One of the things that makes CMH Summer Adventures so exciting, is that for 35 years now, the program has been evolving and has become one of the most diverse choices in the adventure travel world. In recent years, the biggest changes have been the development of the via ferrate in the Bobbie Burns and the Bugaboos.
For 2012, there are exciting new adventures afoot in both lodges, with the yet unnamed, and mostly unknown, adventure hike alongside the Conrad Glacier icefall in the Bobbie Burns, and in the Bugaboos, the Skyladder via ferrata is now much longer, reaching to the valley floor, which allows hikers to integrate the via ferrata climb into scenic hikes both below and above the via ferrata.
Dave Cochrane, the energetic CMH Bugaboos manager, took time away from a spectacular ski season to share the new flavors of the Skyladder:
"The "lower half" which we built last year is full-on very steep rock climbing on a ferrata route. (Now, with the already spectacular summit section of the Skyladder that has been in place for a couple of seasons, the complete Skyladder is comparable to the world’s other popular Via Ferrata routes.)
But there are a lot of ways to skin the cat on this adventure. The nearest place we can land to start the Skyladder viaferrata, is more than a few steps away from the base of the route. It is about a half hour walk uphill to the beginning of the technical part of the climb.
There are many options to approach the via ferrata, depending on what our guests are looking for that day. We sometimes land at the bottom pickup for the Powder Pig ski run and then walk up to the base - that makes for one to two hours of hiking through beautiful Larch forests, across very green and lush ground cover. Then the forest ends and the terrain steepens for the last section before the via ferrata. This approach is all uphill, but covers dramatically different terrain and makes for a very enjoyable way to start the climb.
We can also start on Grizzly Ridge, and then hike down to the base of the Skyladder. I have also started on the top of Sauce Alley, walked a very adventurous ridge line route to Leo's line, then down over quite challenging hiking terrain then back up through a big talus slope to the base - this approach can take as much as three hours.
There are some other ways to do this also, so depending on the group we can make this a very full, very challenging, and very interesting day, which culminates in the Skyladder, followed by a half hour hike off the top to more easy hiking terrain with world-class views of the Bugaboo Spires. Or we can make it an easy half day outing for those wanting less challenge but still want to climb the Skyladder."
This spring the CMH guides built a new Via Ferrata in the Bugaboos on a little-known rock buttress of smooth quartzite know as Trundle Ridge. Last month I photographed one of the first teams to ascend the new route. CMH Bugaboos assistant manager Peter Macpherson was our guide for the day. We talked about how diverse the CMH Summer Adventure program has become, and how hard it is to describe the experience. Grandparents can go on leisurely hikes near the helicopter, while their kids climb a via ferrata or hike all day, and their grandkids slide on alpine snowfields and splash in tiny streams - and then afterwards everyone sits down together for a gourmet dinner. How do you compare that to the average adventure travel experience?
From the view out the window of the helicopter of the CMH Bugaboo Lodge, just minutes after finishing a coffee, to standing on the summit of the via ferrata with the otherworldly Bugaboo Spires in the background, here are a few shots that tell the tale better than words:
The next day two of the via ferrata climbers went on an eight-hour hike along a serpentine ridge overlooking the Bugaboos. One of them sat on the tundra with a view of the Bugaboo Spires and a palette of watercolours, painting the toothy peaks and nibbling lox croissants. The other two went hiking with their kids in a wonderland of glaciers, wildly-coloured lakes, and beaches of crystalline sand.
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Photos by Topher Donahue
I reached up to wipe the sweat out of my eye as I scanned the rock infront of me for a handhold. "I can't figure out where to put my foot", Alysha called out below me. "You're doing great. There's a spot to your right," replied Rob Rohn, Director of Mountain Operations for CMH Summer Adventures.
This morning we were part of a group trying out the yet-unnamed via ferrata route the guides have built on a ridge northwest of the Bugaboo lodge.
"We have seen a decline in the desire for traditional mountaineering routes," said Peter Macpherson, Assistant Area Manager at the Bugaboo Lodge. "But at the same time, there's been an increased interest in doing 'something thrilling'". Back in 2007, in response to that increase the guides at the Bobbie Burns constructed the Mt. Nimbus via ferrata
route which thrills visitors to the lodge on a weekly basis. This summer guests to the Bugaboos will also get a taste of that same thrill.
After crossing a snow-slope where you could literally feel the sun melting the snow beneath your feet, our group of 10 gathered at the base of the route. ACMG certified mountain guide Bob Sawyer helped us don our harnesses and via ferrata gear then lead us through a safety briefing of how to stay connected to the permananetly fixed cables that make up the route.
A combination of steel cables and rebar rungs line the route up Trundle mountain. The Bugaboo guides installed the route last week once enough snow had cleared to safely access the route. In places along the route I found myself searching, seemingly in vain, for the next place to put my foot or hand to raise myself up, up, up the mountain. I'd find myself thinking "They need to put another rebar step in here. I'm stranded." Then with a little more focus and shifting my body against the rock I'd find a way up. The feeling of accomplishment was intense everytime I overcame one of these challenges. And the encouragement from the guides and the other members of our climbing party kept us all in high spirits. In amidst conversations about siblings, wildflowers and handholds, we shared jokes, sang songs and lived in the moment. Other cares left behind for the day.
Our group this morning consisted of myself and the Bugaboo Lodge staff and guides who are already at the lodge preparing for the first guests of the Summer Adventures' season who will arrive on Friday. I asked Tanya, one of the lodge staff members who celebrated her 25th birthday today on Trundle Mountain, how she felt about the experience. There was no disguising the trepidation in her voice at the start of the day where she described her fear of heights. "There's just an amazing sense of accomplishment. I can't believe I did it!"
After two and a half hours on the rock we completed the route, removed our harnesses and thanked our guides before sitting on the summit to enjoy lunch and bask in the sun. As we got up to leave and continue hiking along the glorious Black Forest Ridge I commented to Alysha "Hmm, all that and I never even broke a nail."
If you'd like try your hand on one of CMH Summer Adventures' via ferrata routes this summer, or if something more horizontal is what your after, contact CMH Reservations at 1.800.661.0252 or visit us online at www.cmhsummer.com.