First Ski Descent of Mount Nelson

Skiing
Partway down the east face of Mount Nelson, British Columbia. Photo: Christina Lustenberger

As children, Christina “Lusty” Lustenberger and Ian McIntosh learned to ski together in the Purcell Mountains of Canada’s British Columbia. Twenty years later, the two banded together to pull off the first ski descent of Mount Nelson, via its east face.

New ski line down Mt. Nelson’s east face. Photo: Christina Lustenberger

“We might be all grown up but this sure made us feel teeny-tiny again,” McIntosh wrote. “Just a couple of hometown kids back for a little ski.

“It’s been living a childhood dream. [We did it] in good style and amazing conditions. It was magic!”

It was also steep. Their chosen line plunged 750m down the face and included sections up to 55º. While such a line would be not worth much attention in places like Valdez, Alaska, where the snow adheres to the slopes like concrete and such descents are relatively common, the marginal Purcell snow made this something remarkable. “Out of the slough zone, it (was) sugar on rocks,” said McIntosh. 

Mount Nelson is a popular summer hike, but the two local skiers had never done it. They waited for a more extreme experience on skis instead. They set off from the Toby Creek Road at 1:45 am and skinned up the mountain’s south face to its 3,313m summit, which they reached at around 9 am. Then down they went.

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About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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