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First Ascent of Remote Mount Priestley in B.C.

John Gill, Jordan Craven and Drew Copeland have just completed a new route on a previously unclimbed summit, Mount Priestley.

The 2,359-metre peak north of Terrace, B.C. is one of Canada’s ultra-prominent peaks (remaining unclimbed until June 20). It rises 1,938 metres from the surrounding Nass Valley.

The group has decided to name the new east ridge route The Steven in honour of the stuffed horse they brought along for the trip.

The three climbers completed the route on a four day expedition, departing from Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park on June 18 and returning on June 21.

The climb involved gaining the two kilometres of elevation from the highway through old cutblocks and logging roads, traversing an exposed ridge line, and gaining the icefield below the peak via a rock spur. Here, the team stayed 3 nights and managed to tag the summit on day three of the expedition.

Weather wasn’t on their side, with high wind and low visibility, but they proceeded all the same. The climb to the summit involved a long approach on the glacier, ascending steep snow and rock on a ridgeline from the east, reaching the top on June 20.

The trio, who have been united around the Outdoor Explore community, has climbed together previously in the South Coast Mountains, but have never attempted an audacious climb such as this. Jordan Craven resides in Victoria and loves to ski.

He works in IT and sometimes wonders if may have been a bird in a past life, prior to reincarnation. John Gill, who hails from England originally is in North Vancouver and earns a living developing software.

He has climbed 6,000 metres peaks in the Himalayas previously and plans to return. Drew Copeland resides in Squamish and spends a good deal of time dreaming up stories and causing mischief.

Their general sentiment is that the trip was a true gem and the area is wonderful for escaping to the hills. However, they are quite certain due to the obscurity of such an endeavour and slogging nature of accessing the area, that no one will return to repeat The Steven or climb Mount Priestley via a new line for many years.

The Nass Valley is a geographically rich area. It is home to Lava Beds Provincial Park where Canada’s most recent significant volcanic event occurred.

The Tseax Cone blew its cap around year 1700. Large lava flows dammed the Nass River and destroyed two villages of the Nisga’a, killing an estimated 2,000 people. The impact of this event are visible all over the landscape today.

Mount Priestly and the first ascent route up left ridge. Photo John Gill

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