Archive for November, 2008

On top of the World…almost. The easy way.

Last summer, at the peak of the wildflower season, my college-age daughter and I flew to Calgary and joined a group of hikers with Canadian Mountain Holidays ( for an unforgettable adventure heli-hiking (and one exciting day of world-class rock climbing) in one of North America‘s most dramatic settings — Canada‘s mini Himalayas — in British Columbia.

I used to backpack in the Rockies and Sierra Nevada Mountains, but nowadays, it’s hard to find the time for those week-long outdoor escapes. If you’re an adventurer in love with mountain wilderness but short on time, consider the rewards of helicopter hiking.

The idea is to by-pass days of arduous back-packing and to be air-lifted directly to a comfy, remote lodge, (with sheets, down comforters, fresh fruit and vegetables), located in a pristine area far from roads, trails, or signs. You can hike to your heart’s content and end the day with a massage and glass of Pinot Noir.

After a short flight to Calgary, British Columbia, and a comfy night at the Banff Springs Hotel and Spa, we headed northeast to a helicopter pad and a short fight into the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia.

Unlike my mountain excursions in the good old days when I backpacked and ate freeze-dried food, I awoke each morning at the Bobbie Burns Lodge and indulged at a buffet laden with ripe raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, freshly baked breads, scones, muffins, home-made muesli, granola, Eggs Benedict and French toast.

After our first feast of many, we divided up into small groups and were whisked away to remote ridge tops and mountain lakes. We hiked as hard as we wanted, with experienced guides. Some flower aficionados strolled by streams and identified flowers.

The last day, a hardy group of us opted to go “mountaineering”, which means white-knuckled, adrenaline-pounding technical climbing up vertical peaks. We didn’t have to have previous climbing experience. Thanks to the support, encouragement and knowledge of our expert climbing guides, who ensured our safety, we rose to the challenge and made it to the summit.

The helicopter dropped us off near the base of the climb. Roped in we found hand and foot holds, and slowly made our way, one-foot-at-a-time to the summit, where we collapsed with dizzying drops in all directions and panoramic views of neighboring peaks and glaciers. And then we rappelled 150′ down to the base of the peak and glissaded (slid) down an ice field to the helicopter. We were whisked back to the lodge where we relaxed in the warm Jacuzzi as the sun set behind lush forests and jagged snow-capped mountains.

The adrenaline-rush, exhilaration and thrill of climbing surpassed even our wildest expectations.

If you’re an adventure traveler and have a “must-do” list add heli-hiking in the Canadian Rockies.


Contact Canadian Mountain Holidays in Banff, Alberta, Canada to answer your questions about five wilderness lodges, guides, family trips, climbing, mountaineering and lodge-to-lodge hikes.


About Marybeth Bond

Marybeth Bond is the nation’s preeminent expert on women travel. She is the award-winning
author-editor of 11 books.

Marybeth has hiked, cycled, climbed, dived and kayaked her way through more than seventy countries around the world.

She was a featured guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Marybeth has appeared on CBS News, CNN, ABC, NBC, National Public Radio and National Geographic Weekend.