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Veteran Alpinists Open North Spur of Phillips in Jasper

Ian Welsted and Simon Richardson make the first ascent of the North Spur of Mount Phillips

Veteran alpinists Ian Welsted and Simon Richardson have made the first ascent of the North Spur IV on Mount Phillips (3,246m), which is on the border of Jasper and Mount Robson National Park.

Richardson, former president of the Scottish Mountaineering Club, is one of the U.K.’s most accomplished active climbers, with first ascent in Canada, the Alps and many of the greater ranges. And Welsted, based in B.C.’s Golden, is one of only two Canadians to have received the Piolet d’Or (along with Raphael Slawinski for their new route on K6 West) who has many first ascents in the Rockies.

When Richardson arrived in Canada, he showed Welsted an image taken by John Scurlock (famed mountain photographer who’s documented many North American ranges) and pointed to an unclimbed ridge feature on Mount Phillips. The two then headed to the town of Jasper.

Once in Jasper, Welsted and Richardson spoke to Dana Ruddy (whose grandfather Jack Hargreaves made the second ascent of Mount Robson) and former warden Jesse Milner about the remote Mount Phillips. Milner gave the two important approach information that would help in the first ascent of the North Spur.

The Canadian Rockies have countless moderate ridges, faces and buttresses left to make first ascents of, but the weather and snow conditions in 2019 have led to a number of rescues and deaths in the alpine. Climbers have had to be patient to wait for the best conditions, but it seems late July and August will provide some good weather windows.

In Welsted’s write-up about the first ascent, he said, “Simulclimbing the lower easy ground was key to get up high before the snow turned completely isothermic. Our weather window was about to mark the end of the spring cycle, and I was certainly glad to regain the spur at half height, even if it did take me the better part of an hour to create an anchor.”

North Spur of Phillips Photo John Scurlock

“All that was left was a cat-walk ridge to the top, with stupendous views over the wonderful wilderness to the north,” said Welsted. “Now that I have seen the views I am curious to look at a map to determine what we were faced with. suffice it to say that the Swift Current glacier and beyond are impressively wild terrain.” Read Welsted’s blog here.

The peak is named after Donald “Curly” Phillips (1884-1938), who was a climbing guide in Alberta, built a number of buildings still in use today and came close to the first ascent of Mount Robson and Sir Alexander.

Becoming a climber who adds to the history of an area isn’t always about climbing the most difficult or dangerous thing as fast as you can, sometimes it’s about finding an aesthetic and remote moderate challenge and taking your time.

Ian Welsted on Mount Phillips Photo Simon RIchardson