My dream is to go to work.
It was early in the morning, and I had just filled my travel mug with fresh hot “Bugaboo” Kicking Horse coffee to get my day going. I walked down the stairs to the Heli-Hiking guide office and smiled as I opened the door. The sun was just beginning to come up and reflected a golden glow on the top of the Bugaboo Spires. Out the window, the glacier licked down like a tongue, inviting me to head up again into the alpine and give it a taste.
I took a seat at the CMH Bugaboos Guides desk. Large maps of what seamed like endless terrain in British Columbia spread out before me. Valleys, ravines, alpine meadows with ever changing perfect flowers, glaciers, rocks, lakes and tarns and more mountains than I could count thrilled me. I traced out new routes that I would like to go and explore, pretending as if I will be the first one to hike there, or you never know, maybe I would be.
It was time to pull out the books. Two large binders with pictures of known routes, interpretive discussions, flora and fauna to study. I had already spent days poring over these binders, thankful for the guides before me who had put it all together. It would still be another hour before the rest of the team would make it into the office. I was on my own to relish in the fact that this is my work and I could not imagine anything else better.
How did I get here? I first heard of CMH Summer Adventures from a friend and it did not take long to trade in the prairies for the Mountains. I had a lot to learn, but spending years out in the Canadian white shell, tromping my way through thick bush and enjoying the wilderness, I felt I was not too far behind. Heck, here, they even had mountains to navigate with!
Who was I kidding? I had tons to learn, and as I flipped through the binder’s pages, I felt the process was not even close to slowing down. My knowledge was increasing but not as fast as my thirst for it. Always more to understand about Grizzlies, Black Bears, Cougars, Moose, Goats, Eagles, Clarks Nutcrackers and Porcupines. Why are there so many colors of the flower Indian paint brush? How were the Bugaboo granite spires formed?
The other guides came into the office and we had our formal early morning meeting. We discussed our terrain choices for the day and wildlife concerns. I sipped away at my second coffee, ready to fly.
Finally, we were up high on an expansive rolling ridge and out of the helicopter. The machine dipped and melted away down the side of the mountain. Instant silence.
The guests stood in awe and listened to the fresh alpine breeze, the morning birds and pika’s saying hello. Their eyes gazed out over the ridges to the expansive horizon; peaks and blue sky as far as the eye could see. I explained our plan of where we were going to walk, pointing out some of my favorite mountains to use them as references. Smiles spread in radiance, and I took a moment to look around again myself. Seeing it through my guest’s eyes, their joy, it was like every day I was experiencing this incredible area for the first time. What a special place.
It was still early in the day and already memorable. I hike as if I am one of them, I can still not believe that this is my job.
Please join us next summer to experience for yourself why this is my dream.
To learn more, visit www.cmhsummer.com or call our reservations office at 1.800.661.0252.
Last summer you joined us in British Columbia for a deluxe mountain vacation with great food, spectacular accommodations, and unforgettable days with reliable and comfortable helicopter access to the heart of some of the world’s most beautiful and unique scenery. Now winter is upon us, so where can you go for more summertime beauty?
The Southern Hemisphere, of course!
Sure, there are places in the Northern Hemisphere where warm temperatures will give you a break from winter weather, but the days are still short and you won’t really get complete immersion in summer like a winter visit to the southern latitudes.
The southernmost piece of continental land on earth is one of the most legendary travel destinations in the Southern Hemisphere: Patagonia. Like the mountains CMH Summer Adventures calls home, there is nowhere else like it on earth. Also like CMH, there are great mountain lodges known for warm hospitality and unbeatable views.
The two gold medal destinations in Patagonia are the Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile (photo above) and Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina (photo below). Some have called the Bugaboos the Patagonia of North America, but we prefer to think of Patagonia as the Bugaboos of South America.
For Los Glaciares, stay at Los Cerros in El Chalten, visit the glaciers of Perito Moreno where a boat ride takes you up close (but not too close) and personal with huge walls of ice hanging over - and sometimes falling into - the lake.
In Torres del Paine, the Hotel Salto Chico is undoubtedly on the short list of the world's most incredible mountain lodges. With well-established tourist infrastructure, arranging horseback rides in the area or fishing tours of the spectacular lakes is about as easy as ordering room service.
Worried about the legendary winds and ferocious weather in Patagonia? Across the Southern Ocean from the wind-whipped steppes of Patagonia lies an often overlooked wonder of natural beauty. The southeastern part of Australia, the state of Victoria, is home to plants, animals and geography that every adventure traveller should see at least once.
The Great Ocean Road is perhaps Victoria’s most famous destination, with the otherworldly 12 Apostles standing proud as the region’s most enduring landmark. Further inland, the Grampians Mountains and nearby “outback”, where kangaroos and koalas are more common than people, are an easy road trip from the more popular tourist destinations on the Great Ocean Road.
If you want to go off the map, so to speak, catch a catamaran ferry to the island state of Tasmania. Besides wild beaches and exotic hiking, the island’s bed and breakfasts are as friendly as visiting your mother’s house. While you're there, don't miss the seafood dining at Hobart's charismatic harbor restaurants.
Then, when you return home from a trip halfway around the world, you can appreciate North America’s most spectacular travel destinations that much more. If the Southern Hemisphere is not in the cards for this season - too far away, too expensive, too much time - winter is the ideal time of year to plan for next summer, and nothing is more comfortable than world-class adventure travel that can be experienced in a long weekend, right here in the Canadian Rockies.
Photos by Topher Donahue.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the most spectacular adventure travel destinations, sometimes the obvious hides behind the scenery. This year, the CMH Bugaboos guides realized they were missing out on what is perhaps the most obvious, unique and valuable adventure in the Bugaboos: heli-supported glacier treks around, under, and among the world-famous Bugaboo Spires.
For decades now, the Bugaboos guides have been hiking around the edges of the Bugaboos spectacular glaciers while leading CMH Summer Adventures, climbing on the spires, and even unofficially tracking the recession of Vowell Glacier by placing cairns at the edge of the ice each season, but the CMH Glacier Trek in the Bugaboos is an entirely new exploration.
The guides’ decision to begin offering what could be the coolest adventure at CMH was in part due to their own desire to spend more time on the glaciers and among the massive spires - and in part due to changes in the world of adventure travel.
“People are looking to do something a little bit different.” said Peter Macpherson, the CMH Bugaboos assistant manager. The success of the via ferrata programs in both the Bugaboos and the Bobbie Burns shows how much people enjoy unique adventures in nature’s wildest environments, but the airy exposure of the via ferrata and the technical demands of alpine climbing are not for everyone.
Glacier Treks add a thrilling, explorative, but technically easy element to CMH Summer Adventures in the from of a stunning all-day adventure that isn’t possible anywhere else in the world.
When I spoke with Dave Cochrane, CMH Bugaboos area manager, about the new program, the excitement was obvious in his voice. “You don’t need technical skills at all, but we’ll use ropes for parts of it to walk around crevasses and exposed places. It’s truly an adventure!” he said. (Some routes will include easy rappels, controlled by the guides, to descend from one glacier to another.)
Depending on conditions, Glacier Trekkers may use crampons on their boots to give them better footing on the ice, and ice axes as walking sticks, but there will be no technical climbing involved. While you explore the heart of the Bugaboos, your guides will share their knowledge of the range's fascinating glaciology and geomorphology as well as the area's colourful human and climbing history.
Hiking through the Bugaboos Spires is something that has traditionally been the elite realm of technical rock climbers, but with CMH Glacier Treks, anyone with enough fitness for an all-day hike will be able to participate in the incredible experience of walking under kilometre-high pillars of vertical granite (like in the above photo with Pigeon Spire near the top of the Vowell Glacier), looking down into the mouths of ancient crevasses - and then returning by helicopter to the comforts of the Bugaboo Lodge for a massage, a spa, and an intimate gourmet dinner.
The Bugaboo Provincial Park prohibits helicopters within the boundary of the park, so Glacier Trekkers will be lifted by helicopter from the Bugaboo Lodge to a starting point along the border of the Park, traverse various glacier systems lacing the spires within the Park during a full day adventure - including Vowell Glacier, Crescent Glacier, Cobalt Glacier, Bugaboo Glacier or Howser Glacier - and then finish with a helicopter pickup at a different location at the park boundary. This will make CMH Glacier Treks, while not technical, committing in terms of all-day endurance. Glacier Trekkers will need to be fit enough for the full day’s adventure without an early helicopter pick up as has been available for tired hikers while heli-hiking.
“Walking through the Bugaboo Spires,” mused Dave, “It’s pretty exciting to think about - there is nowhere else in the world you can do that!”
Photos by Topher Donahue
Summer 2012 is the inaugural season for CMH Glacier Treks. For more questions about the most exciting adventure at CMH, visit our website or contact CMH Reservations at 1-(800) 661-0252.
Back by popular demand, CMH Summer Adventures is once again offering painting and photography enthusiasts the opportunity to study with the masters in British Columbia's Bugaboo mountains, amid some of the most stunning natural scenery in the world.
Photography Workshop with John E. Marriott
From August 5-8, 2012, guests of CMH Summer Adventures will be able to enroll in a Photography Worksop with acclaimed wilderness photographer, John E. Marriott. Returning to the Bugaboos for the third straight year, Marriott will join guests on their alpine adventures, while instructing the amateur photographer guests in how to capture the best digital images of the area's dramatic wildflowers, framed by the jagged spires and glacial lakes of the Bugaboos range. And after fulfilling days of activity and photography, guests will join Marriott back at the lodge for gourmet alpine cuisine served family-style, followed by evening discussions about photographic techniques and new technology.
Painting Workshop with Robert Genn
Following very successful workshops in 2010 and 2011, renowned Canadian painters Robert Genn and Liz Wiltzen will once again lead guests in a Painting Workshop in the Bugaboos, from September 4-7, 2012. The assembled artists-in-training will be dropped off by helicopter in remote areas of the Purcell Mountains, along with Genn and Wiltzen, who will be available, upon request, to mentor and give critiques, or just let students explore, get inspired by the landscape and put brush to canvas in solitude.
Interested in learning more or joining one of these artistic workshops? Call CMH Summer Adventures and ask for Audrey at 1-800-661-0252 or if you are ready to request a space you can always book online.