We last saw Wade Davis in the Bugaboos where he was a featured speaker during the CMH Summer Adventure Speaker Series, so we are well aware of his world-class communication skills. He’s written 15 books and is also the National Geographic Society’s Explorer in Residence, so I suppose it comes as not surprise that he’s winning prestigious awards for his writing. Still, we’d like to congratulate the Harvard PhD ethnobotanist for his latest accolades.
This time, his book Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest has won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and its $30,000 prize. Wade spent 10 years researching the book and in the process uncovered much that was previously unknown about the fateful expedition and the risk-taking motivation of WWI era British explorers.
The book’s summary explains, “Wade Davis asks not whether George Mallory was the first to reach the summit of Everest, but why he kept climbing on that fateful day.”
According to an article on the BBC, David Willetts MP, the chair of the judges for the award, explained their reason for choosing Into the Silence as this year’s winner: "It’s an exciting story of human endeavor imbued with deep historical significance. Wade’s scrupulous use of sources and attention to detail, combined with his storytelling skills and ability to enter into the minds of the people he is writing about make this a thoroughly enlightening and enjoyable book.”
The award's web page summarizes that "the book sheds new light on Mallory’s expeditions to scale Everest, against the backdrop of the impact of the Great War and British Imperialism, and giving a detailed insight in to the explorers’ world."
With the promise of Into the Silence delving into the motivations of 20th Century explorers through a masterfully researched examination of one of modern history's most storied epics, I’ve already ordered my copy. Stay tuned for a review of Wade’s award-winning book.
Coincidentally, I received the October 2012 CMH Newsletter on the same day I heard about Wade Davis winning the Samuel Johnson Award. In the newsletter, he's featured for many reasons:
First, Wade is part of the CMH Speaker Series.
Second, Wade's been called “a real-life Indiana Jones” and has been the focus of Hollywood and Imax films.
Third, Wade was born and raised in British Columbia and way back in the 70s he worked as a seasonal park ranger in Bugaboo Provincial Park, the same place and about the same time CMH Summer Adventures began.
Last but not least, Wade Davis is planning to join us again next summer in the Bugaboos for the CMH Speaker Series on July 21-24. Call CMH Reservations at 1 (800) 661-0252 for questions about joining the award-winning explorer for hiking, presentations and intimate conversations in one of his favourite places on the planet.
Mt. Everest photo by Topher Donahue.
“Always break-in your boots before going hiking in them.” That’s the wisdom, but in practice we often go hiking in new boots. Sure, wearing them around town, walking the dog, or even doing chores around the house is a good idea, but in practice we often don't find time to break in our boots.
However, with the recent crop of lightweight, soft, forgiving boot designs, breaking in hiking boots isn’t as brutal as it once was. The synthetic materials that are part of the vast majority of today’s hiking shoes don’t “break-in” like all-leather boots anyway. If you have a poor fitting boot, it will probably never fit quite right, but if you get a pair that fits your feet, you can often hike comfortably from day one. The fleet of high-end hiking boots (shown above) at CMH Summer Adventures, with a few brands for different shaped feet, fits virtually everyone, from the first step into the helicopter until the last step out of the tundra.
I’ll admit, I’m terrible at the break-in process, and often end up with a new pair of boots right before a trip to the mountains. Thanks to too many trips with new boots, I’ve learned some tricks for making new boots - or any shoes for that matter - feel better while hiking.
The key to comfort is how you lace the boots.
First, I like to lace the boots as tightly as I possibly can for a short time before going hiking, and then I lean hard on them in every way I can imagine flexing them in the mountains. This seems to provide an accelerated break-in period, giving the shoes a chance to conform slightly to my feet.
From then on, I take the time to adjust my laces depending on terrain:
- For flat terrain, try for an even lace tension from toe to bow.
- For uphill hiking, tighten the upper part of the boot while leaving the toebox loose. This helps prevent heel rubbing since the ankle is held snug and the toes can relax and flex comfortably with the hill.
- For downhill hiking, lace your boots tight around the forefoot to keep your toes from banging into the end of the boots as well as to minimize slipping and friction on the soles and sides of your feet. Leave the ankles loose so you can articulate easily on the steeper sections.
- For rugged, uneven terrain, start with snug lacing throughout the foot, and adjust as needed - as soon as needed - based on comfort.
Common trail wisdom is that you should use some kind of blister kit before getting blisters, but even better, you can often avoid the blister kit in the first place if you adjust your laces at the first sign of rubbing. Tying a simple extra twist in the lace at the point you want the tension to change will keep the shoes laced how you’d like them to be, and many modern hiking boots have a lace cleat that is designed to hold tension differently on the upper and lower part of the boot.
Lacing for different terrain is a big help, but the ultimate pleasure for your feet is stopping for a soak in a cold mountain stream. I have no proof, but observations reveal that hikers who stop to soak their feet are happier, make more money, have better marriages, take better vacations, and generally enjoy life more thoroughly...
Photo of heli-hiking at CMH Bugaboos by Topher Donahue.
By Ellen Barone
There are those who make daring adventures look easy.
From the outside, nose pressed to their dazzling Instagram photostreams, they seem to knock off one Bucket List adventure after another as easily as the rest of us gain weight.
Of course, there’s more to the story. We all have our challenges.
Recently, I posted a message on Facebook asking intrepid travellers to share what phrases, mantras or courage-inducing methods they use to cope when an adventure heats up.
From song snippets to calling up core beliefs, it was fascinating to discover the ways people talk themselves through a journey. Here are six mantras these adventure travellers live by.
1. This is awesome. This is fun.
“When I was hiking the North Coast Trail this summer there was an especially difficult day and in my head I had to repeat this for several hours at a time to get through it...This is awesome, this is fun, this is awesome, this is fun....” - Amy MacKinnon
2. Would I rather be experiencing this or...?
" When I'm really scared, I repeat to myself, "this is not the day or the way I'm going to go out." When I'm just nervous, I ask if I would rather be experiencing this or sitting behind a desk. Experiencing it is ALWAYS the answer. " - Josephine Parr
3. 30 seconds of courage.
"I hate heights. Oh boy, do I hate heights. And jumping off anything or ziplining will send me into a major panic attack. I try to chant, "30 seconds of courage, I just need 30 seconds of courage, 30 seconds, 30 seconds..." Then I shriek for the world's longest 30 seconds and it's all over and I'm still alive." - Allie Almario
4. Trust the gear.
"Trust the gear" is a mantra I use when things are getting spicy. It helps to know about all the extensive testing that ropes and other gear is put through by the UIAA (International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation). " - Chris Chesak
5. Cracklin’ Rosie
"I remember when I was hiking up the Bright Angel Trail out of the Grand Canyon in 1975. I sang the Neil Diamond song Cracklin' Rosie to myself for about five miles. Not necessarily a good memory . . . " - Rachel Dickinson
6. Never give up.
"Never give up. Always better to die trying than lying down. Or maybe that is just me! " - Peter Syme
What about you? What mind-tools do you use to get you through an adventure?
Ellen Barone is a freelance journalist specializing in travel and frequent contributor to the Adventure blog. For the latest travel news, tips, and reviews, visit her website at EllenBarone.com.
Between the areas of CMH Summer Adventures, friendly competition is a healthy tradition. From the beginning of Canadian Mountain Holiday’s summer program, in the 1970s, we realized that in many ways there was nobody else to compete with other than ourselves.
Nobody else was taking people hiking in the alpine zone using a helicopter for transportation.
Nobody else was providing a full spa, gourmet kitchen, and professional guides so deep in North America’s vast wilderness.
So when it the CMH Bobbie Burns guides built the Mt. Nimbus Via Ferrata, the most extensive via ferrata in North America, and combined it with the Conrad Glacier Adventure Hike for the Bobbie Burns High Flying Adventure, there was only one other place that stood a chance of stepping up to the Bobbie Burns' accessible adventure standard: CMH Bugaboos.
Two years ago the Bugaboos guides opened their Skyladder Via Ferrata, so the unique European flavor mountain adventure is now available in both areas. But the Bugaboos team felt another adventure, also one that didn’t require the technical skill of rock climbing and mountaineering, was waiting amongst the lofty spires and friendly glaciers of the Bugaboos.
Few places on earth allow for such mellow glacier travel as the Columbia Mountains, so it didn’t take long for the CMH Guides to realize that a day of non-technical glacier travel would be the perfect accompaniment to the via ferrata.
The combination of the Skyladder Via Ferrata and the Bugaboos Glacier Trek was sampled by dozens of CMH guests this summer, and the result is unanimous: it rocks. So starting in 2013, the Bugaboos High Flying adventure is game on.
The technically easy nature of both the via ferrata and the Glacier Trek makes it accessible to anyone with the desire, and enough fitness to spend most of a day hiking. On the via ferrata, harnesses are worn, and double leashes are attached to cables to provide redundant safety systems, but metal rungs are fastened to the rock so even the blankest sections are made easy. On the Glacier Trek, the glaciers are mellow enough that the rope is almost unnecessary, but is still worn as a safety precaution. Crampons, short metal spikes, are worn on your boots and make walking on ice about as tricky as a walk in the park. Ice axes are also used, but only as a glorified walking stick. Some trekkers on the easiest routes use trekking poles instead of ice axes.
All equipment is provided by CMH, and whatever you need to know will be explained by your guide as needed. No training is required or needed.
Everyone who went out this summer had a fantastic time. Somet groups scrambled onto viewpoints and summits near the glacier’s edge, and every group returned to the lodge for full indulgence in the kind of comfort that mountaineers can only dream of.
From experienced adventure travellers, to people who had never even wanted to climb a mountain, everyone who sampled the Bugaboos High Flying Adventure this summer was thoroughly blown away.
Imagine getting to sail between tropical islands without having to learn to sail, or to play in an orchestra without having to learn an instrument - or experiencing the heart of the mountain environment without having to learn technical climbing skills.
This is the magic of the most exciting and accessible new summer travel program on the planet. But don’t take our word for it: give it a try.
Questions? Give us a call at 1 (800) 661-0252.
While glaciers Like Mt. Everest’s Khumbu Icefall make the news for being dangerous, there are many places where a day on a glacier can be a phenomenal and safe experience that is unlike anything else on earth. To judge all glaciers as dangerous because of stories from the Khumbu is about as accurate as judging all sailing dangerous because of stories from the Southern Ocean.
There are also glaciers that are about as benign as sailing in the Florida Keys in nice weather - and the part of the Canadian Rockies that CMH Summer Adventures calls home are laced a friendly web of safe and spectacular glaciers.
If you’ve never been hiking on a glacier, think of it as an opportunity as unique as sailing on the ocean for the first time - minus the sea sickness...
Here’s how it works:
- Pick just the right pair of boots from CMH Summer Adventures' collection of high quality and clean hiking boots.
- After a deluxe breakfast, sit in the helicopter for an easy ride from the lodge to the toe of the glacier.
- Enjoy your guide’s comfortable way of taking care of you in the mountain world.
- Strap crampons on your boots. Makes strolling on ice about as tricky as a walk in the park.
- Pick up your ice axe - a glorified walking stick for the mountains.
- Enjoy casual hiking across the sea of ancient ice that carved the very mountains surrounding you.
- The rope just makes it even safer, but is unlikely to be used. Think of it like wearing a life jacket on a mellow boat ride - you most likely don't need it, but it's smart to wear it.
- Feel the camaraderie that comes of spending a day in the heart of the mountains together.
- Feel the confidence that comes of doing something you never thought you’d do.
- Walk beneath cathedrals of stone, while your guide makes sure you have the right kind of trek for you - not too hard to enjoy, but challenging if you want it.
- Celebrate however you see fit on top of a world-class viewpoint.
- By the time we returned to the Lodge, the clouds cleared, and we enjoyed a fine meal and the Bugaboo's incomparable dinner view with a few great people who had become even better friends than when we arrived.
For further questions about CMH Summer Adventures' one-of-a-kind adventure travel
program, give us a call at 1 (800) 661 0252.
At the end of each summer, we look back and take careful note of how our guests tell us we’re doing. In fact, that’s how we design our programs in the first place.
This year, if there is one emotion to describe how CMH Summer Adventures guests tell us they feel, it would have to be this: satisfaction.
From the informal feedback we get while sitting around the dinner table with our guests after a gourmet meal, to our feedback cards where guest can rate their experience with us, to online forums like TripAdvisor where gusts review and rate their travel experiences of all kinds - the conclusion is obvious - our guests are satisfied.
The Net Promoter Score (NPS), an industry-wide customer satisfaction benchmark, asks the simple question: How likely is it that you would recommend (the company) to a friend or colleague?
The average NPS score in the tourism industry is 74 out of a possible 100. Last summer in the Bugaboos, our NPS was 97. Of course numbers don’t tell the whole story, but we’re particularly proud of that one.
The direct feedback from some of our guests is perhaps the most telling:
“My favorite thing was that the entire experience exceeded all my expectations. That may not sound like much but I had done loads of research, talked to lots of people, devoured the web-site, etc and I had very very high expectations for trip (in some ways, almost guaranteeing that I would be disappointed because I was so "psyched" about how cool this trip was going to be). To my delight and astonishment, the trip exceeded all my expectations despite how huge my expectations were going in! I remember walking into the lodge after our last hike on the last day, almost with tears in my eyes, and telling Nina that "I'd rather do this than spend a week in Paris" (my favorite place in the world). The other favorite thing was that everybody was first class and professional, be it the incredible guides, the pilots, or the lodge staff. I described it as ‘the Nordstrom’s of hiking’.”
“When I first decided to take a trip to Bugaboo Lodge I was warned that it leaves a permanent imprint, and I now understand what that means. It took a while for the experience to fully sink in, but I do know how glad I am that I went, and I want to let others know about this "hidden" treasure. The memory I'll alway savour is sitting in the rooftop hot tub with friends after an exhilarating day of hiking, holding a cool drink, overlooking one of the most spectacular scenery I've ever experienced and watching a gorgeous sunset. Life doesn't get much better.”
“All the meals were outstanding. I was blown away by the family atmosphere at the dinner table, and our guide made us feel so welcome. Every morsel was spectacular, but if I had to choose a favourite meal, I'd point to the scallops -- they were sublime.”
“The unexpected thing was the value of the guides - not only for the obvious reason of knowing the trails and where to go but for completely putting everyone at ease. For the first time in my life, I was able to hike without any cares - I didn't have to worry about weather, food, safety, time of day, animals, etc. That was an incredible gift and made it so much easier to relax quickly and enjoy each day. I think this was even more true for my wife who is more of a worrier, she had an incredible time and never had to worry about logistics or safety.”
And one of many rave reviews from the TripAdvisor website:
“We just returned from the best vacation experience ever! We do a lot of traveling but this was the best experience ever! From the booking process ( flawless ), accommodation (this was my idea of roughing it-soft bed,hot shower and private rooms!), food (5 star Boston restaurants are not as good as the food here!) , the people(outstanding) and the outrageously fun hiking via the via ferrata and the Conrad Glacier!”
To summarize the experience of CMH Summer Adventures is difficult, for the very reason that it is different for everyone. We like to make everyone’s trip exactly what they want it to be. If our report card from this summer is any indication, we’re doing just that, and our guests are going home having had their own, personal, perfect vacation.
We’re sad to see the summer slip into fall, as beautiful as every season is here in the mountains, but we’re thrilled to have been able to be a satisfying part of so many people’s favourite summer adventure.
A group of four British women, ranging in age from 59 to 72, have been ticking off the world’s most famous adventure travel destinations. The foursome, who call themselves the “Ladies with Altitude” are featured on the BBC program - Fast:track - and are part of what is statistically our culture’s traveling-est age group.
People over 50 now account for more than half of tourism spending. As one of the ladies explains, “When you reach a certain age, I think you suddenly feel like you need to cram a few things in.”
The financial success many of the the baby boomer generation have enjoyed is part of the reason for the explosion of older travelers, but on BBC correspondent explains that another reason is that the baby boomer generation didn’t travel as much when they were younger as people do today. Taking time off before college, or traveling after college before settling down is accepted today as normal, even encouraged by many parents and educators.
One of the Ladies with Altitude said, “Everywhere we go, we meet people our age, and it’s absolutely brilliant!”
And another added, “I want to see as much of it as I can, while I can, while I’m still fit.”
The correspondent explained, “They don’t just do sun and sand holidays, they really want to go places, to explore and see the world.”
Here at CMH Summer Adventures, the enthusiasm many older travelers have for adventure is no surprise, nor is it really new. Since the 70s, we’ve been hosting adventure travelers of all ages, but older travelers are the ones who encouraged us to begin heli-hiking and develop a comfortable and relaxing mountain adventure program that is not available anywhere else in the world.
In recent years we’ve tailored our programs to appeal to younger Generation-X travelers, with via ferratas, glacier treks, and adventure trails that include ziplines and other safe but adrenaline-inducing fun, but the core of CMH Summer Adventures has always been perfectly suited for older travelers who want the adventure without the discomfort.
The surprising thing at CMH Summer Advenures is not so much that older travelers like adventure, but that the adventures we design for younger travelers, like the via ferrata, end up being a highlight for older travelers as well. And the adventures we designed for older travelers, like heli-hiking, have become popular among younger travelers thanks to the helicopter providing complete immersion in alpine beauty without the crowds, dusty trails, parking lots, and tourist towns.
In many ways, CMH Summer Adventures is where the generation gap disappears. It’s where grandparents and grandchildren, parents and kids, can - and do - share common adventures and return home with common memories of the best times of their lives.
Since the digital revolution, we all communicate the capabilities of our image capturing devices - be it a phone, camera, or tablet - in one, all-powerful word: megapixel. And now there's a prototype camera capable of shooting 50 GIGAPIXELS!
Today, mobile phones shoot more megapixels than my first professional digital camera. Does more megapixels mean better photos? Not necessarily. For outdoor photography, where nature’s unpredictable beauty pushes the world's best photographers and cameras to perform, there are much more important elements than pixel count. In fact, pushing the megapixel count without adequate improvement in things like buffer, shutter-lag, and focus capabilities results in a camera that takes really big, really lousy pictures; but the most common measuring stick for the technology of a camera is, and will likely be for some time, the mighty megapixel.
In keeping with the megapixel race, a team of electrical engineers from Duke University and the University of Arizona have developed a prototype camera that blows away all previous camera's resolution. It can capture 50,000 megapixels of information - that’s 50 gigapixels - or five times more resolution than the eyesight of a human with 20/20 vision.
Eagles are thought to have vision four times better than a human, so the new prototype camera is supposedly sharper even than an eagle’s eye. (I'm not sure which is more impressive, that this prototype camera might compete with an eagle, or that even with todays most cutting-edge optical technology, we're just barely able to compete with the incredible resolving power of an eagle's eye.)
The prototype camera works by combining the information from 98 small cameras, called microcameras, which fire simultaneously to create an image. A single lens feeds light to all 98 microcameras, which then feed their information to a processor that combines the images from the microcameras into a single photograph.
According to the developers the camera is fairly large, nearly a metre wide, in order to handle the control boards and the temperature control components that keep the electronics from overheating while processing information.
The obvious question is: do we need a camera that sees in gigapixels? My gut answer is no, but after seeing what the 36mp Nikon D800 is capable of doing, I’m not so sure. You don’t NEED that many megapixels, but if you have them, it not only allows for larger printing, but also expands the creative potential of the camera.
I bought the D800 for a specific assignment to shoot a sunset landscape to be printed three metres wide. That big of a fine art print demands a resolution that, until the D800, wasn’t possible without using expensive and cumbersome medium format equipment. I began the project before the invention of the D800, and was struggling with stitching together lower resolution photos from a scene with rapidly changing light. When the D800 came out, I was able to finish the job the first time I took the camera out of the box:
Here's a crop of the tiny baby pine tree growing next to the puddle:
So what could you do with 50 gigapixels? That’s a photograph containing 50 billion pixels. It boggles the mind to consider. At 300 dpi, the standard resolution for high resolution printing, a 50 gigapixel print could be about 90 metres across - almost the size of a football field.
Google Earth in scary detail comes to mind, and also murals on skyscrapers, airports and museums - but even more game-changing would be the the post-production potential of the image. Take this casual photo of a woman enjoying a cold drink on a warm afternoon at the Bugaboo Lodge that was shot using the 36mp D800:
No big deal, but then look at the crop below that shows details in the image that are not even visible with the human eye from the distance where the photo was taken:
You could read her watch if it was rotated slightly! So now imagine wildlife photography with a 50 gigapixel camera. Provided the optics are good enough, you could crop in on a tiny portion of the frame with excellent results. Imagine shooting a grizzly bear mother and cub from a nice, safe distance, and afterwards being able to crop in on her and her cub’s faces with enough resolution for a full-sized print.
The documentary capabilities of such a camera would open the door to previously unexplored videography methods, such as panning across a video clip of a busy street scene with enough resolution to see many dozens of people interacting in intimate detail.
For my world, often photographing people having fun adventures in nature, I'd rather if technology produced, instead of a 50 gigapixel beast, a 12mp camera the size of a deck of cards with optics to compete with the best DSLRs. Perhaps one day we'll have my dream camera too.
What about you? Would 50 gigapixels be your dream camera?
As the previous winter’s snows melt up the hillsides of the Canadian Rockies, springtime follows close behind, even into the late summer. In a phenomenon not unique to the region, but perhaps more pronounced in the Columbia Mountains than mountain areas with less heavy snowfall, the wildflower season can last well into late August or even early September.
The Columbia Mountains, a subrange of the Rockies, is a freak of nature that reveals itself in many forms. The heart of this unique quality is the range’s precipitation patterns. The region receives enough annual precipitation to qualify as a rainforest, but most of it falls in the winter months in the form of snow - to the tune of 12 to 18 metres (40 to 60 feet) each winter, leaving the long, sunny, summer days to the flowers.
The Columbia River is the largest river in a region containing one of the world’s richest reserves of fresh water. As the deep snowbanks melt, armies of wildflowers bursting with every colour of the rainbow creep of the mountainsides, following the streams and trickles of the melting snow.
Even in the late summer, when the other legendary wildflower zones are dry, with their blooms long since faded, the flowers of the Columbia Range are quite often still in full glory.
Last week, during a photo shoot in the Bugaboos, I had a hard time keeping my lens out of the dew-soaked bouquet that spread all around us. By the end of each day, my knees were soaked, my memory cards full, and my optical nerves saturated with colour.
One morning, we were greeted with a dusting of fresh snow where the helicopter dropped us near treeline. It melted quickly under the bright alpine sun, leaving the blossoms even more brilliant than the day before.
Even the flowers surrounding the Bugaboo Lodge, while nurtured by human hands, were in full glory and formed a fanatsy-like foreground to sunrise on the famous Bugaboo Spires.
A photographer, Jeff Wendorff, who runs wildlife and landscape photo workshops was there to check out CMH Summer Adventures and decide if it was a good venue for a photo workshop. At the end of our three days together, I asked him if he thought the Bugaboos would work for his workshops.
Photographers interested in current photo workshops with CMH should visit our website. It is highly recommended that anyone booked on a CMH Summer Adventure bring the best camera they own with extra batteries and memory cards - it’s more beautiful than you think.
Last week, the Bodacious Babes hit the Bugaboos and experienced a flavor of beauty that has to be seen to be believed. No words can do it justice, so instead here’s a photo essay on one of their hikes in the Canadian Rockies that is surely in the running for one of the most beautiful places on earth.
It started with pilot Perry dropping us off near treeline aboug halfway up a mile-deep valley on the remote western side of the legendary Bugaboos.
Before the sound of the helicopter had receded into the distance, we were so awestruck by the beauty that some clapped, some laughed, some cried and some hugged.
All of us spun in circles wondering if we’d ever been anywhere more spectacular.
Once we were able to compose ourselves enough to walk, we began wandering through a landscape somewhere between the the Shire of Tolkien’s Hobbit, and the mountains of the Himalaya.
Clouds of mist swirled around the peaks behind us as we hiked through lush fields of wildflowers and past clear running streams.
Above us, the lofty Howser Towers formed an almighty backdrop.
After following the crest of a moraine left by a long-departed glacier, and just about when it seemed it could get no more beautiful, Lyle, our guide, took us past a tarn the colour of the sky in a setting that inspires painters and poets alike.
After a long morning that seemed like both an eternity and an instant, we reached a glacier guarding the high pass to reach the more popular side of the Bugaboos. After a lunch and moment caught between meditation and a nap, pilot Perry returned and whisked us over the pass to another slice of paradise - but that’s for another story.
For questions about Girlfriend Getaways with CMH Summer Adventures, a women's trip that rivals the most fun a person can have, contact Canadian Mountain Holidays at 1 (800) 661-0252.
Photos by Topher Donahue.