The Adventure

4 Safety Elements of CMH Summer Adventures

Posted by Topher Donahue on Wed, Jul 13, 2011

Ever since CMH invented heliskiing in the mid-60s, and then heli-hiking in the 70s, the safety of guests, guides, pilots and staff has been objective number one.  Of course, in the beginning nobody knew as much about mountain dangers as we do today, and technology available in those days left a lot to be desired.  After nearly five decades of learning, however, safety at CMH is an institution.

Today, all aspects of CMH Summer Adventures, from the lodge activities, to the helicopter to the via ferrate, ziplines, hiking routes and mountaineering objectives are designed around providing the safest adventure possible; and the guides, staff, and pilots are all trained in managing safety to the highest professional standards. 

heli-hiking reflections safety

To find out what CMH guides and staff are thinking about out there when it comes to safety, I asked Lyle Grisedale, a hiking guide, what he felt were the biggest safety concerns of CMH Summer Adventures.  Here are the four areas of concern he outlined, as well as how CMH manages the issues:

  • The Helicopter: Of course the pilot, engineers and staff are all trained in working around the helicopter, but the guests are usually not so familiar with the machines.  To manage this, CMH and its partner company, Alpine Helicopters has developed a safety briefing that every guest must attend, even the many guests who visit CMH every year.  The twin engine Bell 212 helicopter used by CMH Summer Adventures is known as one of the safest helicopters ever made, and Alpine Helicopter’s fleet of Bell 212s is known throughout the aviation industry as one of the most well maintained 212 fleets anywhere.
  • Terrain Management: In the alpine areas where CMH operates, there is a lot of terrain where there is virtually zero risk, however, there is also a lot of terrain where it’s just not wise for a human to go.  There are cornices of wind-deposited snow that form on ridges and mountaintops and can fall unexpectedly, areas with frequent rockfall from huge alpine faces, glacial icefalls that shed ice avalanches all summer long, and river drainages that would swallow a human without a trace.  Training and familiarity with the terrain allows CMH guides to show guests the wildest and most spectacular places – the icefalls, the alpine faces, the cornices, and the glaciers - all while staying on the safest terrain.
  • Wildlife:   Hiking in groups almost entirely eliminates the risk of a dangerous encounter with a bear, but guides are trained in dealing with bears and in some situations guides carry non-lethal deterrents like bear spray, bear bangers, or air horns in case a bear gets too curious. Those adventure travellers who are lucky enough to see a bear in it’s natural habitat with CMH - and natural habitat is what CMH is all about - usually count a bear sighting as one of the highlights of their trip.
  • Environment: While the alpine environment is largely devoid of poisonous plants, snakes, spiders and other nasties that are common in other areas, there are still a few plants you wouldn’t want to eat, water you wouldn’t want to drink, and places you wouldn’t want to go hiking in a lightning storm.  While CMH maintains safety as the number one concern, a close second is stewardship, and that means protecting the environment where we operate with programs like Second Nature as well as contributing to environmental initiatives at a local level in the region of British Columbia where we operate.
The Association of Canadian Mountain Guides provides the training courses for CMH Mountain Guides, and each season CMH runs in-house training for every employee.  From the person who cleans the rooms, to the area managers, everyone who works at CMH receives specialized training in safety and guest care.

Tags: Adventure Travel, heli-hiking, helicopters, Sustainability, Alpine Helicopters, safety