In honour of the Olympic Games kicking off this weekend in London, the good team at #FriFotos have chosen "The Best" as today's theme for the iconic Twitter photo chat. While we've been fortunate to host many an Olympic athlete at the CMH lodges over the years and feel we clearly have THE BEST mountain guides in the world on our team, I thought I'd dig out 5 of The Best Alpine Flower Photos from the last month to share today.
The CMH Summer Adventures season has gotten off to a great start and is now almost half over! We've had wonderful warm temperatures that have given life to the many varieties of wildflowers in the Columbia Mountain Range and the BC Rockies. Here are a few of those that have bloomed for us so far:
The White Pasqueflower in this photo by Bobbie Burns guide Carl Trescher is maybe one of my favourites because after it blooms it takes on a whole new form known to us as "Hippies on a Stick" as they look like shaggy dudes standing tall in the grasses.
The fragile and beautiful Moss Campion is a tiny collection of these lovely pink blooms. Guide and Photographer Lyle Grisedale must have a wonderful macro lens as they appear much larger in this photo than they are in real life:
This beautifully composed photo by Carl Trescher maybe one of my favourite flower shots ever. This very hearty Cinquefoil was found in a nook along the Mt. Nimbus Via Ferrata route.
Often confused with moss campion, Purple Saxifrage lives in similar terrain and is proving to be an early-bloomer this year. Lyle Grisedale captured this small bunch while heli-hiking in the Bugaboos:
For more great flower photos, and photos of our Summer Adventures, checkout our online photo gallery. And don't be afraid to tweet or share what you consider to be 'the best' of the collection!
Summer is finally upon us here in the Canadian Rockies and families and other adventurers are anxious to get out and make the most of our short summer. My family has discovered that our kids, ages 4 and 6 appear to be ready to hit the hiking trails. Here is a list of great age-appropriate hikes for the younger set in Banff National Park:
1) Bow Lake: This trail meanders along the shores of Bow Lake just off the Icefield Parkway and across a number of streams as the water flows down from Bow Glacier. A set of steep stairs at the end takes hikers to a natural bridge formed when a massive boulder lodged itself in the top of the canyon, then up to the base of the falls. The route was about 8km round trip and took us about 3 hours as it's nice and flat.
2) Chephren Lake: The initial ascent from the water's edge seemed daunting but the trail soon levelled out and it was easy-going from there to the lake. The trail is wet and muddy and criss-crossed with roots, but the proximity to the face of Howse Peak makes for great echos which kept us laughing all the way to the lake. The route from Waterfowl Lakes campground on the Icefield Parkway was about 7 km round trip and took us just under 3 hours.
3) Lake Agnes: This one is next on our list. Although the elevation gain is dramatic, we're convinced they're ready for it. The stunning views along the way of Victoria Glacier and Lake Louise will make short but scenic stops along the route easy. And the lure of fresh baked pie at the tea house is a tough one to match! The trail is 7km with some steep sectons and switchbacks. We anticpate this one could take us about 5 hrs, depending on how good the pie is.
4) Tunnel Mountain: A local family fave, the kids are able to get to the top of a mountain in just over an hour's time. That sense of accomplishment makes for great motivation and it's fun to hear them tell Grandma & Grandpa "I summitted a mountain today!" Trail is about 3km round trip, with lots of UP (and subsequent DOWN) and takes about 2 hrs for the little ones.
While I admit there were times we had to rely on some tried-and-true kid-friendly jokes to keep them going and the promise of chocolate once we were finished, but all-in-all, we were impressed with how far and how fast those little legs can go. Yes, I believe we're ready to tackle a CMH Family Adventure!
Do you have some favourite family-friendly hikes in the Canadian Rockies? If so, share them in the comments here?
Photo: On the trail to Bow Glacier.
There are a few mountains and ranges on this planet that are so compelling as to be almost beyond belief. The Fitzroy Range in Patagonia. The Tetons in Wyoming. The Matterhorn in Switzerland. Half Dome in Yosemite. The Karakoram in Pakistan. The Bugaboos in British Columbia.
It doesn’t really matter how one visits these areas - be it by car, bus, boat, plane, helicopter, foot or bicycle, hiking or climbing - it’s all (better than) good.
There are others as well, but these half a dozen mountain ranges are in many ways the crown jewels of topography on planet Earth. At CMH Summer Adventures we consider ourselves extremely lucky to be able to explore in and around one of these jewels: the Bugaboos.
After a rock climbing adventure in the Bugaboos, I stopped by the CMH Bugaboos Lodge and talked with a group of heli-hikers twice my age who had just spent a couple of glorious days on comfortable hikes along low-angled ridges and between turquoise lakes with postcard views of the Bugaboo Spires while heli-hiking with CMH Summer Adventures.
We compared notes:
- They did things they didn’t believe were possible for them; I did things I didn’t believe were possible for me.
- They stepped onto summits looking over vistas of fairytale mountains; I stood on summits and looked around at the kinds of mountains climber’s dreams are made of.
- They had a few of the best days of their lives; I had a few of the best days of mine.
In the end, we realized the mountain experience is the same for everyone - we just all find it in different places. It’s one of the things that makes mountain sport so special - anyone can do it. And of all the planet's alpine crown jewels, the Bugaboos is certainly the best suited for everyone to experience.*
With this fact in mind, here are six of my favourite technical climbs in the Bugaboos, places where I’ve spent the best days of my life. As you look at the following photos remember that the Bugaboos has something to offer everyone and can make climbers, hikers and sightseers feel the same euphoria and elation that I felt during and after climbing on these beautiful spires.
The West Face of the North Howser Tower:
As the biggest wall in the Bugaboos, the West Face of the North Howser Tower is about a thousand metres tall, the same height as Yosemite’s famed El Capitan, but in an alpine setting. Climbs are mostly 5.11 or 5.12 in didfficulty, and both long and extremely committing. Of course, just looking at the peak is a complete mountain experience.
West Ridge of Pigeon Spire:
One of the best rock climbs in the world, and at a moderate grade of 5.4, anyone who can climb can do the West Ridge of Pigeon. In this photo, a climber in yellow near the summit is dwarfed by the massive peak.
The West Face of Snowpatch Spire:
The West Face of Snowpatch Spire gets high marks, not so much for the superior climbing but for the outrageous position overlooking the rest of the Bugaboo Spires, views down both the Vowell Glacier and Bugaboo Glacier, and an incomparable pointed summit to complete the ascent.
One of the least committing climbing objectives in the Bugaboos, Crescent Spire, offers a climbing option for everyone, from 5.4 to 5.12. Here, a climber stretches for the safety of a gear placement on Energy Crisis, a sustained 5.11 that follows a clean corner for 70 metres.
The East Face of Snowpatch Spire:
Arguably made of the most beautiful stone in the world, the East Face of Snowpatch is worth hiking underneath just to stare upward at the black and white streaked rock framed against the blue sky and the white glacier. If I could have a house that looked like a mountain, this would be it.
The East Face of Snafflehound Spire:
A lesser known and rarely visited spire in the Vowell Range just north of the main Bugaboos Group, the smooth East Face of Snafflehound Spire is home to the cleanest cracks I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately many of the lines are not continuous to enough to make for climbs of reasonable difficulty, but our ascent of the face may have been the first 5.13 in the Bugaboos.
For those of you who are not familiar with climbing ratings, the “5” indicates that the climb is 5th class - meaning a rope and protection devices are usually used to secure the climbers in case of a fall. The number following the decimal point, like the “10” in 5.10, gives climbers a subjective idea of how difficult the gymnastics of the ascent may be. In the mountains, the grading can be viewed like this:
- 5.1-5.5 is considered beginner terrain
- 5.6-5.8 is considered intermediate terrain
- 5.9-5.11 is considered advanced terrain
- 5.12-5.13 is considered extremely difficult terrain.
- The world’s most elite climbs are 5.14-5.15, but no climbs of this difficulty have yet been climbed in alpine environments like the Bugaboos.
*The Bugaboos are the most suited for everyone thanks to CMH Summer Adventures with their unique helicopter access and diverse holiday programs for all ages and abilities in the area surrounding Bugaboo Glacier Provincial Park.
This is a guest post by CMH Bugaboos Hiking Guide, Lyle Grisedale.
When I teach mountain walking to Heli-Hiking guests on a CMH Summer Adventure they are amazed at the lack of blisters, how much easier it is and how much terrain we can cover.
Although we can sometimes blame ill fitting boots for blisters, I have found proper walking technique goes a long way in preventing blisters. Don't get me wrong, good fitting boots are also important, but the way we walk is a much bigger contributing factor in the development of blisters.
Here are some walking suggestions that will prevent blisters from developing:
1st - What you are wearing:
Socks: Never wear cotton socks, wool is the very best and you can buy excellent specially designed hiking socks from companies such as Thorlo, Icebreaker and Wigwam. Allergic to wool? Try Merino wool - its fine fibres are non itching and should not cause allergic problems.
Boots: When buying boots it is very important to get a boot that has an excellent heel counter, the more supported the heel is the less likely that you will get blisters.
2nd - How you walk:
We spend most of our life walking on engineered surfaces: sidewalks, pavement, etc. All stair risers are the same height: 7 inches. This makes walking very easy and because of this I think people get out of touch with their feet. Then, when they get to the mountains on rough trails, or come heli-hiking on a CMH Summer Adventure, we mostly walk off-trail or on game trails. As a result, people often take big, inconsistent steps and blisters become a problem. So, most importantly people need to change their stride. In rougher terrain a long stride causes us to press onto our toes as we move to the next step, and as soon as you lean onto the toe the heel comes into contact with the back of the boot and causes friction - especially walking up hill.
Also, we can prevent blisters by changing our heel-to-toe, rocking walking style. Instead, try to place the foot down parallel to the slope and pick it up parallel to the slope for the next step without getting up on to the toes. This way the foot comes straight up rather than rocking onto the toe and moving in the shoe causing friction.
Then when going down hill:
• Take small steps - As the foot is placed ahead, point the toes down so that the foot lands parallel to the slope.
• Lean slightly forward at the waist to eliminate heel slips on loose rock.
• Keep your knees slightly flexed.
This walking style prevents blisters, results in less stress on the knees and is more stable.
Remember, you don't need long strides to cover big distances; small steps will take you just as far with out stressing the feet and causing blisters.
Have a good hiking tip? Comment on Facebook or below to share with the community.
Summer has officially begun at CMH. Both Bobbie Burns and the Bugaboo Lodges are geared up and ready to rock this summer. Speaking of rock – Dave Cochrane and guides in the Bugaboos are excited to offer a brand new glacier hike based out of the Bugaboo lodge. This stunning trek allows hikers to get up close and personal with the world famous granite spires that dominate the view from the lodge. Guests will fly by helicopter to the boundary of Bugaboo Provincial Park where they will unload and prepare for an epic hiking adventure right into the heart of the park. Traveling across a blanketed glacier and winding beneath towering granite rock spires, the day is accompanied by unmatched panoramic views. The spires and surrounding glaciers that carved them out are a geological marvel, making this hike a mind-blowing experience.
Finishing up the last of "lodge training" this week, CMH staff were able to experience this hike first hand. Exhilarated from the day, one of our returning lodge staff said, “This is one of the most amazing hikes I have ever experienced. Spending a day exploring the glacier and wandering beneath these peaks, it was as if I was a privileged guest in Mother Nature’s most magnificent Cathedral. Those towering spires left me completely breathless and awestruck. You really have to experience it to understand how overwhelmingly powerful it is. I will never forget today.” Check out this picture and more photos, taken by CMH guide Lyle Grisdale.
CMH Bugaboos: CMH staff taking a break on a Bugaboos glacier walk in Pernicular Pass. The two towers are located in Pernicular Pass. July 8, 2012. Photo credit: Lyle Grisdale
This guided hike requires no previous experience, just a descent level of fitness for a day of solid hiking. With the Bobbie Burns already welcoming guests and the Bugaboos first trip beginning on July 12, there is still time to add this adventure into your summer schedule. Don’t miss your chance to explore these amazing mountains. Our guides are really excited to share the amazing new areas they have scoped out. When they are jazzed up, you know it will be an amazing summer.
For more information or questions about an exciting summer adventure trip, visit our website or contact CMH Reservations at 1-(800) 661-0252 to book your space.
In 1978, a bus tour operator named Arthur Tauck, who had joined CMH in the winter for helicopter skiing, realized a summertime tour of the same remote part of the Canadian Rockies, with easy helicopter access, comfortable lodging, and first-rate cuisine might appeal wonderfully to his elderly guests on bus tours.
In 2001, CMH produced a coffee-table photo book titled, “Heli-Hiking and Mountaineering” in which Tauck penned an intro that reveals much about the sublime world of heli-hiking, his vision for its origin, and why heli-hiking is so ideal for older guests.
Besides the obvious beauty of the remote mountains he'd seen while skiing, Tauck was curious how he might be able to take tours to other places besides the more popular Canadian Rockies tourist destinations. He wrote:
“There was another question in my mind, too: would the senior citizens we cater to appreciate a mountain program given the frailties of age?
"Coincidentally, about the same time, I happened to visit my wife’s ailing grandmother, who was in a home living out her waning days. It was a sad visit. She was failing fast. Among her last words to me were, ‘Arthur, inside this baggy old body of bones, I’m still 25.' I cried, and later realized she had answered one of my questions.
"We had always designed tours around out perception of our elderly clientele’s physical limitations. Maybe that was a mistake. My grandmother-in-law convinced me that we should let our clients determine their own limitations. We should design tours that would engage their spirit and tenacity, that would leave them with renewed pride in themselves.
"I tracked down this guy Hans Gmoser (founder of Canadian Mountain Holidays). I wanted to talk to him about my idea of introducing my clients to his lodges and letting them partake of the magic and purity of an alpine experience geared to their wishes and capabilities. I envisioned a program like Hans’ heli-skiing where each day guests are divided by ability and heli-lifted to four or five different venues they could explore with a guide."
Tauck gave CMH a call, and heli-hiking was born. (Above, an early heli-hiking group prepares for liftoff from the Bugaboo Lodge.) It worked perfectly. For decades Tauck Tours included a CMH heli-hiking segment during bus tours of the Canadian Rockies with elderly travelers. Tauck concluded:
“The result was a renewed sense of pride. They met the challenge of satisfying their inner spirit at a time in their lives when they were beginning to accept the more sedentary life that comes with age. It was a joy to watch them fanny-slide down snowy slopes, frolic like kids with snowballs in the midst of summer, and push themselves along ridge lines and up the slopes far above timber. They learned about the flora, fauna, and the power of glaciation. They embraced the mountain environment... and they bonded with one another and wished they could adopt the CMH staff that made it all possible.
"Then, upon departure, while waiting for the helicopter to return them to reality, I would witness reflection, sometimes tearful. Maybe it was about their accomplishments and the fact that they may never have such an experience again.
"I too, have found myself with moist eyes seeing their emotion. I realized Hans and I were the authors of an experience that enhanced and sometimes changed the lives of many.
"We have watched, awestruck, amputees navigate the meadows and the glaciers. We have seen the more fit eagerly reach out to embrace the challenges of mountaineering. And we have witnessed families unite with teenagers, parents and grandparents, each at their own level of participation, but each sharing the same emotion.
"My original goal of creating Heli-Hiking to take advantage of added rooms in the Rockies for financial gain has long since faded in importance. As it turned out, my personal gain is the realization that Heli-Hiking has rekindled the dreams that reside inside so many of us. My only regret is that my wife’s 97-year-old grandmother never had a chance to live the experience she inspired. God bless her.”
Since then, CMH Summer Adventures has hosted seniors, kids, world-class athletes, handicapped travelers (shown above in a wheelchair on Grizzly Ridge near the Bugaboos), families, famous mountaineers, and everyone in between. CMH Summer Adventure programs have diversified to include safe-but-thrilling adventures for adrenaline-seekers, photo workshops and family adventures, but perhaps the most incomparable value in CMH Summer Adventures is still heli-hiking for elderly travelers who can experience Mr. Tauck's vision of engaging their spirit and tenacity once again and leave with renewed pride in themselves.
Photos courtesy Canadian Mountain Holidays archives.
REI Adventures describes a stay with CMH like this: “...a high mountain adventure of helicopter rides and spectacular encounters with nature, combined with private rooms in remote, alpine lodges and fantastic food.”
Indeed, there are few outings in the adventure travel world that combine such lofty adventures with such comfortable and relaxing hospitality. By day you can explore pristine alpine areas, under the watchful eye of an experienced mountain guide, where you can’t find even a single human footprint, trail, or road - and by night you can relax in a hot tub overlooking paradise of the wilderness kind.
Then the next day you can be lifted by a Bell 212 helicopter, known as the safest helicopter ever made, to a place that would be among the most photographed viewpoints on earth if there was a road to get there. From there, you can wander across tundra overlooking white glaciers, steep black mountains, and enjoy a lunch where the only difficulty is deciding which way to sit to take in what part of the 360-degree panorama.
That night you’ll enjoy a massage, a gourmet meal shared with knowledgable mountain guides, and a fine bottle of wine.
When it’s time to leave the Lodge, you’ll be happy if you’re one of the lucky ones who booked the Lodge-to-Lodge adventure, because while the rest of the group is going back to the real world, you’ll hike across an easy ridge and the CMH wizards of logistics will take the rest of your travel kit, suitcases, and clothing to the neighboring CMH Lodge.
That night you’ll be comfortably at home in a different lodge, with a different world-class view, but the same hospitality and incomparable wilderness comfort of CMH Summer Adventures. The CMH Lodges were built to provide easy and comfortable access to some of the most difficult to access mountains in North America.
Imagine Yosemite with only a couple dozen people in the entire park or the Tetons where the nearest paved road was 50 kilometres away. Then imagine a comfortable lodge that feels more like home than a hotel, with a staff that is passionate about adventure, hospitality, and wilderness. Combine the two visions and you'll just begin to understand the CMH flavor of wilderness adventure.
Upon waking in the morning, it will be as if you are in your own personal National or Provincial Park - the second in less than a week. Mountain guides will accompany you on relaxing adventures (or tough hikes, climbs, or Via Ferrata ascents if you prefer) and share their vast knowledge of the geology, glaciology, and ecology of the area - as well as keep your holiday safe, easy and stress free.
Most of the world’s travel options that provide the kind of adventure found with CMH Summer Adventures require weeks rather than days, athletic fitness rather than everyday walking ability, and third world travel logistics and complications rather than a short flight to Calgary and exemplary service that allows you to just relax and enjoy yourself.
In fact, here’s a challenge: does anyone out there know of anywhere else on earth that offers both adventure and comfort equal to CMH Summer Adventures?
Photos by Topher Donahue and Andrea Johnson.
Some of the most famous lodging in the world treats you to extravagant comforts and luxury while others require nearly roughing it in canvas tents.
In trying to describe the experience of staying at a CMH Lodge, the usual descriptions of lodging don't really fit. Instead, the CMH Lodge experience is more of an emotion, a verb, alive.
It is a combination of the feeling of the day’s adventure into the wilderness of Western Canada - adventures for world-class athletes, octogenarians, and everyone in between - and the intimate comforts of a remote mountain lodge with all the amenities an adventure traveller could desire.
To capture what CMH Lodges have to offer, one could make a long list of features, from spas to bars, but what really makes them special is the feeling they inspire. To communicate this, I felt photos were the best way to explain the emotions of a CMH Lodge.
From the first moment of the day, with a fresh cup of coffee and a view out your bedroom window of the alpenglow on the Bugaboo Spires...
...to siting in the sun, waiting for the helicopter to whisk you and your family safely into some of the most remote mountains in North America...
...to the view out the helicopter window as you leave the lodge for one of the most memorable days of your life...
...to returning to the lodge with your guide to complete the CMH Summer Adventures experience with all the comforts of home - and more...
...to dinner with friends and family overlooking a wilderness wonderland...
...to reflecting on the day over a three-dimensional map of the area...
...to a glass of wine on the deck with your best friend...
...to a quiet night a long, long way from the nearest highway and town...
...the emotion of the CMH Lodge is one of intimacy, adventure, beauty, comfort and complete escape from the complicated world in which we live.
Calling all families! Wanting your kids to turn off the television, shut off the x-box and step into nature’s ultimate playground? CMH Summer Adventures is offering family focused heli-hiking trips consisting of a three day escape into Canada’s pristine alpine meadows. Experience untouched wilderness feet-first in the Canadian Rockies.
With ‘nature deficit disorder’ on the rise in children, their mental and physical health is at stake. A CMH Family Adventure means you and your kids can have fun and stay active, while being completely immersed in the great outdoors. From sliding down snow-covered hills, to dipping toes in glacier fed lakes, there is no shortage of excitement. Guaranteeing big grins and glowing faces, our CMH Family Adventure leaders ensure each child is experiencing an engaging and educational trip. By incorporating games and activities throughout the day, your child will see nature in a new light. Family trips aren’t just for the youngsters. Teenagers, and those with a penchant for adrenalin, will have the opportunity to zip-line across river gorges; traverse a two story tree-top ropes course; rope up for some glacier trekking; or clip in to a via ferrata and summit a mountain peak.
If breathtaking mountain views, carpets of glacier lilies, and the tranquility of the atmosphere aren’t enough to fill your imagination, think of the quality time you will enjoy as you embark on this exceptional adventure together. You and your family will unwind, spend time exploring the land, connect with nature and create memories to last a lifetime.
CMH Family Adventures are available at both the Bobbie Burns (July 24 - 27 and August 8 – 11) and Bugaboos (July 27 - 30 and August 11 – 14). So put down the cell phone, pull up your hiking socks, and head outdoors this summer for a family adventure of a lifetime.
To learn more about CMH Family Adventures give us a call at 1-800-661-0252 or visit www.cmhsummer.com. Nature’s playground awaits.
You and your partner want the ultimate remote getaway?
You and your family want to share a bonding experience of the most powerful, lasting kind?
You and your friends or group want to craft the perfect mountain retreat, tailored precisely for your level of fitness and enthusiasm for adventure?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, a Private Summer Adventure Trip with CMH could be your ticket to the best holiday of your life.
Here’s how it works:
By booking a Private Summer Adventure Trip, CMH will reserve a private guide just for you. This means the plethora of CMH Summer Adventures will be yours for the choosing, with helicopter access, at your pace, your level of difficulty, and with only the people you want to be with. Daily options include:
- Easy hikes on across the tundra in the most spectacular alpine terrain imaginable.
- Deluxe picnics in impossibly beautiful locations.
- Simply relaxing in a postcard-perfect setting.
- Playing on cool snowfields during the heat of summer.
- Taking photographs of an alpine paradise at your pace with a helicopter to get your lenses up there.
- Challenging all day treks to summits looking down on glaciers and a sea of mountains stretching as far as the eye can see in every direction.
- An airy via ferrata climb near the world-famous Bugaboo Spires.
- Mountaineering and rock climbing adventures at your choice of difficulty and commitment.
- Glacier treks across ancient ice caps and between huge granite walls.
- Ziplines across a wilderness canyon.
- Design your own adventure!
CMH Private Summer Adventure Trips are a holiday that can be the most relaxing, easy, beautiful days you’ve ever had - or the wildest, most breathtaking, exciting but safe adventure you can imagine.
What do you want your holiday to be?