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.
When up in the mountains, there is such a vast array of colours in every direction. Green meadows, blue alpine lakes, red flowers; the list goes on! Sometimes, when you take the colour out of the picture (literally), you are left to appreciate the true beauty of nature that surrounds you out in the mountains.
Some photographers have a great eye for when to shut off the colour, and let the landscape speak for itself. Here are my five favorite black and white shots from this summer at CMH:
1. Building thunderclouds always make for fantastic black and white photographs
2. Towering spires poking out of the snow
3. Group of hikers heading across a ridge in the Bugaboos
4. Group of CMH Summer Adventurers heading out on a CMH Glacier Trek.
5. The rock in the foreground pales in comparison to the towering spires in the background
Do you shoot in black and white? Ever considered it? When do you find it most useful? Let us know in the comments below!
Let’s say you want to explore the islands. So you go on a cruise. The ship is comfortable, but when you get to the islands, all you can do is look at them from the deck of the ship, or visit the port where a cruise ship can dock. For this reason, a cruise ship is more like a passenger jet, albeit a huge and luxurious one.
To really experience the islands, you need something smaller, more maneuverable, that can take you into the secluded bays, near the natural wonders of the islands, safely navigate shallow water, and land you on the most pristine beaches.
The best boat for exploring the islands is, without a doubt, the Zodiac. The rigid inflatable boat allows for safe passage in rough water, easy maneuverability to reach the trickiest beaches, no hull hanging into the water to hit ground, and powerful enough to get back to the ship against the tide or swell.
The helicopter is to the mountains what the Zodiac is to the seas. It gets you right where you want to be, easier than any other machine. All it needs to land safely is a space the size of the helicopter.
During CMH Summer Adventures, we use a twin-engine Bell 212 helicopter, called the safest helicopter ever made, each morning to transport you and your friends and guide to your destination for the day, and to return you to the lodge at the end of a great hike, climb, glacier trek, photography session, nap, picnic, or whatever is your ideal day in the mountains.
The ride isn’t like a cruise ship, but neither is it like a jet ski. Somewhere in between the two, the helicopter is designed to be the most versatile, maneuverable method of air transportation.
For many CMH guests, some of the highlights of the trip are the helicopter rides. The helicopter flies slow enough to really see the terrain as you pass by, and low enough that you are often just below the summits of the highest peaks while still above the glaciers and valleys.
This low-altitude perspective is truly a bird’s eye view. In an airplane you gain so much altitude so quickly that even the most striking geography looks flat. In a helicopter you fly along the valleys, looking up to see the summits, gazing into the forrest below where sometimes a moose or bear can be seen peering up at the strange mechanical bird.
The photographic perspective out the window is alone worth the price of admission and, surrounded by windows, every passenger in the helicopter gets a fantastic view. Make sure when you take photos from the helicopter (or a plane for that matter) that you remember the following techniques:
- Use a high shutter speed - ideally 1000 or faster - to compensate for the vibration of the machine.
- Put the camera near the window to minimize glare off the plexiglass.
- Don’t touch the window with the camera because the vibration is much greater when the camera is touching the machine.
- Turn off the flash when shooting out the window to avoid the reflection of the flash.
- Set up your camera before you get in the machine so you’ll be ready when the flight is underway.
- Use the flash when shooting your family or friends inside the machine - the bright mountain sun outside will trick your camera even if it is not pointed out the window.
During a 3-day CMH Summer Adventure, thanks to the helicopter, most of our guests will see more mountain splendor than they have in the rest of their lives put together.
That’s why a helicopter is the the Zodiac of the skies. Visit Hawaii and only use an airplane, and you’ll see Maui and some nice beaches. Visit Hawaii and take a tour with a Zodiac and you’ll see some the most pristine island destinations on the planet.
Visit Western Canada with a plane, bus or a car and you’ll see a few famous views. Visit Western Canada with CMH Summer Adventures and you’ll get a world-class tour of a sublime alpine world very few people have ever laid eyes upon.
Photography by Topher Donahue.
Summertime has finally arrived in the Rockies. The season is short so we must cease the blue sky days and enjoy the sunshine. Banff is a unique place as a small town surrounded by a gigantic playground with endless outdoor escapes. Stumped on what activities you’d like to tackle this summer? Here’s a bucket list of ideas for around Banff to accompany the adrenaline seeker to the bird-watcher.
- Rent a canoe and paddle the Bow River.
- Bike the Banff/Canmore legacy trail.
- Hike Sulphur Mountain, and experience the same views without the gondola cost.
- Explore the “Gateway to the Rockies” exhibition and others at the Whyte Museum.
- Play a round of golf at the Banff Springs golf course.
- View western Canada’s oldest natural history museum at the Banff Park Museum.
- Take a picnic out and start a fire at the Cascade Ponds or Johnson’s Lake.
If you’ve been busy sweating through the up- and down-hills, experiencing spectacular mountain views and encountering wildlife, it's time to rest and put your feet up. Here's a list of patios where you can relax in sunshine, unwind over a pint of beer or refresh with a glass of white wine:
- Timber’s patio
- Banff Brewing Company
- The Juniper bistro & lounge
- The Saltlik
- Elk and Oarsman patio
If you’re feeling good and energy levels are high, Banff also has a great night life scene - any day of the week.
Monday: Chuck Rose at the Rose and Crown www.roseandcrown.ca
Tuesday: Greek night at the Balkan restaurant www.banffbalkan.ca/greek-night
Wednesday: Open mic night at Bruno’s; country line dancing lessons at Wild Bills www.wbsaloon.com
Thursday: Live music at Melissa’s bar upstairs www.melssteak.com
Friday: Fish bowl Friday’s at Hoodoo Lounge, with featured dj www.hoodoolounge.com
Saturday: Dancing Sasquatch www.banffsasquatch.com
Sunday: Considered Banff’s “locals” night check out Aurora nightclub www.aurorabanff.com/
From the outdoors to the night life, Banff hosts something for everyone. Time to get out there and enjoy friends, family and whichever activity you decide to do. Cheers to a memorable summer 2012!
by Ellen Barone
Vacations seem to be all about fun, sun and escapism. But if you look past the recreation, they can also inspire powerful insights and help you on your path to living a bolder, braver life at home.
I was a dizzying 90-feet above the dense Amazon jungle. The narrow canopy bridge beneath me sagged and bounced with each anxious step. White-knuckled, I clutched the straining steel guide wires that heaved and creaked as I inched my way across the wobbly expanse.
I spotted a shiny new piece of wood replacing one of the weathered, mossy planks that comprised the hanging bridge’s timber flooring and tried not to obsess about the unthinkable – a floorboard suddenly crumbling and plunging my foot, and me, into the dense tangle below. With laser focus, I concentrated my gaze at a distant point and edged my way to the awaiting platform.
If only there weren’t five more bridges to cross. If only my legs would stop threatening to collapse. If only I’d read the brochure more carefully… I wanted to be fearless. I really did.
Most of us don’t set off on vacation to face our fears. But the angst of travelling beyond your comfort zone, no matter how unnerving, can serve to teach, inspire and challenge us to push through and return home bolder and braver.
The next time fear threatens to ruin your adventure here are five strategies to help transform terror into courage.
1. Question your thoughts
Look closely at the thoughts fueling the fear. Are they realistic? Is a different, less terrifying, scenario just as possible?
2. Allow for discomfort
It’s easy to opt out. But if you're willing to be uncomfortable, to allow yourself to notice the roiling emotions but not buy into them, you reduce fear’s power, and that's when boldness begins.
3. Push through
Courage doesn’t come to those who avoid fear; it comes to those who act in spite of it. When you choose not to defy fear, you choose not to honor your capabilities. Choose otherwise.
4. Evaluate the consequences
Ask yourself, "What is it costing me to be afraid?" If the answer is your joy, your sense of peace, or your relationships, the cost is too high.
5. Have faith
Bravery is not instantaneous. It is a habit of thought cultivated with effort and humility and faith. The greatest act of courage is to identify your fear, accept it and move forward: The feeling may still be unpleasant, but it’s tinged with hope and nurtured with love rather than pain.
Ellen Barone is a freelance journalist specializing in travel and frequent contributor to the Adventure. For the latest travel news, tips, and reviews, visit her website at EllenBarone.com.
Photo: Canopy Bridge, Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica eco-lodge, Peruvian Amazon. ©Hank Barone.
By Dave Butler, Director of Sustainability, CMH
In the 1970’s, a young BC-born boy became a seasonal park ranger in Bugaboo Provincial Park. It was one of many early experiences which led him on a global odyssey of exploration and adventure, eventually earning him a PhD in ethnobotany from Harvard University and the status of Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. He has been described as “a real-life Indiana Jones” and has been the focus of Hollywood and IMAX movies. But when Wade Davis and his wife Gail joined CMH for a Heli-Hiking trip in the Bugaboos last week as part of our annual Speaker Series, it was like he was coming home.
Wade is an author of more than a dozen books and 180 scientific and popular articles, and his cultural research has taken him to all corners of the globe. He uncovered the drug which plays a role in creating zombies in voodoo practice, he researched the use of coca leaves at high altitudes in South America and he wandered rain-forests in the Amazon basin for months at a time.
The first evening, after warm-up hikes in Chalice Creek, Easy Roll and Groovy, we were treated to a presentation which was a summary of Wade’s 2009 Massey Lecture: “The Wayfinders.” For all of us, it was a stirring introduction to his deep background in anthropology, culture and languages. We also experienced the poetry of his ideas, a fact long-known to those who have heard Wade lecture around the world.
On the second evening, fresh from a full day in the mountains, we listened to Wade describe the results of his decade-long research into the links between the British expeditions to Mount Everest in the early 1920’s and that country’s shattering experiences in World War I. His extraordinary and innovative work, which ends with the mystery which still surrounds George Mallory and Sandy Irvine’s ill-fated climb of 1924, has become: “Into the Silence; The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest.” We were left spell-bound by both the story and the story-teller, and there was no doubt amongst any of us why this 2011 book has become so popular. With views of the granitic spires of the Bugaboo group, and the history of Canadian mountaineering literally sitting outside the window of the lodge, it was a fitting place to hear Wade and his mesmerizing tale.
Finally, on the third evening, Wade shared his perspectives with us on the Sacred Headwaters project. This - his current labour of love - is an initiative to save an area at the headwaters of the Stikine, Nass and Skeena Rivers from a major proposal for a coal-bed methane development and a separate open pit mine. His words and images quickly transported us to this magical part of northern BC, where Wade and Gail make their home for part of each year. It was such a compelling story that some guests immediately asked: “How can we help?” (click on www.sacredheadwaters.com for more information).
Some of our guests on this special trip chose to join us because of Wade’s presence. For others, the ability to walk ridge-tops and alpine basins with him and to hear his stories was simply luck and good timing. For all, it was an honour and a privilege to share mountain time with Wade Davis.
Great news: Wade and Gail have agreed to join CMH again in the Bugaboos July 21-24, 2013. You too can meet and hike with this famous and fascinating researcher, author and explorer.
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.