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In May of 1964, Karl Ricker pointed his Head skis—over 200 cm long—into the Coast Mountain Range of British Columbia. Over the next nine days, Ricker and two others completed the Spearhead Traverse, traveling through what would one day become the backcountry of Whistler and Blackcomb ski areas. They were the first to travel the route, which has since become a classic of Canadian mountaineering. Today, Blackcomb's chair lifts help parties access the glaciated terrain that makes up the traverse, most of it above 2,000 meters. Fit parties complete the route in a few hours. Others take several days, sampling the steeps and winter camping along the way.
The Spearhead Hut Project is working toward constructing three backcountry huts (one would replace a current hut) for use along the Spearhead Traverse. Mountain contributor Robin O'Neill made this short documentary about Ricker and Canadian mountaineering for one of the project's fundraisers. Take a look, and visit spearheadhutsproject.org to learn more.
Pick up the Spring issue of Mountain to see more of O'Neill's work and to read an interview with Ricker about his experiences as a geologist and mountaineer. Are you a subscriber? Use the code MTNVAPUR here to get a free gift with the purchase of a one-year subscription.