the Nass Valley stretched out beneath them.
Instead, the team had a mini celebration, filmed a quick video and then headed back down.
“Thinking back, it feels strange to have embarked on a journey so far from home for the sake of an adventure and climbing a route where no other humans had been,” said Copeland. “It’s wild to think that no one may return there for decades to come.”