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

How to Stay Motivated While Walking a Marathon a Day for Two Weeks Straight

Ryan and I are athletic, but we are NOT professional athletes. We have never competed in any kind of organized race including marathons, ultramarathons, nor a 10 k. So what compelled us to average a marathon per day for 14 days straight?


Seriously. We did not willingly choose to take on such a daunting objective. We had a goal and chose to adapt to our situation rather than have an out and calling it quits. What I’m referring to is our 420 KM Iceland expedition that ended up tacking on over 100 KM extra. Using Google Earth as our only reference, we mapped out our entire route thinking we only had a maximum of 300 KM to walk. To our surprise, and dismay, that route turned out to be incredibly off base. Hitting our pre-planned daily pinpoint targets was nearly impossible. What was supposed to take only one day often quickly turned into a two day haul, sometimes even three days.

We really did not want to ration food so we made the decision that we would just walk for longer each day. Our days went from 10 hours to 15 hours real fast. We were hauling as hard as we could and putting every ounce of what we had left in us into each step. Just when the days would start to feel long, weather greeted us and always had something in store. Sometimes we would experience all four seasons in the span of 2 hours. Mother Nature would roar her brains out and shower golfball sized hail stones down on us. It really felt like she was trying to get the best of us.

It is by no means a stretch of the imagination when I say that our Iceland expedition was the most mentally and physically tough challenge we had ever experienced.

Getting Through

So, how did we keep it together when we just wanted our joints to stop crying and the pain to end? How did we keep walking after getting cold rashes on our legs from sub zero glacial rivers or blisters on our feet bigger than our toes?


No, literally oreos! Ryan and I relied on the cookies so much that we created a little acronym about how we were able to get this expedition done.

(Side story, we came across a few mountain huts along the way that sold Oreos so we would seriously eat them as some of our meals so we could preserve all of the food that we could).

Alright, enough cookie talk.

OREOS stands for Objective, Resilience, Empower, Optimism, Strength. These five words truly did allow us to complete our mission and kept our heads up when times got tough ( which was all of the time).


Not only does objective refer to the actual mission of the trip, it refers to knowing your ‘why’ and always keeping it in the back of your mind. I learned this practice from my mentor, ultra-marathoner, Leanne Richardson. Leanne always knows her why and uses it as the fuel to keep going when times get hard out on the course.

In our case, our ‘why’ was Iceland’s Highlands. It was the very environment that we were walking through. It was the ground beneath each step we took, remembering how vulnerable it is to human threat. There is nothing that compels you to protect a place more than reminding yourself you are just a passenger voyaging through a potential once- upon- a- time wilderness oasis.

We had a job to do. Not only were we walking to raise awareness, we were also filming ourselves doing it to assist the Highlands Project to create noise so their government will listen. When times got tough we no longer had to get through for ourselves, we had to keep moving for the planet.


If I had to pick one word to sum up our expedition it would be this one. We pretty much had every obstacle thrown in our way. Going from 25 km walking days to over 50 km, injuries and unpreventable blisters, learning that there was no way to get our food supply to our pre planned drops, the list goes on. We had so many hurdles and set backs that could have prevented us from continuing.

Crossing rapidly moving glacial rivers at 2:00 AM during a rainstorm and having to camp out for 3 days to combat injuries so we could finish the last 80 km were two of my biggest obstacles. These were moments where that inner voice of self doubt came out and broke me down. It called me unspeakable names and made me question myself and my actions.

I heard and listened to the voice, but then I would get a spark of my true self and remind myself how badly I wanted to accomplish this. I knew there was no way out. I told myself that I would live off of plain Lays chips for 7 days straight if that meant we could have enough food to finish our expedition.

There was no way we were giving up.


I am so thankful to have had my partner, Ryan, with me on this expedition. I truly have an appreciation for people who are able to do these kinds of things solo. It helped having the person I love with me and we were really able to get each other through. Ryan didn’t even know how much he helped me until the expedition was over and done.

I was able to get through because of his belief in me which made me believe in myself. I’m not sure if you’ve ever experienced ‘imposter syndrome’ but I felt like I suffered from it often during the trip. When the journey got difficult, I would say things like “I’m not an athlete!”, or “how can someone like me be doing something as crazy as this?”. Ryan would always respond positively with comments like “well, you did an ultramarathon yesterday, did you not?”

I would laugh and shake my head in disbelief but it was truly those comments that reassured me that someone like me CAN dream big and accomplish their goal.

Even if you don’t have a partner to empower or who can empower you, saying nice things to yourself while you’re out on your journey makes a huge difference. Treat yourself like you would treat a friend. Would you ever tell your friend that they are weak and out of their mind for attempting such a wild objective? Most likely you would not. You are allowed to experience self doubt but remember to pick yourself up and keep moving even if it’s at a slower pace.


Optimism is a funny one. This word can make or break your expedition because if you have too little of it, it’s a game ender but if you have too much of it, things can get dangerous. A healthy balance of optimism and realism is the key ingredient to a successful expedition recipe.

Being too optimistic can lead people to put themselves in dangerous situations because they didn’t properly assess the risk. Knowing the risks, your capabilities, and being prepared will combat this.

Ryan and I are naturally optimistic people so there was never a moment where we didn’t think we had a chance of crossing the island. I appreciated this characteristic after the fact because I know how damaging negative talk and disbelief can be. If you don’t believe you will be successful, you most likely won’t be.


For this expedition specifically, it really came down to our mental strength. I personally believe that mental strength is trainable and it is something you can work on and get better at. For me, mental strength was the combination of OREO. Knowing our objective, being resilient, empowering one another, and being unapologetically optimistic truly built the foundation.

Mental strength is difficult to train without putting yourself in uncomfortable situations to achieve a goal. You know you’re mentally strong when you feel like the world is working against you but you don’t let that stop you from getting the job done.

I hope you can take this acronym and apply it to your own journeys. If there is anything I have learned from our Iceland expedition, it’s that you are so much more capable than you think you are. Whether you want to run a marathon or achieve a first ascent, you have the power within you to accomplish whatever it is you put your mind to.

Five Common Beginner Backpacking Misconceptions

There’s a lot of misconceptions about backpacking! Don’t be fooled by the myths, learn from us so your first backpacking trip will be a good experience.

Spring is finally around the corner which means that soon enough we will be swapping our skis poles for trekking poles and hitting the trails!

I enjoy winter just as much as the next person but there comes a point when the -40 wind chills can get the best of us and our overall stoke level diminishes. Lately, I’ve found myself hibernating indoors and plotting out which backpacking trails I want to accomplish during the summer season.

Backpacking is an amazing way to experience wilderness, solitude, and simply explore. It is not surprising that backpacking is constantly increasing in popularity due to Instagram and other social platforms because it is just so dang awesome!

Backpacking is epic because it’s one of those activities that doesn’t require you to be an elite athlete to be ‘good’ at and enjoy. There’s no competition and the entire journey to your end destination is rewarding. All that to say, be aware that every backpacking trip is learning lesson and there will definitely be challenges especially during your first few experiences.

If you’re inching to get out on the trails but you’re new to backpacking, I hope this information will prevent you from making some common beginner backpacking mistakes and have happy trail experiences!

Backpacking Misconception #1: Opting for Hiking Boots

You might be skeptical and think ‘Hailey, are you crazy? I’m hiking, why wouldn’t I need hiking boots!’

I promise I’m not crazy and after a few experiences backpacking with hiking boots I promise the alternative is much better. I’m not here to give hiking boots a bad name by any means. There are TONS of amazing boots out there and under certain circumstances I do think boots can be the way to go.


Alternatively, it’s important to consider the weight of hiking boots. On average hiking boots can weigh 3-4 pounds versus a trail running shoe which generally weigh about 1 pound.

Personally, there’s nothing worse than carrying a backpack for hours on end whilst fighting to pick up my feet in heavy, clunky, hiking boots. I prefer trail running shoes over hiking boots under just about any circumstance. Trail running shoes are as light as they get, breathable, and quick drying.

‘But I’m scared my feet will be wet and what about blisters and ankle support?’

Additionally, hiking boots and especially gore-tex boots generally aren’t breathable. What does this mean? It means that your feet will be sweating and your boots will hold in all the sweat. This will make your feet wet and adding additional weight. Also, when your feet are wet, they are more prone to blisters. This is why even a solid pair of broken in hiking boots will cause blistering after a day on the trail- no bueno!

Pro Tip: look for trail runners that are not GORE-TEX, I promise even if your feet get wet they will dry so much faster!

My top picks for trail shoes:

Arc’teryx Norvan LD Shoe

Salomon Speedcross 4CS Trail Running Shoe

Backpacking Misconception #2: You Can Get Away with Cheap Gear

Most of us don’t like spending money if we can save money, I get that. Right off the bat let’s address the elephant in the room. If you want to have a good backpacking experience you need good gear, simple as that!

There’s a simple formula to quality backpacking gear: light weight, breathable, comfortable. You will find these three words to be repetitive themes when you’re talking gear. All of your gear should meet these three requirements.

Take clothing for example, with a good pair of merino wool base layers, ideally, you can reuse the top and bottom for a week straight without them getting gross and stinky. This means you can pack less (lightweight), they’re breathable, and super comfortable. In contrast, cotton clothing gets stinky easily, and is not quick drying so you will go through several cotton shirts in the same time frame.

I mention the word lightweight more than anything because you really do need to consider this to be the most critical factor for backpacking prep. The grams, pounds, and ounces do matter. Weight adds up quick when you’re carrying everything on your back. I can guarantee that you will not have fun with a heavy backpack weighing you down even if you’re walking on a volcano in Iceland (been there done that!).

My Tips for Choosing Quality Gear:

  • Look for LBC (lightweight, breathable, comfortable)
  • Ensure the gear is durable and long lasting
  • Make sure your gear can be easily packable
  • Invest first in the essentials: get a solid layering system (base layer, mid layer, and shell before purchasing multiple colours, any ‘luxury’ or ‘nice to have’ items. It’s all about the basics when you’re starting out.

*See our article on insulation below

Gear to Especially Not Cheap Out On:

  • Backpack
  • Tent, Sleeping bag, Sleeping Pad (Read our couple’s sleeping system guide here)
  • Base Layers, Mid Layer, Down/Synthetic Jacket, Shell
  • Footwear
  • Camping Stove

ProTip: If you really don’t want to invest money upfront, many outdoor destinations have a gear rental shop where you can rent solid gear for cheap!

Misconception #3: Hiker Hunger

Okay, this one can go one of two ways. You might think ‘oh, I won’t need that much food because I won’t be hungry when I’m moving’. OR ‘I’ll need so much food I’ll be so hungry all the time!’

Many backpackers either underestimate or overestimate how hungry they will be during their trip. Food is equally as important to consider when prepping for your backpacking excursion. In my experience, I almost always over pack food because I know my body and I get extra hungry when I’m doing physical activity.

Food for Thought

One of the worst things that could happen on a backpacking trip is running out of food. You definitely don’t want to be THAT guy that’s mooching off everyone else because you didn’t bring enough grub to sustain you.

My advice is to calculate how many calories you generally eat in a normal day and then calculate how many calories you’ll be burning on average per day. Pack enough food so that you’re don’t experience a calorie deficit or else you will lose weight (hey unless that’s what you’re after!).

Of course going back to my favourite word lightweight, ensure the food you’re packing is not overly heavy. Carrying cans of beans is a no-no!

Carb up

You can get a decent dehydrator for under $100 at Walmart and you can dehydrate just about anything. I often make meals ahead of time and dehydrate them for my backpacking trips. Additionally, dehydrating grains such as rice and pasta is a great way to refuel on carbs without taking up loads of space and weight in your pack (bonus: this cuts down on cook time).

Supplements and powders are also a great way to go to add in extra calories and nutrients. I always pack a greens powder and protein powder (both removed from original packaging) and have a scoop of each per day.

Misconception #4: It Will Be Easy

Backpacking is not a walk in the park. Sure sometimes the terrain is nice and flat but this activity specifically takes a certain type of physical ability that many people underestimate.

Physical Ability

If you work out at the gym and feel as though you’re in shape that’s definitely a bonus, however, it’s important to also have your endurance in check. I’m a huge advocate of weightlifting but squatting 150 lbs at the gym versus walking 25 km in a day with a 30 lb backpack at altitude are two very different things.

My advice is to incorporate endurance training in your workout routine. Get out on some trail runs, practice doing physical activity with weight on your back, and definitely acclimate before trying to take on a lot of mileage.

Mentally Tough

As I mentioned earlier, backpacking is not a walk in the park! There’s going to be days where it challenges you and you may question why you wanted to do it in the first place. Getting up day after day to walk all day long in the wilderness is certainly not for everyone and definitely takes mental strength! Give yourself some credit and keep pushing through because the journey will be so rewarding.

Backpacking Misconception #5: You Have to be on a Tight Schedule

Slow Down

Depending on your route and if you have designated campsites each evening, just remember that the whole point of backpacking is to reconnect with nature and yourself. Allow yourself time to enjoy the wilderness, have breaks, and take in your surroundings. Chances are you may hike that same trail again so enjoy the scenery!

Have Fun

You wouldn’t try backpacking if it wasn’t supposed to be fun right? So have fun! If it’s hot, jump in that glacial lake! Give yourself extra space to pack a flask of whiskey and some cards to play at camp each night. It’s easy to feel like you need to put your head down and ‘get it done’ but let’s not forget it’s the simple living that makes backpacking so awesome!

What are some questions you have about backpacking? Comment below!

Happy Trails!

You’d Never Guess Where This Gigantic Fjord Is…

There are 2130 fjords worldwide, how ever there are only 38 that are greater than 100 kilometres long. The Fjord-du-Saguenay measures 103 kilometres in length, making it one of the largest in the world.



A fjord is essentially a long narrow inlet with steep cliffs on either side. They’re created by glaciers, and are generally found closer to the poles. Many arctic and antarctic coastal countries such as Alaska, Norway, Greenland, and New Zealand, have hundreds and thousands of fjords along their shores. Northern Canada also has many gigantic fjords, what’s unique about this fjord in Quebec is how south in latitude it is. At 48 degrees North, the Saguenay fjord is one of the most southerly fjords in the northern hemisphere.


The trail systems surrounding both sides of the fjord are world-class. There are multiple accessible summits of nearby mountains, like the one pictured here, near the top of Montagne Blanche with 550 metres of elevation gain.

The park also offers some long distance hiking trails range from 27 kilometres in length to 41 kilometres. The trails are outfitted with primitive huts along the way, making the hike a little bit more enjoyable by eliminating the need lug around a tent.

There are also tons of backcountry camping spots located around various trails in the park. One camp is located just metres from a small sand beach, right along the water.


The highlight for me was being able to enjoy the beach and the smell of ocean spray after a long run along the top of the mountains adjacent to the ocean. The proximity of the trails to the water made running in the summer heat, a little more bearable and even refreshing.

The landscape was also very unique to the area, it reminded me of Vancouver Island… with lush greens, cascading waterfalls and a wide variety of plant life.


With many of the world’s most beautiful geographic attractions, there are often large crowds near by. Fortunately how ever, Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay was extremely quiet, and it was very easy to find trails and views where you could enjoy some solitude among nature.

Luckily, Canada has countless gems that haven’t yet been spoiled by tourism, and commercialism. This park certainly earns its’ spot among a long list of beautiful outdoor destinations in this incredible country.

Pictures by Life Outside Studio


Don’t Go Into the Backcountry Without These 5 Apps

There’s something about powering off our smartphones and unplugging from our online realities to get lost in pure wilderness. The solitude that comes from disconnecting from the hustle and bustle of our ‘everyday’ and getting back to primitive living is something us outdoor enthusiasts are constantly seeking. Die-hard outdoorsmen will argue that heading back to the basics means ditching the smartphones,  however, the mentality is shifting. Wilderness apps are increasingly making it possible for individuals to reach new heights and explore further in the outdoors, cautiously, while remaining safe and informed.

These wifi-free apps are useful for every adventurer looking to get off the grid and explore new ground:

1. Peak Finder

 Cost: $4.99


Peak Finder is the solution to all of your mountain questions and is an absolute game-changer for your next outing in the mountains. How many times have you seen a gnarly peak and have wondered what its’ name is, or how high it stands? If the peak is climbable? Not only does Peak Finder know over 350 000 peaks, it also knows the elevation of the peaks and provides 360 degree panoramic views of the peaks from your current location,  all while requiring zero wifi or data usage. The app will show you the names of all of the surrounding peaks and will actually let you click on the name of a peak to reveal additional information about it. These are only a few of the app’s functions.

2. Cairn

Cost: Free

*Photo from

Cairn is the perfect app for those who enjoy getting lost in the wilderness and want to give family and friends peace of mind while off the grid. Cairn allows individuals to stay connected by pinpointing areas on their map with cell coverage. The app will also send check-in updates to emergency contacts and alert them if you’re overdue.

3. AllTrails

Cost: Free

IMG_1704 (1)
*Photo from

AllTrails is the most useful app for discovering new trails to explore in any area. With over 50 000 trail maps, the app categorizes trails by difficulty, length, popularity, proximity, and several others. The app also has features that tell you if it’s suitable for dogs, kids, and wheelchair. AllTrails is not just for hiking trails either, the app works perfectly for snowshoeing, horseback riding trails, x-country skiing trails, paddling activities, etc. This app is a MUST download for your next wilderness adventure!

4. Sky Guide

Cost: $2.99

*photo from

Sky Guide brings the Milky Way galaxy right to your fingertips.  Whether you’re backcountry camping, planning an astro shoot, or watching the night sky from your dock, the app makes stargazing in any location easier than ever. Literally hold your smartphone overhead, point it towards the sky, and the app will show you the night sky from your viewing direction.  The app reveals what is invisible to the naked eye, e.g. black holes, and allows you to identify constellations, planets, and tons more. This is an amazing app for finding out where the moon will be at a certain time, or knowing when the sun will rise and set (great for photography).

5. iNaturalist

Cost: Free

*photo from

iNaturalist connects you to over 750 000 scientists and naturalists who are passionate about nature. The app allows you to take a photo of any plant or animal that you encounter in the wilderness (or anywhere for that matter) and share it with the community who will identify it for you. Not only will you learn more about your observation, you will be contributing to science by collecting quality data for the purposes of protecting nature and wildlife.


The “Grand Canyon” You’ve Never Heard of…

Fish River Canyon is located in the south of Namibia, near the boarder of South Africa. Measuring 27km wide, 160km long, and 550m deep, it’s Africa’s largest, and arguably most scenic canyon. It’s remote location has kept it safe from being over commercialized, in fact, it makes the Grand Canyon in the USA feel a little like Disney Land.

Fish River Canyon is located in the south of Namibia, near the boarder of South Africa. Measuring 27km wide, 160km long, and 550m deep, it’s Africa’s largest, and arguably most scenic canyon. It’s remote location has kept it safe from being over commercialized, in fact, it makes the Grand Canyon in the USA feel a little like Disney Land.

The Canyon has an official 4-5 day hiking trail that leads down to the ravine. Starting at Hobas campground, hiking 85km to Ai-Ais hot spring resort. The trail has no amenities, meaning you are 100 percent self reliant.

Google Earth Satellite Image.

Back in January when I was covering the Trans Namibia expedition, Ray Zahab and Stefano Gregoretti traversed the canyon from the east viewpoint, to the Fish River Lodge, on the west ledge of the canyon. It’s only 10km away as a bird flies, but it took them more than 14 hours, crossing over 40km on foot. Negotiating the rough terrain and route finding was the most challenging part. They spent most of the day following zebra tracks, hoping the tracks would lead out of the canyon.

Fish River Lodge, Namibia, Africa.

The Fish River Lodge sits right on the edge of the canyon, with a spectacular view. It’s the only infrastructure around the entire canyon. There’s a private airstrip where many of it’s guests fly into. After a long trip, and many nights spent in a tent, the lodge is a very welcomed luxury.

It’s without a doubt, one of the most wild places I’ve ever seen. It was special visiting a place as beautiful as this, seeing that it had been spared by tourism and commercialism. There a far too few natural wonders like this on earth, that haven’t been exploited by tourism.