One of the first BMC Approved expeditions to return home successful comprised just Paul Schweizer and Simon Yates, who recently made the second ascent of the huge South West Spur of Good Neighbor Peak (4,850m), Mt Vancouver's South Summit.
Initially reported here as a new route, the South West Spur, which forms the border ridge between Canada and Alaska, was first climbed by a large Japanese expedition in 1968. Existing accounts of this ascent have been vague in location of line and the description of the route bears little resemblence to the terrain climbed by Schweizer and Yates.
However, recent information from Japan shows the 1968 team approached the ridge from the Canadian side and fixed ropes for most of its length. The ridge appears to have been in very snowy conditions and three members were killed in an avalanche. Schweizer and Yates therefore climbed a new start and made the first alpine-style ascent.
Vancouver is a vast snowy mountain in the St Elias Range on the Alaska-Yukon border. The pair had originally planned to attempt the nearby West Ridge of Mt Hubbard but just a few days before leaving the UK discovered it had already been climbed. The highly experienced American activist, Jack Tackle, tipped them off about potential lines on Vancouver.
Schweizer and Yates flew from Haines to a glacial cirque only 30 minutes walk from the base of the route, a prominent spur rising 2,400m directly to the summit of Good Neighbor Peak.
Two days later they started up the route in alpine-style. After four nights, some precariously camped on exposed sites, and 3,000m of climbing, they reached the summit in perfect weather. Sections of the route had involved Scottish V ice and Scottish 6 mixed, and an overall grade of ED was thought appropriate.
The two then moved east along the frontier ridge to reach the top of the original line on Good Neighbor, the 1967 Centennial Route on the South East Spur. A storm moved in as they were part way down this spur but two days later were safely back in base camp.
This is the pair's second major success in the region. In 2005 they climbed a new route on the 1,800m West Face of Alverstone (4,439m), making a complex and committing descent to the north.
When the International Boundary Commission first set up the frontier between Alaska and the Canadian Yukon, they used the South Summit of Vancouver, naming it Boundary Peak 181. They didn’t realize a higher top lay to the north.
This slightly higher (4,870m) North Summit of Vancouver was first climbed in 1949 from the north west by Walter Wood's team, but the South Summit had to wait for its first ascent until 1967. That year marked the 100th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada and the US purchase of Alaska.
When a centennial celebration climb was planned for 1967, a team formed jointly of Canadian and American Alpine Club members, co-led by Monty Alford of the CAC and Vince Hoeman of the AAC, chose the virgin South Summit, renaming it Good Neighbor Peak.
In 1993 Carl Diedrich and Bill Pilling climbed the South Spur, immediately right of the South West Spur and rising diagonally left to the summit of Good Neighbor. They completed the ridge successfully but then made a descent north. This turned into something of an epic when Pilling ripped ligaments and muscles in a big crevasse fall.
More information on the teams that received a BMC Expedition Award in 2009