Location: The Coast Mountains, the western range of the North American mainland cordillera (the true Westernmost range is the Insular Range on Vancouver Island), cover the Alaska Panhandle and most of coastal British Columbia. The range is approximately 1600 km long and 200 km wide. Its southern boundary is the Fraser River and its northern boundary the Kelsall River and Haines Road. Terrain: Large portions of the Coast Mountains are composed of granite. The Coast Plutonic Complex is the single largest contiguous granite outcropping in the world. There are significant expanses of metamorphic country rock - the remnants of the rock the granitic rock intruded - especially along the Interior edge of the range. In addition, the Garibaldi, Meager, Cayley and Silverthrone areas are of recent volcanic origin.
Geomorphically, the Coast Mountains consist of a single uplifted mass. In Pliocene times the Coast Mountains did not exist and a level peneplain extended to the sea. This mass was uplifted in Miocene times. Rivers such as the Klinaklini and Homathko predate this uplift and due to erosion occuring faster than uplift, have continued to flow right up to the present day, directly across the axis of the range.
Moist air from the Pacific Ocean brings heavy precipitation in form of rain or snow, especially during the winter month. Some areas are heavily glaciated and provide excellent terrain for spring ski traverses. The valley bottoms are covered with heavy rainforest and abound with wildlife such as moose, bear, and eagles. History: Some summits and passes in the Coast Mountains were climbed or crossed regularily by the First Nations, hunting goats and marmots or gathering quartz crystals and obsidian, but they did not record many of their explorations. Additionally, some mountains were held by some tribes to be taboo and climbing them was forbidden, or at least frowned upon. An oral description of some of the Nuxalk First Nation's climbing exploits has been recorded in Clayton Mack's book Bella Coola Man.
Exploration of the Coast Mountains by Europeans was limited at first. Alfred Waddington explored the Homathko River in the 1860's, but the first peaks in the Vancouver area were not climbed until the 1880's and 90's. It was also at this time that Stanley Smith and his companion Mr. Doolittle made their epic journey through the southern Coast Mountains from Squamish to Chilko Lake. [By comparison, Mt. Baker in Washington was climbed in the 1860's.] Even after ascents of glaciated peaks such as Garibaldi, in 1907, the Coast Mountains were generally, and erroneously, thought to be mostly like the mountains near Vancouver, generally subalpine and heavily forested. It was not until the Mundays began exploring the terrain near Mt. Waddington in the 1920's and 30's that this idea was defeated by the wealth of evidence to the contrary. It was also at this time that the existance of summits in the Coast Mountains that equalled or exceed the heights of the more well-known Rockies was finally proven.
The period between 1900 and 1965 was largely focussed on making first ascents of major peaks; the period since then has been split between exploratory traverses climbing lesser summits, development of technical climbing routes for the sake of aesthetics, not as a necessity of summiting, and repetition of existing climbs.
The Coast Mountains have always been an area in which exploratory mountaineering has thrived. Even today there are many unclimbed summits (although not many major ones) and large numbers of peaks which have only been climbed once or twice. The potential for ascending new routes of all levels of difficulty is largely untapped outside of certain well-known areas such as the Chehalis and Waddington Range.
The last complete guidebook to the Coast Range dates from the 1960's. In order to find out what has and hasn't been climbed it is often necessary to review 30 years of alpine journals, summit registers and hut logbooks, and talk to many climbers before concluding a summit or feature is unclimbed.