Imagine a photograph of a mountain that has occupied a piece of your mind for over five years, never having an opportunity to put yourself in that scene… until now.
Nestled deep in an alpine valley in the Purcell mountains is the beautiful CMH Bobbie Burns Lodge, an architectural piece of art in itself that lends well to the wilderness surrounding it. Home to the famous Conrad glacier adventure and Mt Nimbus via ferrata, the notorious mountain stuck in my head. I had the opportunity to spend three nights and four days up at the lodge experiencing these high flying adventures for myself, an opportunity impossible to pass up.
The adventure began here in my hometown of Banff, the perfect location for an experience like this to start. Just ninety minutes from Calgary international airport a lot of people had flown in from various destinations from around the world specifically for this trip. Meeting down at the local bus depot I boarded the bus for the two hour transfer to the helipad. You could feel the excitement on the bus, few of us knew each other at this point but there was a huge variety of people and ages.
Arriving at the helipad we were briefed on safety procedures before being lifted into the sky and flown out to the Bobbie Burns Lodge. The flight in was incredible, signs of humans slowly drifted away behind us before all we could see was endless wilderness. The twelve minute flight literally flew by, with everyones eyes glued to the windows we began to descend towards the lodge, gliding into paradise. They dropped us off and returned for one more load of people and that was it… we were deep in the heart of the mountains but with the comfort of having this beautiful backcountry lodge as our base for the next few days.
After settling in a meeting all the staff and guests we were all anxious to get out there and play in the wilderness. We were split in to our group ability levels and each one flown to different regions of the surrounding mountains. Our adventure took us to Merlin valley for a five hour hike up a ridge and down the other side to some beautiful alpine meadows, a great teaser for the days to come.
If the adventures out of the Bobbie Burns lodge isn’t enough to get you out there, the food will definitely persuade you. Dinner is served family style (my favourite) with guests and staff eating together with no set seats so you can choose to eat with whoever you want. It was a great opportunity to talk to all the other guests to learn about who they are and where they were from, and to the staff too who were so passionate about where they worked and sharing their playground with us. It didn’t take long for the food coma to set in after dinner before our beds called us in preparation for the next day.
It was hard to sleep that night, I was too excited about finally stepping into a scene I’ve only ever dreamed of seeing before. On the agenda today was the Mount Nimbus via ferrata, the highest ‘assisted climbing’ route in North America. Because of some fast approaching weather, we were flown up to a shorter version of the route. We managed to get across the bridge and on to the final summit pitch before that weather turned us around, but that didn’t hinder our spirits at all, what most people had already achieved was one of the biggest accomplishments in itself without having to complete it. We made our way back just as the snow storm moved in and were helicoptered off the mountain and back down to the sunny weather at the lodge just in time for some lunch.
After a short rest, the weather cleared and our guides wanted to take us out to the adventure park, a fun zip lining course through the trees and across rivers. The perfect way to end our day, feeling sapped of energy we filled up on some of the incredible food before passing out ready for another day up in the alpine.
Another day in paradise began with a hearty breakfast before finding out we were heading up to the Conrad glacier adventure, one of the most incredible via ferrate routes I’ve ever been on with lots of fun and challenging features. A long eight hour day had us out at 9am and back before 5pm; hiking, climbing and exploring around the glacier. The final thirty minutes of the route was claimed by snow/rain again but we didn’t feel defeated, we had completed 99% of the route and everyone was exhausted and ready to return to the lodge.
The final night was bittersweet, everyone felt accomplished in their days at the lodge but sad it was coming to an end. We all shared our experiences, shared photos, compared battle wounds and mosquito bites and laughed endlessly. The children, now energy-sapped had spent their days on lesser adventurous outings with their parents hiking and were all so excited in telling their own stories, a few adding a fairy-tale bear in their story to spice it up a little. This random group of people I was flown out in to the wilderness with had become family and I was sad that it was coming to an end.
Waking up on the final day to a beautiful sunrise was the perfect farewell. With our bags packed, we all enjoyed our last breakfast together before catching the helicopter out and the transfer back to Banff.
Thousands of memories created in just a short few days, standing where I had only ever dreamed of standing before and experiencing the wilderness in a way unlike any other.
For more information about this trip or to find out how you can book your own trip of a lifetime head over to the CMH website: http://www.canadianmountainholidays.com/summer.aspx
(They also offer Heli Skiing)