Take in majestic views while heli-hiking in British Columbia. // © 2016 Michelle Juergen
Feature image (above): Agents can book new heli expeditions for the summer. // © 2016 Ian Houghton
Rain started to fall as we began descending the steep hillside to the valley below, where the helicopter would pick us up to bring us back to civilization. The azure sky went gray as dark clouds raced in and loomed overhead, and a mist began rolling in over the mountains. We moved quickly, not wanting to get caught in a lightning storm while standing in the middle of an alpine field some 7,000 feet high in a remote area of Revelstoke, British Columbia.
A woman in our group suddenly began tumbling down the grassy slope at a quick clip. Our guide dove to save her, grabbing her in a bear hug and slowing her fall. In that moment, our group seemed to share a collective thought: This is not your average hike.
This was a heli-hiking experience with Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing, a Revelstoke-based adventure company that has exclusive access to half-a-million acres of terrain in the Selkirk and Monashee Mountains. Last year, the company expanded its services to include summertime helicopter expeditions, offering packages ranging from sightseeing flights and alpine picnics to mountaineering and heli mountain biking.
“After a successful first summer of heli operations in 2015, we’re incredibly excited to be back at it again for 2016,” said Eriks Suchovs, general manager and lead guide for Selkirk. “Getting up into the mountains during the warmer months to enjoy terrain we’ve explored for decades in the winter is an amazing opportunity that we love being able to share with our guests.”
After a helicopter safety briefing, our pilot took flight, and our group gazed in silent awe at the vast wilderness views — jagged mountaintops, turquoise alpine lakes and statuesque pines set against yellow-red hillsides. We were dropped off on a rocky, chalk-colored clifftop, ready to forge our own route through the terrain. Thankfully, we had the help of Jeff Honig, lead guide and operations manager for Selkirk.
We trekked along ridges dotted with nary but low brush; over slate rocks that clinked and sometimes broke like china plates under our feet; and across the slippery remnants of a glacier.
All the typical superlatives — breathtaking, magnificent, unparalleled — seem to fall short of describing just how unique this excursion is. Like astronauts walking on an alien terrain, we felt like we were discovering something still unknown — an untouchable, wild land that can never be tamed, only gazed upon in wonder and reverence.