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

This Camera Bag is a Chameleon Adapting to All My Adventures

This shapeshifting camera backpack can adapt to almost every adventure, no matter what I’m shooting or where.

I’m not much of a gear head. Some people love talking about gear. That’s totally fine it’s just not usually a huge talking point for me. Here’s why.

If I’m fixated on the gear I’m using and the equipment I do or don’t have with me, I’m probably not as focussed as I should be on creating. Thats why, for me, the perfect piece of gear is something you don’t have to think about at all. Something that adapts to you, your adventures, and your environment.

I’ve had the F-Stop Ajna 40L Camera Bag for about 7 months now. In the Rockies, that’s all 4 seasons ha! I’ve used it as my primary camera bag in a variety of settings. From glaciers in the dead of winter, to valleys in the middle of summer. I’ve used the Ajna camera bag on photo commissions, and video commissions.

My loadout is always changing from shoot to shoot. Depending on the primary goal, the trip type, the weather, the season, etc. I can think of almost no scenario where the Ajna wouldn’t thrive.

What’s in the Bag?

Camera Equipment

On a typical photo/video shoot I usually have two full frame camera bodies, a 35mm 2.8 prime. A 24-70 f2.8, a wide angle f4. Mavic 2 Pro. Ten spare batteries. A spare mavic battery. Two GoPros. a Rode shotgun mic. A Rode LAV set, and miscellaneous camera accessories like tape, cleaning supplies, microfibre cloths.

Outdoor Equiptment

On any given shoot, I will always carry a lightweight Gore-tex rain shell, and a down puffy. Weather is unpredictable and a rain jacket and insulation might be the only thing keeping you alive in an emergency.

I also always have lightweight gloves, two buffs, and a light wool touque. This might vary depending on the location or season. However I always include this when I’m home in the Rockies. It can be 30 degrees in the valley and 0 degrees on the mountain.

10 Tips For Shooting Into The Sun For Dramatic Images

In addition to that, I also have a first aid kit with essentials. Emergency gear repair kit. A small foam seat-pad (luxury among mountain people). Snacks or meals depending on my expected time out. 2-4L of water. As well as a map, compass, and emergency communications device.

Variations

Variations to this, or add-ons might include helmets, rope, a tent, hiking poles etc. This all really depends on the specific kind of shoot, and what I’m shooting.

What’s great about the Ajna camera bag is that I don’t have to have one bag just for climbing, another bag for snowshoeing, another one for backpacking, I can just change the way I load the straps gear straps and the bag just adapts to whatever it is I’m doing.

Limitations

The only limitations I can imagine for the Ajna – yet haven’t personally experienced – is the load capacity for multi-day winter objectives like ski-mountaineering, winter backpacking trips, or anything involving the need to carry winter camping equipment and winter layers.

In my experience, I wouldn’t ever be able to have all of my camera equipment and all of the extra insulation and camping gear fit into 40L. I would probably need something closer to 80L (mind you, I would only use about 70L of 80L – I prefer to have extra room for ease of access).

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Photos and words by Ryan Richardson.

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.

Getting The Shot: Episode 1 Alberta Ice Caves With Stevin Tuchiwsky

You probably haven’t seen this side of Alberta before. Stevin Tuchiwsky takes us on a journey into Ice Caves, behind frozen waterfalls, and on frozen lakes.

Stevin snowshoes his way towards the toe of the glacier in Jasper National Park where we hope to find hidden ice caves.
Ryan asking Stevin some questions about the glacier and what he hoped to find as we were getting closer to the toe of the glacier (seen in the background).
Stevin spotted an ice bridge that must have formed as the glacier receded during the summer months. This ice bridge was a sort of entrance to where we would later find some cracks in the glacier. As I walked under the bridge, Stevin snapped this frame as we went deeper into the glacier.
The shapes of the ice bridge from the other side were otherworldly. Stevin gained a little bit of elevation by climbing up the glacier to get a higher perspective. He then asked me to walk back and forth along the ice for his composition, giving a sense of scale.
Stevin spent a few minutes assessing the scene, looking for different angle and perspectives before we move deep into the glacier.
After shooting the ice bridge we began looking for ways to get inside the glacier. Stevin found little cracks in the ice then followed them down below the surface. This small crack in particular opened up into a massive ice cathedral.
Stevin climbed down to the bottom of the glacier where he set up his tripod, preparing for a long exposure photo. The light was so limited in the caves, he relied on slower shutter speeds to allow enough light onto his camera’s sensor.
The entire scene was backlit by a sliver of light that came in from the surface. Stevin used the sliver of light to light up the entire scene. Many of his frames were 20-30 second exposures. Asking me to stand in the frame for scale, I stood as still as possible as Stevin took multiple exposures.
Before leaving the ice cave, I snapped this photo of Stevin just as he was exiting the small crack towards the surface and towards the light.
On our way to Nordegg AB, we made a stop at Panther Falls in Banff National Park. Stevin had never been to the frozen waterfall in the middle of the night before. He had a vision for photographing the frozen waterfall. Stevin wanted me to stand in the middle of the frame with a headlamp. As I lit the backside of the frozen waterfall, he snapped a long exposure. The long exposure allowed the headlamp to light the entire frame.
As Stevin says in Getting The Shot Episode 1, “Sleep takes a backseat to everything when you’re a photographer”. We had a few hours of sleep before heading to Abraham Lake where we hoped to find interesting methane bubbles frozen in the Ice.
As the sun began lighting the sky, we realized there were more interesting subjects to photograph than the famous methane bubbles. Watch the episode below to learn what we found.

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.

Vlogging While Hiking Has Its’ Hazards (VIDEO)

Vlogging a “quick” jaunt up Emerald Peak in Yoho National Park. It doesn’t take long for me to figure out that vlogging while hiking can be hazardous!

Scrambling Mount Edith in Banff National Park

Vlogging a “quick” jaunt up Emerald Peak in Yoho National Park. It doesn’t take long for me to figure out that vlogging while hiking can be hazardous!

Subscribe to my personal Youtube channel for more videos like this!