One Month in Geologic Time – Part Three: Heli-hiking in the Bugaboos

The Bugaboos

Technically the Bugaboos are only a small part of the Purcell Mountains (see previous post).  These granite intrusions into an otherwise sedimentary range are so striking, however, thrusting through massive glaciers, the towers standing in magnificent isolation, that they fully merit their own designation.  World famous among rock climbers, the area has also become a hub for heli-skiing, thanks to Canadian Mountain Holidays and their Bugaboo Lodge in the valley.  Today, just about any area reachable by helicopter from the lodge borrows the name Bugaboos.

One word, uttered repeatedly by everyone in my group, sums up the Bugaboos: Wow!  It was the first thing we said on exiting the helicopter, and our vocabulary didn’t improve as the day progressed.  Language just can’t cope with the scenery.

Inhabiting the landscape

The sheer scale of these mountains is overwhelming.

Immersed in geologic time

I don’t remember what we did on any given day.  I know we hiked up moraines, walked on ridges and through meadows, played in the snow, found hidden lakes and waterfalls, marvelled at wildflowers.  A benevolent Nature ensured that mountain storms never troubled the blue skies.  From on high we felt our eyes drawn to endless rows of distant peaks even as beauty closer at hand vied for our attention.

A view that stretches forever

The grace and vibrancy of alpine trees belies their desperate struggle for existence in this harsh land.

Trees and rock

Not all terrain is so rugged.  Meadows of wildflowers and gentle streams welcome the hiker, although the broad expanse of summits always looms in the distance.

Alpine meadow

I love wildflowers.  My computer contains hundreds of flower photos, and still I take more because each bloom I encounter seems incredibly fresh and new.  Some, like the paintbrush, are simply too colourful to pass by.  Others, like the monkey flower, are rare in the Rockies, where I usually hike, although fairly common in the Purcells and other Columbia mountains.

Monkey flower



Talc Lake

We tarried by myriad lakes and lunched in high places.

Lunch with a view

Got silly in the snow and even tried some rock climbing.

Not as hard as it looks

Slip sliding away

At day’s end, no matter where we were, the helicopter could aways find a place nearby to land.

Our chariot

Reluctantly I said goodbye to these magnificent mountains.  I had spent six days heli-hiking in the Purcells; it was time to move on to my next adventure.

Bugaboos in afternoon light

One Month in Geologic Time – Part Two: Heli-hiking in the Purcells

Heli-hiking?  Me?  The woman who boasted for decades that she would never use mechanical assistance to reach a mountain top?  I guess old age teaches humility.  Not only did I go heli-hiking for six days, I loved it.

Not surprisingly, heli-hiking tends to the luxury side of wilderness experiences.  It’s certainly not as off-the-charts expensive as heli-skiing, but Canadian Mountain Holidays uses the same lodges and provides the same high standards in selecting the guides, chefs and other staff.

View from the lodge

Bobbie Burns Lodge

In this part of British Columbia the undergrowth in the forest is pretty thick and there are few trails, but if you put your mind to it you can reach the hilltops after a few hours of slogging.  I found that I didn’t object at all to being deposited above the tree line shortly after 0900 each morning by our handy helicopter.

One of many helicopter landing sites.

Using a helicopter doesn’t mean that you don’t do strenuous hiking: you just start higher.

We hiked up for the view

So many wildflowers compete for growing room in the meadows that one must stick to the narrow paths to avoid crushing them.

Alpine meadow in full summer array

Other days we climbed higher beside massive glaciers.

Guide Jody

Lunch by a lake

Lunch with a view

Lunch was always in a scenic spot.  There were too many lakes, too many mountains, too many glaciers to remember the names.  I walked, gazed in awe, overwhelmed by the beauty of this area.

Mountain, lake and reflections

Out of the rocks, a lone flower triumphs and blooms.

Alpine Chinese Lantern

In other places the flowers run rampant.

River Beauty and Pearly Everlasting

Sometimes you just want to sit and enjoy.

Jody surrounded

I didn’t do all of the activities that were offered; a Via Ferrata (metal rungs driven into vertical rock to allow safe climbing) seemed too strenuous to be enjoyable.  But I did finish my three days at Bobbie Burns with a ride on their zip lines.

I ride the zip line

Next morning I would hike toward the second lodge of my week: Bugaboo.