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.
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.