I’d never flown into the backcountry in summer. My limited helicopter experience always included flying over a landscape concealed in a thick layer of white.

Further, I’ve never been much of a day hiker. Hiking always seemed like a chore; time you put in to get the reward of a less-populated climbing wall or an untouched ski line. Long-distance backpacking was more my thing; I wanted to be up near glaciers, out of the way of humans, and surrounded by things people rarely saw. But, lately, I had no time for that.

My adventure time was confined to hours leftover from an eighty hour work week; backpacking just didn’t fit into that.

In the midst of trying to make it through the dozens of new emails that morning, there was an unusual one: an invitation to join Revelstoke’s Selkirk Tangiers Heli Ski crew. I expected the date to be a few months from now to help usher in ski season.

But my invitation wasn’t for heli skiing. It was for heli hiking.

The concept was entirely new to me — and if it’s new, I’m up for it. I cleared my schedule hit the road north to Revelstoke.

I was torn with the idea of heli hiking; on the one hand, I wanted to believe I could take on the entire journey myself. On the other hand, putting aside the time required to hike into remote areas meant letting my nonprofit work — and the people it served — suffer. And, because of the hours spent working for the organization, I’d been so long removed from those deep backcountry experiences that I could feel my soul withering in front of my computer.

Heli hiking started looking like it could be my solution.

Even if I hadn’t hiked, the flight would have been enough to remind me why being outdoors was so important. My face was pushed against the window, trying to gather in as much detail before it zoomed by. Peaks dipped down into aqua lakes, fed by fields of snow that wouldn’t have a chance to melt before their levels were restocked in winter. Rocky terrain supported the brightest wildflowers, showier than whatever was planted by the humans below.

And the air was still. After the staccatoed whir of the helicopter faded, there was nothing.

Well, there were horseflies, but I thwarted their attacks with a cloud of repellent.

Though the hike was only a few hours along a ridge and a short scramble to the summit, I felt a lot of the same rewards had it been a weekend trip or longer: I was able to get into terrain that I loved more than any other, snatch up the benefits of sunshine and down time, and reconnect with what was tangible rather than reconnecting my internet access. I moved at a slower pace and studied the features we’d flown over, humbled by the chance to be so close to them and see their details in person.

And while thoughts of work flew out mind as soon as we were airborne, all these benefits were squeezed into a trip that didn’t steal time from work projects. If anything, heli hiking offered a mini refresher that increased my productivity. This might become an annual retreat.

Heli Hiking: Backcountry Access In The Summer

We looked over the day’s route on a printout topo map of Revelstoke’s backcountry area. The area usually takes about nine hours of hiking time by foot to reach, but our flight time was less than 15 minutes.

Heli Hiking: Backcountry Access In The Summer

Jeff, our guide, crouches in the landing zone, awaiting the rest of the crew before setting off on the hike.

Heli Hiking: Backcountry Access In The Summer

We planned to hike the ridge, shown here, without a specific destination. The group was allowed to make that decision together, depending on how we were feeling. We decided to go for the summit, shown in the right corner of this photo.

Heli Hiking: Backcountry Access In The Summer

Snow patches were in every view along this hike, still clinging to the ground in mid- July.

Heli Hiking: Backcountry Access In The Summer

The views went on forever, with no towns to break up the wilderness’ flow. This had the effect of making me feel very small.

Heli Hiking: Backcountry Access In The Summer

Greg stops to soak the view of our summit before heading upwards again. Being in the midst of these jagged formations made me appreciative that I could explore a portion of the backcountry’s depths.

Heli Hiking: Backcountry Access In The Summer

We had the option of diverting our route to the alpine lakes below; something I would have welcomed since the sun felt nearly as summery up here as it did in the mountain town below.

Heli Hiking: Backcountry Access In The Summer

Though these lakes were inviting, most of us wanted to push on for the challenge of claiming the summit.

Heli Hiking: Backcountry Access In The Summer

After making it up a steeper section of the ridgeline, we paused — not only because we were catching our breath, but because we were catching the views.

Heli Hiking: Backcountry Access In The Summer

While the food Selkirk Tangiers packed for us was far superior than I usually make for myself at home, our lunch break incited more looking around than eating. Jeff pointed out some of the features within our view and everyone roved around to visually absorb as much as possible before we pushed on.

Heli Hiking: Backcountry Access In The Summer

Guylaine takes a few moments by herself; being in these types of places will stir up some deep contemplation.

Heli Hiking: Backcountry Access In The Summer

At the summit, I threw on a jacket to keep the horseflies at bay; I wanted to study the views without any harassment. From here, I could see where the Columbia river drained into Arrow Lake, which was part of the route I would be taking the next day on my return home.

Heli Hiking: Backcountry Access In The Summer

Guylaine steps closer to the edge at the summit’s plateau. All around the flattened top were details that nature is so adept at creating, which kept us entertained until the pilot arrived to return us to Revelstoke.

Heli Hiking: Backcountry Access In The Summer

Emma and Katie finally sat down after exploring the perimeter of the summit. Resting their feet, they grabbed some photographs, chatted, and waited for the helicopter to approach.

Heli Hiking: Backcountry Access In The Summer

The flight back to civilization appeared and the first group of us kneel over our packs, waiting to be given the signal to load back in.

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Sub-Categories Camp & Hike / Climb / liftopia / Outdoors / Summer
  • tyler b

    Good lord. Proofread already.

    • Hey @disqus_KrHoqHgU8b:disqus, care to pitch in? I caught these mistakes:

      “I cleared my schedule *and* hit the road north to Revelstoke.”

      “Greg stops to soak *in* the view of our summit before heading…”

      “…clinging to the ground in mid- July.” (Extra space there.)

      Anything else? I’ll try and get the corrections submitted to the editors.