Life with Ice in the Cariboos with CMH Heli
I spend all year looking forward to any trip with CMH, and this September I was lucky enough to join them again in the Cariboos Lodge near Valemount BC, which they are reopening next summer for heli-hiking. The last lodge I stayed at with CMH, the Bugaboo Lodge, had me thinking that no place could ever come close however the Cariboos have exceeded all expectations and now I can't even compare the two! I can never decide if glaciers or mountains are most beautiful, lucky for me I didn't have to choose here because the place was chalk full of both.
The Icefield Parkway from Banff to Valemount:
We started early, so early in fact we stopped at Vermilion lakes for sunrise. A bit windy but always breathless. I always driving down the parkway via Banff because there is always something different every time, something new to see. Also it's only the most beautiful road in Canada hands down.
Glaciers, massive mountains and wildlife are all apart of the drive. i would have to say that Herbert Lake is one of my favorite stops along the parkway. No idea why, it isn't deep blue or shaped like a wold but there is something about it I absolutely love. There was a bit of fog on it when we drove pass.
After a short stop in Jasper getting coffee, we headed to Valemount where the heli was waiting for us to take us on the 8 min ride up the valley to the lodge. Already we had a day full of mountains and now we were headed into one of the most mountainous valleys, I was in my element!
The forecast was not on our side for the two short days of heli-hiking we had out here in the Cariboos. But I will let you in on a little secret, most times the rain is a great thing for photos and mountain weather changes so drastically and quickly you can be left with the best conditions ever possible, much better than sunny blue bird days. You may be able to tell from the photos, but the conditions were far from boring and this place showed us its best self.
The Lodge was, as always, a gorgeous spacious lodge with the essentials like a bar, spa, sauna and coffee station. It is pretty much impossible to go hungry at this place because you are fed every hour and there are chocolate bars and cookie jars everywhere you look. Fruit baskets too, but you don't notice that as much as the chocolate!
The food and staff are five star in every CMH lodge, they have such a great standard of friendly professional staff. The food was amazing, the coffee was always on and they had an adorable honey pot! I was so excited to get up in the air but unfortunately the rain was keeping it from happening. No hard feelings though, get to hang out in the spa with the cookies until it's time to hike it off. The food and staff are five star in every CMH lodge, they have such a great standard of friendly professional staff. The food was amazing, the coffee was always on and they had an adorable honey pot! I was so excited to get up in the air but unfortunately the rain was keeping it from happening. No hard feelings though, get to hang out in the spa with the cookies until it's time to hike it off.
As you can see by the photos we did get our weather windows to get into the alpine. Not once did I ever question our safety because the guides and our pilot, Jens, are all amazingly experienced and prepared. Only when it was safe did we head up into the clouds for some hiking.
I was shooting like a mad woman at all the surrounding vistas, it was impossible not to lag behind the group. The ice and the fog made for the most dramatic scenes that I was thrilled to capture. I can only imagine them on my wall to remember this place of glaciers and ice fields. I am very certain everyone thought I was on drugs of some sort because I was running around like a wild person with excitement. This place truly blew me away and i only got better as he week progressed.
The helicopter picked us up several times and dropped us off in a new entirely different location. It was like changing worlds in 5 mins, stepping into another planet. My senses were overloaded, the sound of the helicopter became my favorite sound over these few days. I could only imagine skiing here in the winter, which I am told is incredible.
I couldn't pick just one favorite location, however the Zimmer Glacier was pretty special. Massive chunks of ice thicker and deeper than I could even imagine just sat in our view. Staring at us with it's grandness and sheer beauty. Every crack and crevasse telling a story... I cold have looked at the creation for hours. Then the snow fell and when I thought it couldn't get more magical it did. Funny how snow can completely change the way you feel instantaneously. At 8000ft it felt like heaven.
Alison shows her enthusiasm with the Zimmer Glacier luring behind.
We flew into this little valley that also proved to be pure magic, a grassy oasis with little tans and ice towering over us. Helen really enjoyed this hike. Alison and Helen proved to be great hiking models as we made our way through this special place. It was so different with trees and jagged peaks. The peacefulness was outstanding in this spot.
One of our last spots took us to just above the lodge on encore ridge. The name gives it away, and on a clear day you get an exceptional view of Mt. Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies belt (not in Canada though). Sadly Robson was looming behind cloud, but it was still incredible spot with the light moving all around. I love the fall low light.
That Sunrise Heli:
The last spot we went to was rather a surprise. Jens, our heli pilot, told me at dinner, "I heard a rumor... we might be going up tomorrow morning. You didn't hear it from me!" Well that rumor turned out to be better than a dream. Any sunrise helicopter is incredible, but for me this was a dream. Inversion of clouds, pink touching every top of the mountains, touching us in the heli. I swear pink sunrise light has healing properties. Dreams really do come true with CMH, powder dreams, photographer dreams and mountain dreams in general. I will let you peruse the photos, but as you can tell there isn't many words to explain it.
An incredible few days, incredible group of people and an incredible lifetime experience came to an end but will never be gone in my memories. If you want to plan an adventure of a lifetime with a bit of a relaxing vibe to it, I will always recommend any lodge with CMH. The price point is high, I mean we are talking about helicopters here, but I think it is truly worth saving up for. Do your research, but I promise it will exceed your expectations!