Sport: Peak Experience

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Some 150 miles northwest of Banff, 9,000 feet up in the Adamant Mountains of British Columbia, I am sitting on a boulder the size of an SUV at the edge of a glacier. A weather front is moving through, and although it is still early September, the temperature drops quickly in the late afternoon here. So I pull on a pair of wool gloves and patiently wait for my ride.

It has been an eventful day. After being dropped off by helicopter in a high alpine meadow, my group (five hikers and a guide) briskly wound its way up a steep ravine to a spur connecting what our guide called two “bumps.” They looked like mountains to me. As we gradually made our way to the top of the tallest peak—nothing focuses the mind like the presence of a 2,000-foot drop just a few yards away—I convinced myself that I was working off the two orders of eggs Benedict I had consumed for breakfast at the lodge. At the summit, we were in and out of the clouds, one moment hardly seeing each other, the next viewing mountain ranges and glaciers that stretched to the horizon.

It may be impossible to overstate the flexibility that helicopters provide to hikers at Adamant Lodge and the other four lodges Canadian Mountain Holidays operates in British Columbia (Cariboo, Valemount, Bobbie Burns, and Bugaboo). Remote mountain locations, formerly accessible to only the most determined and experienced hikers, can be visited by anyone. At Adamant, a couple married for 50 years wanders ridgelines that have seen more paw prints than footprints. A group of younger, more athletic lodge guests, led by an Adamant guide, completes a fifth-class rock climb, followed by a challenging glacial descent, all in the same day. Regardless of your objective, the Canadian Mountain Holidays staff stands ready to accommodate you.

While guests enjoy breakfast, the guides meet each morning at Adamant Lodge to study the weather conditions and forecasts and decide where to climb. One morning, as the guides gathered for their daily briefing, the fog was so thick that I voiced concern as to whether we would do any flying that day, but lodge manager and mountain guide Erich Unterberger, remaining the picture of Teutonic cool, declared, “We shall go very high today.” Within the hour, we stood in the wash of the departing helicopter on a long narrow ridge, gazing at jagged, ice-covered peaks and the reflection of the sun in a deep turquoise glacial lake directly below us. Any lingering doubts about Unterberger’s weather forecasting skills dissipated as quickly as the clouds did.

On this day, however, as I slide off my boulder, threatening clouds now obscure the sun, and the temperature has suddenly plunged. Given the circumstances, this could be a disconcerting development. But the light freezing rain that just began to fall is now playing percussion to the deep bass of the approaching helicopter. I know that in 20 minutes we will be back at the lodge, toasting our latest adventure and making plans for our next one.

Canadian Mountain Holidays


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