This is a guest post by Mark Sissons
I never dreamed I’d be back. Yet here I am, slipping into my climbing harness again, three summers after scaling CMH’s original “sphincter-tightening” Mount Nimbus Via Ferrata. That’s how I described reaching the needlelike summit in my original story for the Toronto Star. Now I’m eager to be among the first to try their latest groundbreaking creation. Dubbed the wildest new adventure in North America, the Conrad Glacier Experience promises to be a thrilling, adrenaline filled day of high alpine hiking and climbing.
Conrad Glacier Extreme would be closer to the truth.
According to Bobbie Burns area manager Bruce Howatt, his team’s latest creation isn’t a via ferrata, nor is it anything remotely like a traditional hike. It’s eight exhilarating hours of hiking, navigating wild canyons using bridges and rungs, ascending colourful rock slabs alongside serious waterfalls, ziplining over whitewater streams, traversing rock walls next to a massive glacier, and scaling dizzying patches of near vertical rock. By the time my companions and I reach our waiting chopper and set off back to the lodge for cocktails and conversation in the hot tub, we’re grinning from sweat soaked ear to ear.
“This course certainly challenges you and takes you to places you never thought you could go,” says Bill Nevill, a dentist from the outskirts of Toronto here with his teenage son, Andrew. “There were plenty of times where I thought ‘crap, I didn’t think I could do that’. But you just focus on the next rung and where you’re going.”
Of course it can be hard to focus on that next rung when you’re constantly distracted by some of the most scenic wild mountain scenery imaginable. Blue glaciers, burnt orange rock and emerald ponds are everywhere, like the one I plunged into for a bracing lunchtime dip.
“This experience is far beyond my imagination,” says Simon Gan Teow Hooi, an interior designer from Malaysia. “It’s one of those things that you just have to do at least once in your lifetime. It wasn’t easy but I always felt safe. As long as there is a clip and wire, you can take me as high as you want and it feels damn good.”
Conrad Kain, the legendary mountain guide who shares a name with the crevasse strewn glacier at the centre of today’s adventure, would have undoubtedly echoed Simon’s sentiment. In the spirit of this fearless innovator who injected such passion and imagination into the sport of mountaineering, the Bobbie Burns team has created a unique, intense and inspiring alpine experience. Some might even call it extreme.
The Conrad Glacier Adventure Hike is available each summer as a part of the Bobbie Burns High Flying Adventure. To learn more, visit the online Conrad Glacier Adventure Hike photo gallery, contact CMH Reservations at 1.800.6610252 or visit CMH online at www.cmhsummer.com.
Photos by Bruce Howatt
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.
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.
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?
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.
As generations go, the Baby Boomers have had a good one.
In 1957, there were 4.3 million people born in the USA - more than any year before or since. They’ve been here for everything from the first ascent of Mt. Everest and the first steps on the Moon, to the digital revolution. They've experienced a time of unprecedented global prosperity and their health has benefitted from modern medicine and the increased understanding of exercise as a part of a healthy lifestyle.
Now, to top it off, many Baby Boomers are getting to retire.
I must admit, I’m a bit jealous. World-class adventure travel is diverse, comfortable, and well-established. From deluxe motorcycle tours of Europe, to luxurious adventures in Western Canada, the Baby Boomers are getting to quit the nine-to-five and dig into their bucket list at a time when the planet’s recreation opportunities have never been more accessible.
They’re calling it sight-doing - the way people prefer to travel these days. Just standing and taking a photo isn’t enough anymore - you can get the same view on Google in a single click. More people want to have experiences, do things, not just tick the box.
And the Boomers are getting to go sight-doing at the best time ever.
While documenting CMH Summer Adventures, I’ve had a chance to photograph people ranging from a couple in their 90s, to a family with 4 generations traveling together, to kid-friendly alpine adventures, to a lot of happy Baby Boomers sight-doing to their hearts content.
The camera gives me lots of chances to see the gleam in people’s eyes, and from what I can tell through the camera, the Baby Boomer generation is a happy lot. There is something in their eyes that says they made it to the finish line; and that it’s an exciting time to be alive.
Heli-hiking. Guided Via Ferrata climbs. Custom and comfortable adventures in a rugged wilderness followed by a relaxing massage and spa. These kinds of days didn’t even exist when the Baby Boomers were kids. No wonder they always look so thrilled in the photos.
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 is a guest post by National Geographic Author Marybeth Bond.
A few summers ago my twenty-year-old daughter and I felt a need to escape the busyness of everyday life and reconnect. We needed to do something to break away from the routine of her visits home — working, buying groceries, cooking, entertaining, and disjointed conversations. We came up with a great idea! Heli-Hiking!
Select An Activity You Both Enjoy
During the peak of the wildflower season, we joined a group of hikers with CMH Summer Adventures. After a short flight from San Francisco to Calgary, Alberta we headed west to Banff National Park for a night to explore Canada's first National park. The following morning, we drove further west, into British Columbia to CMH's heli-pad for a short fight to the Bobbie Burns Lodge. We were airlifted directly to a comfy, remote lodge, with sheets, down comforters, fresh fruit and vegetables, located in a pristine area far from roads, trails, or signs. Here you can hike to your heart’s content—your only neighbors an occasional grizzly bear, mountain goat, or marmot—and still end the day with a massage and glass of Pinot Noir.
Unlike my mountain excursions of my youth when I backpacked and ate freeze-dried food, I awoke each morning at the Lodge and indulged with ripe raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, freshly baked breads, scones, muffins, home-made muesli, granola, Eggs Benedict and French toast and more!
After our first feast of many, we divided up into small groups and were whisked away to remote ridge tops and mountain lakes. We hiked as hard as we wanted, with CMH's professional, and personable, guides. Some flower aficionados enjoyed strolls by streams and identified flowers.
“This was a different kind of pampering vacation. One I could get used to!”, JC commented.
Optional High Adrenaline Via Ferrata Mountain Climbing
Via Ferrata are vertical pathways with permanently fixed cables for safety and metal rung ladders to easier climbing.
The last day, a hardy group of us opted to go mountaineering, which means white-knuckled, adrenaline-pounding technical climbing up vertical peaks where we would be roped together with our experienced guide. We didn’t have to have previous climbing experience. Our group ranged in age from 15 to 65 and the majority of us were women. Thanks to the support, encouragement and knowledge of our expert climbing guides, who ensured our safety, we rose to the challenge and made it to the summit.
The helicopter dropped us off near the base of the climb. We were a group of fifteen; several different families ranging in age from 14 to 64. Roped in we found hand and foot holds, and slowly made our way, one-foot-at-a-time to the summit, where we collapsed with dizzying drops in all directions and panoramic views of neighboring peaks and glaciers. And then we rappelled 150′ down to the base of the peak and glissaded (slid) down an ice field to the waiting helicopter. Moments later, we were back on the lodge of the deck toasting our success with a locally brewed beer!
We both had moments of terror; climbing to the top of Mt. Nimbus, crossing the suspension bridge or rappelling down. The exhilaration and thrill of climbing surpassed even our wildest expectations. And then, we were whisked back to the lodge where we relaxed in the warm Jacuzzi with a locally brewed beer, beneath jagged snow-capped mountains.
Heli-hiking is an awesome adventure for anyone who loves the outdoors, as any experienced traveller will tell you. It deepened our relationship and gave us a tapestry of mountain stories we tell over and over again.
Join Marybeth and her daughter August 5-8, 2012 at the Bobbie Burns for the Ultimate Mother-Daughter Getaway! Learn more by calling CMH Summer Adventures 1.800.661.0252.
In late July, 2011, Brandy Yanchyk found herself in the Bobbie Burns Range about to set out on a 3 day Heli-Hiking trip in the Canadian Rockies. As she travelled through the high reaches of the Columbia Mountains south of Golden, ziplined across the Vowell Creek and summitted the Mt. Nimbus Via Ferrata with CMH Guides JF Lacombe, Carl Trescher and Matt Dellow she documented her journey in this video for BBC Fast:Track:
To learn more about Heli-Hiking in the remote Canadian Rockies, contact CMH Summer Adventures at 1.800.661.0252 or visit CMH online.
Five years ago, the CMH Bobbie Burns guides changed the face of adventure travel in North America by installing the Mt. Nimbus Via Ferrata (featured here in the Los Angeles Times). This year, they have established a new adventure that defies categorization and promises to rock the adventure travel world.
For a little insight, I fired a few questions at Bruce Howatt, the manager of CMH Bobbie Burns:
TD: You guys were visionary in putting in the Mt. Nimbus Via Ferrata, but your new adventure is seems to be not really a via ferrata and not really a traditional hike. Perhaps an "adrenaline hike" or something is a better description of it. Can you briefly describe the adventure?
BH: You're right. It isn't a via ferrata nor is it anywhere close to a traditional hike. The trip is hiking, navigating wild canyons using bridges and rungs, ascending colourful rock slabs right next to waterfalls, zipline crossings, traversing rock walls next to a glacier and, coming soon, more climbing, waterfalls and hopefully some crevasse crossings. All this is mixed into some of the most scenic, mind-blowing, wild mountain hiking you can imagine. Blue glaciers, dark orange rock and bright green ponds are everywhere.
TD: What inspired you guys to start working on it?
BH: Two things inspired us. The first was seeing how impactful the Via Ferrata was to many of our guests. For many people the Via Ferrata was a far more meaningful experience than just a fun trip. The other inspiration was that we wanted another adrenaline-ish adventure to fill our three-day trips with outlandish adventures. We felt this needed to be in the wildest and most scenic place imaginable. Doing something in the heart of the Conrad Icefield was the obvious choice.
If you observe a casual visitor to Banff National Park in most cases they would peer over the edges of Johnston Canyon, getting as close as they could. They would walk up on the Athabasca Glacier as far as they felt safe, even peering over the edge of a small crevasse. I think it is in our DNA as humans to explore. It shows in how popular slot canyons, waterfalls and wild settings are becoming. So it seemed natural, since we have access to such a crazy wild place, to go right into the heart of it.
TD: How athletic do you need to be to do it?
BH: Right now a guest should have about the same fitness as for the Via Ferrata - physically fairly easy but quite exciting. Our idea is that we will have the option to go around some of the wilder sections. Ultimately we would like to have the ability to take a wide range of guests and have alternate routes and different helicopter pickups.
TD: Is there anything else in the world like this new adventure?
BH: I'm not sure, but I haven't heard of anything quite like this. I don't know of any place on Earth where one could find a trip like this combined with North America’s fullest Via Ferrata, a two level ropes course, a zipline canyon and wild and beautiful hiking all from one lodge. What I think is most unique is that there is something for almost everyone. I love that a family or group can arrive and each person can find something that gives them exhilaration. Guests don't need climbing experience prior to coming and although people who have climbed before have a great experience, it is all designed for anyone with an adventurous spirit.
TD: How close do you get to those big waterfalls? To the glacier?
BH: One gets pretty darn close :). In fact at times you are pretty much in the waterfalls. The water levels change radically with temperatures and amount of snow melt. When the water is high we are right up close and personal and although we aren't in the waterfalls we are in the spray. We have also made some alternate routes for those wanting to avoid this, although if this summer's guests are an example, everyone eagerly went the high adventure route.
We also get very close, (within a few meters) of the glaciers. In the next stage we are hoping to also include a section of actual crevasse navigation like a safe version of the Khumbu Icefall on Mt. Everest.
TD: How is this a natural progression for exploring the rugged terrain in the Columbia Mountains?
BH: We have many guests who like the spice of adrenaline and like to challenge themselves and in combination with the Via Ferrata, the ropes course, the zipline canyon and the hiking we can provide an adrenaline-filled adventure for a full three day trip.
Any readers out there who know of any adventure on planet earth even remotely like this one?
Photos of the new CMH adventure by CMH Bobbie Burns guides. For a behind the scenes look at the building of this new adventure, check out this video from the Bobbie Burns.