1901 - 1986
Ferris Neave was born near Macclesfield, Cheshire, England in 1901. He was the first born of five children to a middle class Quaker family. He attended the nearby University of Manchester for his undergraduate degree in Honours Biology. Upon finishing his Bachelor's degree in 1923, Ferris answered an ad wanting volunteers to come to the Prairies of Canada to help with the annual grain harvest. At the end of the harvest season Ferris returned to Manchester and worked as an entomologist at the Manchester Museum where his Honours Baccalaureate was upgraded to a Master's of Science. This placed him in a position to return to Winnipeg to accept a position as Lecturer at the University of Manitoba in 1925. There a friend helped him acquire an interest in several orders of aquatic insects and the summers of 1926 and 1927 were spent on fishery investigations in Jasper National Park. Through his research he was elevated to the rank of Assistant Professor despite his lack of a doctorate degree.
Back at Winnipeg for the academic years, Ferris began visiting the nearby rock quarries at Gunton with Alex A, McCoubrey who was the new chairman of the Winnipeg Section of the Alpine Club of Canada and by March 1927 Ferris became a member of the Executive Committee of the Winnipeg Section. However, Ferris Neave's love of the outdoors and climbing had begun back on the family property, "The Clough", located at the nearby hamlet, Rainow, where with three of his siblings he spent many hours climbing on local rock bluffs. He also climbed in Wales (Cambrian Mountains) and the Lakes District (Cumbrian Mountains).
Neave and McCoubrey's first expedition was a month-long traverse of the Purcell Mountains in 1928, however, it is not known what they climbed along the way. After the trip Ferris attended the Alpine Club's General Mountaineering Camp at the Lake of the Hanging Glaciers and qualified for active membership by climbing a 3,000 metre peak, erroneously name Mount (David) Thompson but latter decreed by authorities to be Mount Monica. Ferris Neave took over Chairmanship of the Winnipeg Section for 1932-1934, and in 1936-1937 was elevated to vice President of the National Club.
In the autumn of 1928 Ferris' younger brother Roger arrived in Manitoba. The next year during the summer of 1929 the Neave brothers headed west with McCoubrey to the Earl Grey Pass area of the Purcell Mountains making the first ascent of Peak #4, the second ascent of Red Top and a climb of Mount Toby, the highest peak in the area. At the end of the trip they climbed Mount Nelson near the mouth of Toby Creek. Ferris went on that year to attend the ACC's General Camp in the Selkirks at Roger's Pass and then ten days of climbing on his own in Banff National Park. He made three ascents of Mount Louis, two of them in one day, and then the sixth ascent via a new route on the East Face of Castle Mountain with Edna Greer. An ascent was made of the previously unclimbed southeast peak of Mount Peechee with Margaret Fleming and Marjorie MacLeod. Ferris married Majorie Davis of Neepawa.
In 1932 McCoubrey, the Neave brothers and a new comer Cam Secord visited the Yoho Valley in Yoho National Park to investigate the potential of a ski mountaineering camp in the area. Mounts Yoho, Gordon, Olive and Collie were climbed on skis and in the Little Yoho they ascended Mount Vice President. The second leg of the trip was into Lake O'Hara but by the end Ferris concluded, however, that the O'Hara region was inferior to the Yoho for such activities. This was the beginning of the quest by the Winnipeg Section to have an alpine cabin built in the Little Yoho Valley.
In the late 1920's, early 1930's the husband and wife team of Don and Phyllis Munday had made a number of attempts at scaling the spectacular Mount Waddington in the Coast Mountains. This mountain was found to exceed 4,000 metres making it the highest mountain completely within the province British Columbia and its summit was becoming a sought after prize. In 1933 McCoubrey convinced the Neave brothers that it was their turn to attempt Mount Waddington by a route that the Munday's had not yet tested. Their attempt was targeted for the summer of 1934. On June 22, nineteen days after Ferris and Roger Neave, Cam Secord and Arthur Davidson (who was only along for the walk and not the climb) began the trip. They arrived at the toe of the Tiedemann Glacier where they got to see their proposed route. The next day they established their base camp near the junction of the Bravo Glacier and over the following two trying days they finally succeeded in reaching Spearman Col. In poor conditions they made a reconnoiter to the base of the final rock tower but with driving snow they returned to camp. The next day, with time running out, they had no choice but to make the final attack in obscuring snow flurries. After several attempts they managed to get across the bergshrund which put the party on the East Face but in conditions where fresh snow covered verglas-sheathed rock and with daylight hours running out in very tediously slow climbing conditions they conceded defeat less than one hundred and fifty metres below the summit. Their descent continued to be an epic and they were forced to bivvy in an ice-cave near the bergshrund and sit out an overnight snowstorm. The next day they reached base camp in clearing weather but with no supplies for a further attempt they had to admit defeat when victory was so close. It wasn't until 1950 that a party succeeded in climbing Mount Waddington's main summit from the northeast side that the Neave's and Secord had pioneered.
Ferris Neave stayed in Winnipeg pursuing his scientific studies until the spring of 1939. He then took a position with the Fisheries Research Board of Canada at Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
His acquaintance with Vancouver Island's mountains was interrupted by World War II when he was asked by the Canadian Military to train troops for mountain warfare. His brother Roger along with about fifteen other club members reported to the Little Yoho Valley to receive a short course on how and what to teach the military about climbing and survival in the mountains. Other notable mountaineers who had spent time climbing on Vancouver Island and were assisting with the training were: Eric Brooks, Rusty Westmorland, Rex Gibson and John Gibson.
Ferris recorded about twenty ascents of Mount Arrowsmith, which could be seen from Nanaimo, but made many more ascents of other peaks. One of particular interest was in 1957. Mount Colonel Foster had seen several attempts by strong parties to reach its highest point but they had all failed. In early July Ferris circled the mountain in a small plane to determine which of the six summits was the highest. He judged that the Southwest Summit was the highest point so in late July, accompanied by his brother Hugh and Karl Ricker, they set off up the Elk Valley. At Butterwort Creek they forced a route up through steep wooded bluffs that eventually brought them around below the Southwest Buttress of the mountain. They entered a steep couloir which they judged to be the most promising route but turned back due to bad weather. The next day they again took up the challenge and by 4:45 p.m. reached the top of the Southwest Summit. Rain and snow hampered any views but Ferris was sure that this was Mount Colonel Foster's highest point. They arrived back at their camp in the dark, cold and wet but elated at making this first ascent. Unfortunately, the debate about which of the summits reigned for a number of years until finally in the early 1980's a party from the British Columbia Mountaineering Club retraced Mike Walsh's 1968 route to the middle summit and with a carpenters level was able to determine that Walsh's verdict was correct and stood three metres higher than the Southwest Summit.
Ferris Neave retired from the Fisheries Research Board of Canada in 1966 and celebrated his retirement by joining the Alpine Club's Centennial Expedition to the St. Elias Mountains in 1967. However, prior to that he had made ascents of Mount Fuji in Japan in 1961 and the smoking volcano of Popocatepetl in Mexico. He also visited the Himalayas in the early 1970's trekking between the Langtang Valley and Helumbu region. In 1936 he was awarded the Silver Rope Award for Leadership by the ACC.
Ferris Neave passed away on January 29, 1986, in Vancouver after suffering for the last few years from the muscle debilitating Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS). He was eighty-five. Karl Ricker, a friend and climbing partner said: "He passed away totally incapacitated but likely in full comfort on what he accomplished over the span of his life." Ferris will be remembered in the realms of mountaineering, ski mountaineering and science, and in the Mount Waddington area Mount Ferris is named in his honour.
Neave, Ferris. "Spring Snow of the Yoho." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 13. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1923. p. 122-127.
Neave, Ferris. "Climbing at Banff." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 18. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1929. p. 92-95.
Neave, Ferris. "New Ways to Waddington." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 22. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1933. p. 32-45.
Neave, Ferris. "Reconnaissance in Strathcona Park." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 29. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1944-45. p. 38-40.
Neave, Ferris. "Zoology and Climbing." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 38. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1955. p. 102-104.
Neave, Ferris. "First Ascent of Mt. Colonel Foster." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 41. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1958. p. 35-38.
Graves, H.J. "Little Yoho Military Camp." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 18. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1942-43. p. 230-246.
Mazur, Christine, Statkewich,
Simon, and Relkoff, David - Editors. Manitoba Climbers: A Century of
Stories from the Birthplace of The Alpine Club of Canada. Alpine Club
of Canada - Manitoba Section. 2006.