Karl Edwin Ricker
Karl Edwin Ricker was born on February 19, 1936, in North Bay, Ontario. He moved to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island in 1950 and attended Thomas Hodgson Intermediate School and Nanaimo Senior High School. At home he was surrounded by the scientific environment created by his father. William Ricker, an eminent biologist, went on to receive the Order of Canada for his work. After high school Ricker attended the University of British Columbia where he gained his Bachelor of Science in Zoology in 1959 and his Master of Science in Geology in 1968. Throughout his life he has had a special interest in glaciology and has worked in the Coast Mountains, the Rockies, the Arctic and Antarctica. In 1975 he formed Karl Ricker and Associates, a geological based consulting practice that he stayed with for twenty-six years until he retired in 2001.
climbing when he was fourteen. His father and Ferris Neave, who worked
together, took Karl and his brother John up onto Mount Arrowsmith for
heir first experience. Karl then started scrambling up the surrounding
mountains and estimates he climbed Mount Benson fifty times. While on
the summit of Mount
Benson one time in the summer of 1954 he met Syd Watts who
after seeing that every second name in the summit register was Karl's
asked if he would like to join the Vancouver Island section of the Alpine
Club of Canada on their summer camp in the Elk River valley. Karl worked
in a grocery store every day during the summer and said that if he could
get the time off he would join them. His boss gave him the time off so
Karl joined a party of about twenty that included Syd
Watts, Elizabeth and Pat
Lash and his son Mallory
and daughter Sylvia, Connie Bonner, Jack Gregson, Cyril Jones, Noel
Lax and Keith Morton. At the trailhead Karl found there was
a large metal stove (about 4' x 2' x 1') that no one wanted to carry in
so since Karl, who had a framed pack, decided he could strap the stove
onto the frame and then put his kit into the stove. Being young and strong
it was no problem for him and fortunately he only had to carry it into
their campsite at Puzzle Creek. Although not a very successful trip in
the sense of summiting mountains Karl did get his first taste of Mount
Colonel Foster when he, Sylvia Lash and Noel Lax went around
the North Tower and had a look at the big snow gully that ascends between
the North Tower and the Northwest Summit. Being late in the season, a
large bergshrund cut off access to the upper gully so they returned unsuccessful
to camp. However, the view of the imposing ramparts of the "Colonel"
remained with Karl and three years later he returned to the mountain.
In 1957, Karl made his second trip to Mount Colonel Foster. His climbing mentor, Ferris Neave, had circled the mountain in a small plane in early July to determine which of the six summits was the highest. Ferris judged that the Southwest Summit was the highest point so on July 30, accompanied by his brother Hugh and Karl, the party of three set off up the Elk River Valley towards the mountain. At Butterwort Creek they forced a route up through steep wooded bluffs that eventually brought them around the west side of the mountain to below the Southwest Buttress. They entered a steep couloir which they judged to be the most promising route but turned back due to bad weather. The next day (July 31) 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. Although it was later determined that the Southwest Summit was three metres lower than the Main Summit, their ascent route has not been repeated.
While at UBC Karl joined the Varsity Outdoor Club in 1954 and led many of their hikes and climbs. In 1959 he received the Silver Pin award which is given to those who have contributed their time and energy to the club "above and beyond the call of duty" and was followed in 1966 with the Gold Pin award which is given to those club members who have not only devoted much of their time, over a number of years, to the VOC, but have also done some form of outstanding work for the club. He received it for his planning and building the Whistler Cabin and to date only six gold pins have been awarded. Karl has also been a member of the BCMC for over thirty years leading hiking and climbing trips and chronicling the early history of exploration in some of the areas. He joined the Alpine Club of Canada in 1959, recently receiving a plaque commemorating fifty years of membership in the club.
In 1959 Karl joined Hans Gmoser's Mount Logan Expedition, whereby after skiing 135 kilometres from Kluane Lake to the base of the mountain, they made the second ascent of the East Ridge. They then skied, hiked and rafted 170 kilometres down the Donjek Glacier and River to the Alaskan Highway. An incredible feat which has not been repeated!
In 1960 he joined the Jacobsen McGill Expedition to Axel Heiberg Island in the Canadian Arctic. This was a group of scientists who explored the Expedition Fiord (previously Sør Fjord or South Fiord) in the Central part of the island. In the fall of that year Karl went to the American base of McMurdo Station in Antarctica where he worked as a scientific assistant in the biology lab. At the end of a year during which he wintered over, he returned to New Zealand where he decided to do some climbing in the Southern Alps, and skiing and climbing on the North Island.
On Christmas day he climbed Mount Cook and two days later Mount Tasman, the two highest mountains in New Zealand. Karl recalls the climb of the Silverhorn Arete on Mount Tasman as "probably the most enjoyable climb I've ever done in my life an all day exercise on knife-edge ridges When we climbed that [final] pitch I knew I had reached my ultimate ability."
In May 1964, Karl and three fellow graduate students, all members of the University of British Columbia's Varsity Outdoor Club, hopped off a train at a logging camp near Whistler and began to hike 5,000 feet up what would become the Blackcomb ski hill. They spent nine days skiing what is now known as the popular Spearhead Traverse in Garibaldi Provincial Park. After returning to Vancouver Ricker formed a naming group, which included Dr. Neal Carter and Phyllis Munday, and amongst other new names also named Mount Iago, Benvolio and Macbeth after the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth. Over the years Ricker has submitted information and named many features in the mountains of British Columbia and Yukon.
In 2000 after the death of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Karl became one of the outspoken opponents when the Jean Chrétien government tried to rename Mount Logan, Canada's highest mountain. The lack of respect by the government to think about renaming the mountain hit a cord with Karl because of the significance the mountain had on him due to his 1959 ascent but also because it already recognized someone who had vastly contributed to the geological knowledge of Canada and its history albeit a long time ago.
Karl's energy and commitment to whatever he decides to undertake appears boundless. He has been volunteering at ski races since 1954, a member of the Squamish Environmental Conservation Society, Whistler Naturalist, and the Nanaimo Field Naturalists, and every year is involved with Christmas bird counts. He made contributions to Fred Becky's North Cascade guide book, Dick Culbert's Coast Mountain guide books (1969 and 1973 editions) and Bruce Fairley's climbing guide book. He has written articles for the Canadian Journal of Zoology, Canadian Journal of Earth Science and Journal of Glaciology and has written numerous climbing and scientific articles on the Canadian Alpine, the BC Mountaineer and the Varsity Outdoor Club Journal as well as in their monthly newsletters. Since the mid-1970s, Karl and retired BCIT photogrammetrist Bill Tupper, who passed away in 2005, have monitored ice volumes on Wedgemount and Overlord Glaciers. The value of this long-term data cannot be overstated since it has both local and global significance. Glacial ice volumes reflect changes in local whether and together with other data are essential in calculating changes to stream flow which affect fish habitat, industrial uses (e.g. snowmaking and run-of-river power projects), and domestic water uses. Currently Robert Tupper, Bill's son, carries on the work with Karl assisting.
As a mountaineer, Karl has a huge resume of over 500 summits. He has climbed in the US Cascades, European Alps, Norway, United Kingdom and Mexico, while in Canada he has climbed in the Cascades and Rockies as well as the Purcells, Selkirks, Monashees, Ogilvie Mountains and Coast Mountains.
the Winter Olympic games were hosted in his home town and Karl had his
eye on a special snowboarder - Maëlle Ricker. He finally got to watch
his daughter take home a gold medal on her home turf after taking fifth
place at the 1998 games in Nagano and forth place in the 2006 Turin games.
Mortimore, G.E. "Island Trio Conquers Mt. Colonel Foster." Daily Colonist. [Victoria, B.C.] (August 4, 1957) p. 30.
Solomon, Christopher. "A Backcountry Trip Across British Columbia's Glaciers." New York Times Travel Section. [New York, USA] (Febraury 29, 2008)
Neave, Ferris. "First Ascent of Mt. Colonel Foster." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 41. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1958. p. 35-38.
Ricker, Karl. "Alpaca Peak." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. ... The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1985. p. 47.
Culbert, Dick. A Climber's Guide to the Coast Ranges of British Columbia. Vancouver, B.C. 1965.
Culbert, Dick. Alpine Guide to South Western British Columbia. Vancouver, B.C. 1974.
Fairley, Bruce. Hiking and Climbing Guide to Southwestern British Columbia. Soules Publishing. Vancouver, B.C. 1986.
Fred. Cascade Alpine Guide: Climbing and Hiking Route, Rainy Pass to
Fraser River. The Mountaineer Books. Seattle, Wash. 3rd Ed. 1985.
Scott, Chic. Pushing the Limits: The Story of Canadian Mountaineering. Rocky Mountain Books. Calgary, Alberta. 2000.