It is summertime in the Columbia Mountains. The winter’s ski tracks are melting into the ground in the mountain range that just might be the most remote wilderness within a few hours of population centres such as Calgary, Vancouver and Seattle. In the heart of the Columbia Mountains lies a mountain range sometimes called the Patagonia of North America, but known to hikers, skiers, climbers and photographers as The Bugaboos.
To the southeast, Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park sees about 2.5 million visitors each year. To the east, more than 4 million people visit Banff National Park. The one road access point into the Bugaboos sees about 4,000 people each year. Yup, that’s one visitor to the Bugaboos for every thousand people that visit Banff National Park.
But numbers don’t tell the story. CMH Summer Adventures take place in the more remote part of the Bugaboos – we don’t see any of those 4,000 people. By basing out of the comfortable Bugaboo Lodge on one side of the range, and the Bobbie Burns Lodge on the other, and using helicopters maintained by an on-site engineer and flown by skilled mountain pilots for mountain access each morning, we explore some of the most remote alpine terrain on this continent.
Access doesn’t tell the story either. CMH Summer Adventures hosts the most diverse group of mountain explorers you could imagine. With a stable of interpretive mountain guides, we break up into small groups each day and, with the guide’s oversight and recommendations, choose an adventure that is just right for each group. We’ve hosted 4 generations in the same group, world-class athletes, everyday folks, seniors, kids, and everyone in between.
The diverse guests of CMH begin to tell the story, but not as much as what they do. On any given day, different guests are experiencing dramatically different adventures. Some groups are taking leisurely hikes through fields of wild flowers, while others will traverse several summits and enjoy many kilometres of mountain travel.
In both the Bobbie Burns and the Bugaboos, via ferrata routes have been installed on the more rugged and inaccessible terrain. Via ferrata are essentially climbing routes made for people who don’t climb. Metal rungs are placed in the rock for hand and footholds, and a cable runs alongside the climb. While on a via ferrata, harnesses are woren and clip into the cables for safety, but no prior training is necessary.
The Bobbie Burns guides have also opened the Conrad Glacier Adventure Trail; a combination of via ferrata sections and spectacular hiking near the edge of the biggest icefield in the Columbia Mountains. Some of the via ferrata sections climb past roaring waterfalls and across rainbow colored stone, others traverse scenic cobalt blue tarns overlooking the icefield. CMH is the company that invented Heli-Skiing, and with the Conrad Glacier Adventure Trail, another unprecedented mountain adventure has begun.
In the Bugaboos, guests who want to see the mountains a little more closely are now going on Glacier Treks on the friendly glaciers of the Bugaboos. Guests wear ropes, but no technical climbing skill is needed. Safety is managed by certified mountain guides, and everyone who has been on a Glacier Trek has expressed utter wonder and appreciation at the experience. Again, no prior training is necessary and our guests are not mountaineers, but instead our Glacier Trekkers are everyday people looking for an ideal and memorable vacation.
By Topher Donahue, CMH Summer Adventures All photos by Topher Donahue.Tagged with: glacier hiking • hiking • mountain lodge vacation • mountain vacations