Well, I didn’t exactly forget them, but they rushed back into my consciousness after my wife and I settled into a recent 6 day lodge-to-lodge Heli-Hike in the Bobbie Burns and the Bugaboos. (What follows may strike you as a mite praiseful, but, hey: I’ve been in the travel business for a long time, and I believe in celebrating excellence.)
1)CMH staff is a wonderful collection of humans. This really hits home for me when the lodge staff is introduced after the first dinner. Up they line, all healthy and young (if sometimes only in spirit), and they introduce themselves, and make charming little jokes, and I’m always impressed by their cheer and grace and high morale; I actually believe them when they say, “If there’s anything I can do for you [in the lodge, in the mountains, in the kitchen, in the helicopter, anywhere] please tell me.” You Canadians out there should be proud.
2)The helicopter experience is fun. And when the helicopter leaves, it’s gone. I’m struck each and every time by the keen, jazz-solo precision of the take offs and especially of the landings, and of the adventure of swooping over the Columbia Mountains’ dense forests and then up into the resplendent high country. (As an old backpacker, I always mentally chart a quick route up that marshy valley, through those steep forests, up to the ridge we land on, and I am--at my advancing age--relieved that I didn’t have to spend a few days of grumbly bushwacking to get to the magnificent timberline places we gracefully get to).
We set down with “all the delicacy of a falling leaf,” as one writer memorably put it, and then, zip, off goes the helicopter. I Heli-Hiked once with a helicopter skeptic, a guy who was concerned that his wilderness experience was going to be sullied by buzzing noise. We carefully counted a fleeting 25 seconds from the time the machine lifted off and it was out of sight and the many-million-year silence of the mountains resumed.
3)CMH guides are world-class. I wrote a blog a few months ago--based on 30-odd years of trek leading around the planet--about leadership and expertise and all the things that go into making a first-rate guide. But each time I Heli-Hike, I’m re-impressed by CMH’s cadre, not just because they’re knowledgable about their mountains; not just because they’re obviously competent, rain, shine, sleet, or snow; not just because they’re skilled at sharing their passion for the freedom of the hills. In the end, I’m immensely impressed by them because they get along so well and comfortably with the guests. They like people.
This blog is running a little long. I don’t want to try your patience, so I think I’ll close and continue in awhile with a little more about CMH’s guides and the three other things about Heli-Hiking that I didn’t exactly forget, but was very pleased to learn again.
If you are a repeat heli-hiker (or Alpinist), what are the things that suddenly come rushing back to you when you get up to the lodge? Share them with us in the comments here.