1906 - 1991
Roger Neave was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire, England in 1906. He had four brothers and one sister. Two of his brothers Ferris and Hugh, climbed extensively with him in Canada and made their own significant contribution to Canadian Mountaineering. Both predeceased him. Roger came out to Canada in 1928, joining his brother Ferris who was a freshwater biologist at the University of Manitoba at the time. For most of his professional life Roger Neave worked as a civil engineer with the Imperial Oil Company in Sarnia, Ontario. While in Winnipeg, both brothers were initiated into climbing by Alex McCoubrey, Sr., at the nearby rock quarries
The initiation grew into a full-blown passion where the mountains of Canada were for Roger a life-long love. Over the years he made some thirty-five first ascents: the first was in 1929 in the Mount Toby area of the Purcells with his brother Ferris and Alex McCoubrey, Jr. In 1978, at the age of seventy-two, he made several first ascents on peaks over 5,000 metres in the Champará Range of the Cordillera Blanca in Peru with his brother Hugh, Ralph Hutchinson, Joe Bajan, Dave Fisher and Paul McEwan. In the forty-nine years between those events, and after, Roger Neave climbed extensively in the Rockies and all the major ranges in British Columbia. First ascents included the Molar Tower in 1933 near Mount Hector and then the Leaning Towers near Chrome Lake later in the year with Ferris, as well as Needle Peak with Rex Gibson and Alex Corry. He made four expeditions into the Premier Group of the Cariboo Range, one to the Yukon, and attended numerous Alpine Club Camps. In 1971 he climbed the Hourglass Route on Mount Robson with Ralph Hutchinson, Bill Perry and Ron Facer, and three times he visited the Stikine Icecap attempting to climb Noel Peak. The first was with Ralph Hutchinson, Bill Perry, Franz Bislin, Mike Walsh and Bob Tustin in 1974, the second with Hutchinson, Gil Parker and Jim Craig in 1976, and finally in 1981 with his brother Hugh, Ralph Hutchinson, Alfred Menninga, Mike Walsh, Tom Volkers, Carol and Walter Latter, Paul McEwan and Peg Davidson, when he finally achieved the first ascent. His overseas climbing included two expeditions to the Cordillera Blanca (four first ascents), Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with Paddy Sherman, Ralph Hutchinson and Scipio Merler in 1973, Guatemala, the Alps, and the English Lakes District. He also led three treks to Nepal, the last being in 1988. He remained an active climber and skier to the end of his life.
However, one of his most ambitious expeditions was in 1934 when he attempted to climb Mount Waddington. At the time ten parties (including the partnership of Don and Phyllis Munday) had failed in their attempts on the mountain. Its summit had become one of the most sought after prizes in Canada. In 1933 McCoubrey convinced both Roger and Ferris to attempt the mountain via a route not yet attempted by the Munday's. Roger Neave and his brother Ferris drove out from Winnipeg to Tatlayoko Lake in the Chilcotin which was no mean feat in those days. With Cam Secord and Arthur Davidson they then rowed their gear down the lake, then with the help of horses, progressed to the eastern entrance of the Homathco Canyon, a fierce gorge that cuts through the heart of the Coast Mountains to Bute Inlet. All previous parties had followed the Franklin Glacier approach first pioneered by the Munday's. Three weeks were spent relaying loads before they finally set up their camp at the base of the mountain on the Tiedemann Glacier below Rainy Knob. It was two trying days before 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. There return trip was an epic of equal proportions, exacerbated by their lack of food. As a memorial to their valiant attempt, two peaks have been named for them: Mount Ferris and Mount Roger.
Roger's love of the mountains led him to devote much of his time to Alpine Club affairs and in recognition of his leadership he was awarded the Silver Rope in 1934. He was a frequent leader at Club camps and when he was elected to the Board of Management, he brought to it his practical common sense, as well as his instinct of what was appropriate. He attended several ACC summer camps including the Mummery camp in 1957, the Bugaboo camp in 1959 and Elk Lake camp in 1966 where he made two first ascents.
In 1966 Roger Neave was elected President of the ACC and held the office for two years. It was while he was President that the Club sponsored and organized the Yukon-Alpine Centennial Expedition. Roger moved out to Vancouver Island in 1970 and joined the Vancouver Island section of the ACC and went on to become the Chairman for one year in 1973.
Roger retired in 1968 but never gave up all the interests he was involved with which were many. Ralph Hutchinson, who climbed with Roger on many trips after he moved to Nanaimo, wrote: "He was a small, wiry man of surprising strength. Whenever he put on his boots and donned his parka and pack, he acquired an extra dimension; his face would light up, and his enthusiasm would infect even the most reluctant."
died suddenly at his home in Cedar, near Nanaimo, on November 17, 1991,
at the age of eighty-five, a year after his wife Francis.
Neave, Roger. "A Strayed Mountaineer." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 40. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1957. p. 112-114.
Neave, Roger. "Snowpatch." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 43. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1960. p. 119-120.
Hutchinson, Ralph. "Roger Neave." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 75. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1992. p. 117-118.
Hutchinson, Ralph. "North Baird Rambles." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 58. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1975. p. 68-70.
Parker, Gil. "Neophyte on Noel." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 61. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1978. p. 42-43.
Hutchinson, Ralph. "Champagne in the Champara." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 62. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1979. p. 25-29.
Hutchinson, Ralph. "Stikine Stalkoes." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 65. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1982. p. 4-5.
Coast Mountain Men. Aware Publishing. Victoria, B.C. 2007.