Bruce Howatt/Courtesy of CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures

It’s one thing to admire mountains from the ground. It's another entirely to climb to the top.

John Scarpinato
October 23, 2017

Growing up in rural Illinois, I developed a passion for wide-open spaces, which can be hard to come by now that I live in New York City. Craving a physical challenge in a beautiful setting, I found a Canadian outfitter named CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures, which has been providing access to the mountains of British Columbia for more than 50 years. Though familiar with heli-skiing, I had never heard of heli-hiking, in which guests are zipped off to otherwise inaccessible trekking locations by helicopter. After viewing CMH's images of raging glacial rivers, rugged mountain landscapes, and ziplines, I was sold.

I flew to Calgary, Alberta, and drove about three hours west to CMH's helipad near the small town of Parson, British Columbia. There I met the international, 34-person group with whom I would be eating, hiking, and sharing an isolated lodge for the next three days. It took three helicopter trips to get all of us to Bobbie Burns, one of two CMH properties that operate in the summer. Even with its 24 guest rooms, massive fireplace, and panoramic views of the Columbia Mountains, the lodge had the feeling of a friend's country house.

On our second day, the helicopter dropped us at a location deeper inside the mountain range, where we stood admiring the two peaks of Nimbus Mountain. We were to climb both that day. It was about four hours before we reached the top of the first. Standing there, surrounded by snowcapped ridges, I felt invincible, until I saw what lay ahead — a 131-foot suspension bridge that would lead me to the second summit. As we each crossed, the others shouted encouragement. Heights don't generally bother me, but balancing more than 3,000 feet up in the air isn't easy on anyone's stomach.

That night, a fellow hiker told me that he had thrown in the towel halfway through last year's climb. This year, after losing 50 pounds, he finished. Another confided that soon after she'd last come to Bobbie Burns, her husband had passed away. This trip, 10 years later, made her feel that life had come full circle. Seeing how a meaningful experience can bring different people together left me refreshed and hopeful. And it was pretty satisfying to cross “climb a mountain” off my bucket list. three-day trips from $2,673.  

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