374: Is Heli Hiking with CMH North America’s Most Epic Vacation?
I usually leave the country when I want a grand adventure. I’m closing in on having all seven continents under my belt, and most of my travel to-do list remains across an ocean, the equator, or both. So, I was surprised to find one of the most incredible experiences of my life to be just over the U.S./Canadian border.
I say that as someone who has paraglided and paddled whitewater—each in five countries. I’ve bungee jumped on two continents, and skydived in both hemispheres. I’ve stepped off the tallest buildings in Auckland and Las Vegas. I’ve repelled off Table Mountain in Cape Town and down waterfalls in Costa Rica. I’ve raced dune buggies at night in the desert, driven an Indy Car 180+mph, and held on for dear life in the back of an 79mph Olympic bobsled.
Canadian Mountain Holiday’s heli hiking and via ferrata tours sit near the top of that adventure résumé. Here’s why:
Go big, or go home.
If you’re going to try via ferrata, don’t settle for entry-level stuff. CMH’s Bobbie Burns tours include North America’s highest and longest via ferrata. If you want epic GoPro videos or jaw-dropping Instagram photos, the Mount Nimbus and Conrad Glacier climbs will help you wow your fans, friends, and family. Come for the sense of accomplishment; leave with bragging rights.
Love your daily commute.
You can’t heli hike without the heli. Your heart will race to match the thumping of those Bell 407 blades coming toward you, as you squat in the gravel. The guides nonchalantly call it “loading the machine,” but climbing into a live chopper makes you feel like the hero in an action movie. All your cares in the world seem distant, as you buzz the tops of alpine trees up into pristine wilderness. The isolated landing and takeoff spots alone are worth the price of admission.
Find the remote.
“So, let me get this straight. We take a helicopter to a wilderness lodge in a distant glacial valley from which we take more helicopter flights further into the mountains!?” Yes. The Bobbie Burns lodge will give you dark midnights and bright stars—and then morning excursions into far away terrain with little sign of civilization. There’s something dancing in the air besides your warm breath. It’s exclusivity. Relatively few humans on the planet have walked and climbed and repelled where you’re going. Few, including you.
Get in nature’s personal space.
You won’t soon forget the smell of the virgin air, the crunch of the moraine gravel, or the roar of raging glacier melt. The guides give you space and time to experience and absorb the surroundings. So, play with beached ice. Jump into alpine pools. Listen to the groans of ice compressed over millennia. Clip in, and hang off cliffs. Wait for the echo of your hoots and hollers.
Do you work here?
After a few days with the CMH staff at Bobbie Burns and on its tours, you’ll wonder if they consider what they do to be work. You can see their love of nature in their eyes and hear it in their tales on the trail. They teach as guardians of their corner of the earth. Their smiles are as contagious as yours will be. I love that we all—even the helicopter pilots and mechanics—eat together around big tables. I asked more questions than a preschooler and struggled to pull myself away from rousing conversations to go to bed.
Make yourself at home.
Lodge life at Bobbie Burns is unlike anything I’ve experienced. It gives you new friends like middle school summer camp but has a bartender pulling from stock for mature tastes. The casual commune of a hostel is balanced by the refinement of a ski chalet. The utilitarian backpacker life is offset by multiple chefs, showcasing urban talent over multiple courses. You can add spa treatment to your tab or enjoy free yoga/stretch classes before breakfast. I started and finished my days in the outdoor hot tub under the watchful eye of rock monuments.
My three days at the Bobbie Burns lodge gave me wonder and energy, challenge and accomplishment, solitude and gregarious camaraderie. (My lodge mates and I still email each other.) I can’t recommend the experience enough.
Here are videos I watched over and over again before I got to experience it in person.
And here are the videos of my CMH heli hiking tours.