By Dave Butler, Director of Sustainability, CMH
In the 1970’s, a young BC-born boy became a seasonal park ranger in Bugaboo Provincial Park. It was one of many early experiences which led him on a global odyssey of exploration and adventure, eventually earning him a PhD in ethnobotany from Harvard University and the status of Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. He has been described as “a real-life Indiana Jones” and has been the focus of Hollywood and IMAX movies. But when Wade Davis and his wife Gail joined CMH for a Heli-Hiking trip in the Bugaboos last week as part of our annual Speaker Series, it was like he was coming home.
Wade is an author of more than a dozen books and 180 scientific and popular articles, and his cultural research has taken him to all corners of the globe. He uncovered the drug which plays a role in creating zombies in voodoo practice, he researched the use of coca leaves at high altitudes in South America and he wandered rain-forests in the Amazon basin for months at a time.
The first evening, after warm-up hikes in Chalice Creek, Easy Roll and Groovy, we were treated to a presentation which was a summary of Wade’s 2009 Massey Lecture: “The Wayfinders.” For all of us, it was a stirring introduction to his deep background in anthropology, culture and languages. We also experienced the poetry of his ideas, a fact long-known to those who have heard Wade lecture around the world.
On the second evening, fresh from a full day in the mountains, we listened to Wade describe the results of his decade-long research into the links between the British expeditions to Mount Everest in the early 1920’s and that country’s shattering experiences in World War I. His extraordinary and innovative work, which ends with the mystery which still surrounds George Mallory and Sandy Irvine’s ill-fated climb of 1924, has become: “Into the Silence; The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest.” We were left spell-bound by both the story and the story-teller, and there was no doubt amongst any of us why this 2011 book has become so popular. With views of the granitic spires of the Bugaboo group, and the history of Canadian mountaineering literally sitting outside the window of the lodge, it was a fitting place to hear Wade and his mesmerizing tale.
Finally, on the third evening, Wade shared his perspectives with us on the Sacred Headwaters project. This - his current labour of love - is an initiative to save an area at the headwaters of the Stikine, Nass and Skeena Rivers from a major proposal for a coal-bed methane development and a separate open pit mine. His words and images quickly transported us to this magical part of northern BC, where Wade and Gail make their home for part of each year. It was such a compelling story that some guests immediately asked: “How can we help?” (click on www.sacredheadwaters.com for more information).
Some of our guests on this special trip chose to join us because of Wade’s presence. For others, the ability to walk ridge-tops and alpine basins with him and to hear his stories was simply luck and good timing. For all, it was an honour and a privilege to share mountain time with Wade Davis.
Great news: Wade and Gail have agreed to join CMH again in the Bugaboos July 21-24, 2013. You too can meet and hike with this famous and fascinating researcher, author and explorer.