Backpacking the Iceline Trail, Whaleback, and Little yoho Valley

The Iceline Trail, Whaleback, and Yoho Valley trails make for a great two-four day backpacking circuit in Yoho National Park. Beginning at Takakkaw Falls, we headed up  Yoho Valley. The first of many sights along the trail is Laughing Falls. There’s a backcountry campground here if you wish to explore the area more before you continue. Seeing as it’s only about 3.5 kilometres from the trail head, we continued on.

We trekked up towards Whaleback after stopping at a few more waterfalls. Once we gained more elevation and climbed up the Whaleback, we enjoyed the view of Yoho Valley where we came from, as well as the view to where we would be going the following day, Little Yoho Valley and the Iceline trail. The Whaleback trail descends into the neighbouring valley where we would camp until the next morning. 

With an early start, we left camp at Little Yoho Campground just before sunrise in hopes of having a nice sunrise from the top of the Iceline trail. 

The hike from Little Yoho campground ascends fairly quickly out of the trees and into the rugged alpine. The alpine reveals a number of nearby glaciers and glacial lagoons immediately next to the trail. The trail continues alongside these ancient glaciers for about 7 kilometres before descending down into the valley below. The valley eventually spits you out just east of Takakkaw falls.

Photos and words by Ryan Richardson    

                                       

Backpacking Limestone Lakes in Height of the Rockies

Limestone lakes in Height of the Rockies Provincial park is without a doubt one of the most incredible backcountry venues I have ever had the privilege of experiencing.

Limestone lakes in Height of the Rockies Provincial park is without a doubt one of the most incredible backcountry venues I have ever had the privilege of experiencing. It’s remote and difficult to get to location also keeps the flocks of tourist and backcountry users at bay. For good reason, route finding and proficient gps experience is required. Moreover, it’s prime grizzly country. I experienced my worst bear encounter on this trip.

On day one we followed a trail about 10km to our first cowboy camp. The trail runs parallel along the adjacent river most of the way up the valley. Then second day we ascended above the tree line. There’s an option to navigate around a large ridge line, but w-e opted to gain the ridge and then loose elevation on the other side. We thought the views might be worth it, and we were rewarded for our optimism.

After a full second day of bushwhacking and navigating limestone cliffs, we finally arrived at the stunning lookout above Limestone Lakes.

We spent another two nights at Limestone Lakes. The extra time and lighter packs afforded us the opportunity to explore the area a little more. We spend much of the third day swimming in the lake and enjoying the sun. We lucked out with weather, there was hardly a cloud in the sky the entire trip. The fourth day we hiked back out of the alpine lakes area and descended back into the valley below. We opted to go around the ridge climb, saving our legs for the 25km trek back to our vehicle.

Photos and words by Ryan Richardson.

Michelle Lakes via Owen Creek to Pinto lake Backpacking adventure

There are few hidden gems in the Canadian Rockies yet to be discovered by many. Michelle Lakes is one of those gems.

There are few hidden gems in the Canadian Rockies yet to be discovered by many. Michelle Lakes is one of those gems. Upper Michelle lakes is only 11 or so km from the trailhead on the David Thompson highway in Clearwater County. The Michelle Lakes trail via Owen Creek is also part of the Great Divide Trail (GDT) which is a 1,130 km trail that essentially runs the length of the Canadian Rockies north to south, following roughly the continental divide.

The 50 km section of trail we tackled on this trip began at the Owen Creak trail head through Michelle Lakes, Pinto Lake, and ending at Norman creek Trailhead along the Icefields Parkway (highway 93n).

The elevation gained climbing towards Michelle Lakes is the highest point of the entire 1,130 km GDT. The altitude and it’s proximity to neighbouring icefields along the Icefields Parkway – not to mention Wilson glacier – makes for a really small hiking season here. Our camp fell to nearly -10 degrees the first night. We woke up to frozen puddles around our tents.

Michelle Lakes boats one of the most magnificent backcountry venues I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting. Our small group of five were the only hikers there that night. We climbed over the unnamed pass the next morning and headed into the next valley before ascending and descending the next pass leading to Pinto Lake.

The hiking from Michelle Lakes to Pinto lake is all world class. Climbing up unnamed passes and in the shadow of some of the biggest mountains in the Canadian Rockies. We set camp at Pinto Lake for the night before eventually making our way out towards the Icefields Parkway where we had arranged a pickup.

There is another way to approach Michelle Lakes. The alternative route is a more gradual climb and apparently just as scenic. I’ll definitely be returning to Michelle Lakes again next summer and when I do, I’ll try it from the other valley over.

– Photos and words by Ryan Richardson

We Explored the badlands by Jeep and never expected this

The Canadian badlands boast much more than just fossils however. It’s a great place to break in a new 4×4 and get a little dirt underneath its’ tires.

Alberta is a driving province. Everything is relatively close, so long as you have a vehicle to get you there. The mountains, the prairies and everything in between are all easily accessible. After a lot of deliberation, my partner Hailey and I finally pulled the trigger on our own vehicle. Our first destination with our new wheels might come as a bit of a surprise.

Alberta’s badlands are located around the usually sleepy town of Drumheller. Drumheller is about ninety minutes from Calgary. The town is known for the famous Tyrell Dinosaur Museum. The badlands around the town are famous for being the dinosaur bone capital of the world.

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The Canadian badlands boast much more than just fossils however. It’s a great place to break in a new 4×4 and get a little dirt underneath its’ tires. It had been about seven years since I last visited the area with my old 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee. I couldn’t imagine a better place to christen our brand new Jeep Cherokee.

We drove around the town for a while. Turning down just about every dirt road we could find. There were a few roads that elevated quickly out of Drumheller which opened up to beautiful views of the town below.

After making the rounds around town we decided to head to Horseshoe Canyon. It looked like on Google Earth we might be able to drive off road a little bit and park next to the edge of the canyon. We didn’t quite know what to expect but that was part of the adventure!

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Horseshoe canyon use to be a lush habitat for the dinosaurs that once roamed its’ surface. It’s not hard to imagine what it might have looked like to see a dinosaur there as you look into the layers of ancient layers of sediment that make up the canyon.

We found the perfect spot to park our new Jeep to enjoy the setting sun together. I brought my small acoustic guitar to pass the time until the sun set closer to the horizon. Once the sun lowered in the sky, it cast all kinds of incredible shades of colours into Horseshoe Canyon.

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I took full advantage of the fleeting sunlight and snapped photos of our temporary setup at the edge of the canyon. We were parked right on the rim and had the entire view to ourselves. The sun slowly faded into a gentle purple hue until the stars began to fill the sky.

When living in Alberta it’s easy to overlook the less visited towns and regions that make up our beautiful province. The Canadian Rockies steal a lot of the thunder. The badlands reignited a spark in me that enjoys discovering completely new places – especially the adventures where I can explore on four wheels.

Photos and words by Ryan Richardson

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What Adventure Can Teach Us About Beating Covid-19

It’s true, Covid-19 is not an adventure in the traditional sense of the word. Covid-19 is not recreational. It is not something we can opt out of. However, there are a lot of parallels to current circumstances. What can adventure teach us about beating Covid-19?

Adventure // Noun // Meaning // an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks. – Websters Dictionary

It’s true, Covid-19 is not an adventure in the traditional sense of the word. Covid-19 is not recreational. It is not something we can opt out of. However, there are a lot of parallels to current circumstances. What can adventure teach us about beating Covid-19?

Rock climber Yvon Chouinard – , has his own definition of the word. “Real adventure is defined best as a journey from which you may not come back alive, and certainly not as the same person.”

When I think of the definition of adventure, I might imagine an arctic explorer canoeing down an unexplored tributary, or a mountain climber attempting to make the first ascent on a glaciated summit.

Recently, my idea of adventure has shifted. The spike of adrenaline usually reserved for climbing or mountain running, I now experience when shopping for groceries at the local Safeway.

Reflecting back on my own more fond memories of adventure – less daunting in reality than my imagined definitions above – I can underline specific ideas that have always guided me along my journeys.

The first, matter of perspective. Theologian Desmond Tutu said “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time. Or as Mark Twain said – In a metaphor where no elephants were harmed – “One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time.”

When climbing a mountain, I will often give myself “mini goals”. First climbing to the boulder 100 meters ahead, then the spruce tree another 100 meters after that, then the ridge 100 meters beyond the spruce. Smaller goals keep you moving forwards. Fixating on the mountain top can sometimes be paralyzing.

Example Covid-19 Translation – Today my mountain is surviving lockdown. Instead of focusing on an unknown date where the lockdown might be lifted in the future though, I’m focusing on the present. Hyper focussed on the macro instead of the micro. How I make today the greatest possible day?

The second, overcoming adversity. Adversity is ever present – or at best recurring – during any adventure. Mountain climber Ed Viesturs wrote “The trick is to find a way of converting adversity into something positive, a challenge to look forward to.”

A detour adding miles to a lengthy trek doesn’t have to be discouraging. Many detours have facilitated brand new opportunities to enjoy the sight of a lush meadow full of wildflowers or wildlife sightings that I otherwise would have been certain to miss.

Example Covid-19 Translation – In search of new creative outlets I’ve reignited my passion for music and guitar playing. Intentionally diving into the outlets available to me instead of focusing on the creative outlets currently out of reach.

Thirdly, Stress management. Astronaut Chris Hadfield says the greatest coping mechanism for potential stressors is knowledge. “If you can pick out what exactly the danger is, you can focus on understanding that. It’s tremendously calming and reinforcing.”

Durning any adventure, safety is always the chief concern. Everyone involved assesses the hazards, and potential emergency scenarios – like which friend to sacrifice in a bear encounter. After investigating all possible hazards and scenarios, the team then implements safeguards to ensure that these scenarios never take place, and if they do anyways, everyone is prepared.

Example Covid-19 Translation – Being educated about the disease is the best way to protect yourself and loved ones. Once you’ve implement safeguards and devised plans. You can rest easy in knowing that you have massively improved the situation and it’s many possible outcomes.

Por cuartos, Resourcefulness not resources. During most adventures, you rely fully on everything you brought with you. Relying on your own ingenuity and resourcefulness might be the only way to adapt and progress.

You might not have the tools you wish you had for the circumstance you now find yourself in. Straps break, tires pop, weather changes, what now? When you don’t have the luxury of access or unlimited resources, you’re forced to find creative solutions.

Example Covid-19 Translation – If I want to leave this lockdown ready to tackle exciting new adventures, I need to stay fit. Being confined to a small apartment, I don’t have a lot of resources for pumping iron or working on my endurance. Yet, with only a few bands and two free weights, I’m managing to have some of the best workouts of my life.

Lastly, bringing it back to my favourite definition of adventure by Chouinard “Real adventure is defined best as a journey from which you may not come back alive, and certainly not as the same person.”

“Certainly not as the same person” – This adventure will change you. There’s no going back to how things were. What does that look like? I’m sure nobody knows yet. Be intentional about the person you wish to be on the other side of this.

There’s two ways to look at this detour in our trek. We can either look at it discouraged by the added miles, or optimistically at the opportunities to discover our own wildflower meadows we otherwise would have been certain to miss.

12 Binge Worthy Adventure Series You Should Be Watching Right Now

Take your mind off the craziness for a while and treat yourself to these rad series.

Photo by Cody Townsend.

The Fifty Project – Cody Townsend is a pro free-skier attempting to ski the 50 classic descents across North America. Each episode takes you inside the process of not only skiing down these epic couloirs, but the process of getting there safely.

Watch on Youtube.

Photo by Netflix.

The Horn – Zermatt is one of the busiest mountain communities in the world. Access to the alpine is ridiculously easy. That means there’s a lot of accidents and a lot of rescues. This series is raw and uncensored. It’s a great reminder of what can happen in the mountains if you’re not careful.

Watch on Netflix.

Photo by RedBull Media House.

The Fourth Phase – The biggest snowboard production in history. Traveling along the Pacific weather cycle from Japan, Kamchatka, Alaska, and finally the Tetons. The making of this production is nothing short of extraordinary. This series is an eye opener of what it takes to film in remote locations.

Watch on RedBull TV.

Photo by Netflix.

Night On Earth – Until recently, no one could have imagined camera technology being so advanced that we can literally film scenes in the dark. Because the animal kingdom is so active after dark, this is an amazing way to see how animals truly behave.

Photo by Netflix.

Night On Earth Shot In The Dark – Behind the scenes of how these filmmakers managed to capture some of the most stunning wildlife shots ever recorded.

Photo by National Geographic.

The Big Freeze – Northern Canada really gets its’ moment in the limelight with National Geographic’s The Big Freeze. Recorded at the edge of the Canadian Arctic where the ocean freezes.

Watch on Youtube.

Photo by National Geographic.

The Making Of The Big Freeze – Wildlife filmmaker Bertie Gregory films this series in one of the most remote regions on the planet. The making of this mini series is almost more incredible than the series itself!

Watch on Youtube.

Photo by Salmon.

Salomon Freeski Tv – This series is like the perfect background series to have on all day long. It’s kind of like having Friends playing in the background while you clean, cook and chill. The visuals just get better and better after every season and episode. Once you’re finished this series you’ll feel like you’ve traveled the world twice over.

Watch on Youtube.

Photo by National Geographic.

America’s National Parks – We can’t all be at these National Parks all the time. This series is a great escape.

Watch on Disney+.

Photo by Joonas Mattila.

Endless Winter – The problem with chasing snow around the world is that your carbon footprint contributes to the melting of it. If we plan to ski powder forever, there must be a way to do it without the negative side-effects of travel.

Watch on Youtube.

Photo by National Geographic.

Life Below Zero – Granted, this series is a little unimpressive if you live in Canada like we do. As I write this, it’s 30 degrees below zero in Alberta. It’s mid March. For those of us not fortunate enough to live so far north of the equator, this is a great series shining a light on how remote communities and people live off the grid and brave the cold.

Watch On Netflix.

Photo by Getting The Shot – Stevin Tuchiwsky

Getting The Shot – We’ve only just produced the first episode, however we will be filming new episode monthly. If you haven’t watched the premiere, check it out! If you have, subscribe to our youtube channel and make sure you have the bell turned on so you get a notification as the next episodes get released.

Watch on Youtube.

Let us know some series we might have missed on this list. What are you watching?

Comment below.

Thru Hiking the East Coast Trail

A photo essay of my thru hike along the (ECT) East Coast Trail (220km) in Newfoundland.

A photo essay of my thru hike along the (ECT) East Coast Trail (220km) in Newfoundland. I hope these photos transport you to the east coast where myself, my partner, my Mom, and my mom’s best friend Anna attempted to thru hike the length of the ECT.

Three hikers walking past iceberg.

We began our thru hike from the south, starting in Cappahayden. As soon as we arrived to the trailhead we almost immediately spotted Icebergs off in the distance.

Hiker setting up tents near ocean.

We pitched our tents near Cappahayden where we would get a full night’s rest before beginning the our thru hike the next day.

Hiker traveling on trail.

We lucked out on weather the first day. It was reported to be the warmest day of the season so far. We had heard horror stories of how wet and technical this section of trail was. We were happy to be travelling this section with favourable conditions.

Three hikers walk alongside ocean.

The next day a thick fog rolled in off the Atlantic. The fog acted as air conditioning, the temperatures dropped considerably. Most of the views along the coast were left to our imagination. The fog was so thick we could rarely see the ocean.

Two hikers walk through fog.

The following day the cold fog had turned into a cold rain. Much of the trail was exposed to the open ocean making the wind another challenging element.

Three hikers walking in rain.

It was never the wind that slowed us down though, just the trail itself. The trail was a small single track hardly wide enough to fit our packs through in places. The trail was almost always slightly slanted towards to ocean, and it was never straight or level. It was some of the most challenging terrain I had ever walked on.

We were never given any trail names. I suppose because we never saw any hikers on the trails.

Hikers in cabin eating food.

A local introduced himself as we walked through his town and invited us to stay at his cabin along the trail. East coast hospitality is unlike anywhere else. You can expect most locals to invite you into their home for tea, water, and even dinner. As if that isn’t kind enough, we had locals offer up their home, and even buy us a case of beer.

Hiker next to dirty trail shoes.

Our gear finally had the opportunity to dry out before we hit the trail again.

Hikers walking up muddy trail.

I wish I could say the sun made an appearance again so soon. However, the rain continued and the trails became more and more difficult to navigate.

Hikers walking through bushes.

Finally, the fog burnt up in the sun’s rays. It was never as beautiful as our first day on the trail again. However, after almost four days of rain we felt as if we were on a beach in Mexico.

Hikers alongside ocean.

The ECT traveled out into the ocean along capes that would poke out into the ocean. We would walk along these capes until they eventually led back into little inlets where towns and villages were located. Nearly 75% of the trail was entirely wilderness.

Hiker walking near small village.

The villages were home to as few as a dozen people. I couldn’t help but wonder how beautiful these little inlets would look under a fresh dusting of snow in the winter.

Two hikers walking away from small village.

Hailey and I were leaving directly to Iceland from Newfoundland. Our legs began giving out, our back and shoulders were in agony. The anticipation of hopping on a plane to thru hike across the entire country of Iceland was beginning to worry us.

Hiker walking at sunset near ocean.

After thru hiking 170 km, all four of us decided to end our hike. With 50 km to go before reach St. Johns. We felt as though we could physically finish the ECT thru hike. However, we knew the cost be too high, there’s no way we could begin our thru hike in Iceland in such rough shape only a few days later.

Hiker walks alongside ocean and island.

Thru hiking the ECT is truly one of the greatest experiences of my life. Like so many places, it’s the adventure that draws us, but it’s the people and the culture that brings as back again and again. I can’t wait until I’m back in Newfoundland.

Getting Rid of The Winter Blues with These 6 Quick Tips

Get your energy and motivation back to an all time high this winter with some these 6 quick tips for getting rid of the winter blues.

Get your energy and motivation back to an all time high this winter with some these 6 quick tips for getting rid of the winter blues.

Running After Sundown

A Runner’s Headlamp Lights the Way at 3 Beavers Ultra Event in Gatineau.

When the sun starts dipping behind the horizon, I can’t help but feel sleepy. The thing is, when it’s only 5pm, I can’t just stop functioning for the rest of the day until I crawl into bed. I’ve noticed a huge boost in my mood and my energy levels when I shock my system. I’ll lace up and head out for a cold weather run just as the sun is setting to remind my body the day still isn’t over yet.

There’s nothing like moving your body and having freezing cold wind hit your face for half an hour to give you a boost of energy. I always have more energy in the morning so typically I do weight training indoors first thing in the morning, and save my “winter blues” run for just before dinner time.

Start New Evening Hobbies

Having something to look forward to near the end of the night has a way of keeping my mind busy and looking forward to a reward later in the day. It’s tough to stay motivated throughout the later part of the day when the sun has been down for hours already.

Getting all my chores done and then going for a late night session at the climbing gym really gives me something to look forward to and gives me an excuse to get out of the house. Something like climbing also gives you the added benefit of socializing with other energetic people. Energy feeds energy!

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Changing Your Perspective

Yamnuska Mountain Guide Demonstrates Ice Climbing to Beginner Climbers at the SOICE Festival in Northern Ontario.

Calgary sees a lot of change in light from summer solstice to winter solstice. In the summer we have 16+ hours of daylight and in the winter less than 8 hours. That’s nothing compared to Tromso Norway where we went swimming with killer whales last year though. Tromso has its’ final sundown of the year in late November and doesn’t see the sun again until spring.

If there’s something I learned from traveling to Tromso, It’s that perspective is everything. The northern community can’t wait for winter. Their winter culture is practically out of a fairytale. Northern lights are a regular occurrence, street festivals and parties are happening constantly. Skiing is part of some of the 70000 residence’s daily commute. Practically every cafe and store is a cozy winter wonderland.

If there was a less preferred season in Trmoso, it would be summer.

Chase Summer

Perspective is important but there’s something to be said about geography too. If winter really just isn’t your thing, chase summer. I don’t mean vacationing in Cuba or Mexico. I mean hopping on a plane to the southern hemisphere where summer is in full swing.

The past two years I’ve been fortunate enough to spend half of my winters in the southern hemisphere’s summer season. I love winter, but sometimes it’s loved best in small doses. Summer doesn’t have to be months away, it can be hours away!

Dream Board

MEC Participant Runs Through the Finish Line After Local Calgary Marathon.
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Every dream needs a plan. Think of a goal or a dream that you’d wish to do or accomplish in the spring or summer. Next, create a plan on how you’ll accomplish that goal throughout the winter season. Example, running your first marathon. Sign up for a spring race and train your ass off all winter with your dream in mind.

Perhaps your goal is having more free time in the summer season to travel or explore. Give yourself four months to make it happen. Maybe that mean picking up extra shifts, or diversifying your income.

Start a Blog

Maybe a distraction or an occupied mind is all you need to keep your spirits up throughout winter. I started this blog just over a year ago now. Since, I’ve created almost 100 articles and now I even contribute to other blogs and even magazines.

This blog has provided me with a place to journal my thoughts and share them with you. I’ve also noticed that I’m drawn to it more and more when winter arrives. I think it’s natural to spend more time inside and curl up next to the fire with some hot chocolate and whiskey when it’s -30 outside.

My blog allows me to do this guilt free. I feel like I can still contribute, add some value to others, and have fun, all while resting up indoors.