Part 1 Selkirk Mountain experience – Alpine inspiration
I’ve become obsessed with the thousand-plus photos I took while I was at Durrand Glacier, a guest of Ruedi and Nicoline Beglinger and family of Selkirk Mountain Experience. Their place was simply stunning. Okay, I’ve whittled the selection down to about 165 or so. Something about the expanse up there, being up so high. Our hikes took us from from 1900 metres to about 2500 metres. The quality of the light and lightness of the air up there were a constant seduction that I succumbed to.
When you hike on uneven trails, your head is often down to better see the path in front of you; and since I often wear a brim, I take frequent stops – not only to rest – I like to look around me, to really appreciate the space.
So, I stop. I gulp water and air greedily. I look around. I see a mountain top reflected in a tarn below me and reach for the camera. To make sure I get the shot I want, I shoot the image several times.
Moving on, head down, trudging up, up, up. I need a break. So I stop. I gulp water and air greedily. I look around. I see a spectacular field of wildflowers – red, purple, white, yellow – framed by huge jagged mountain peaks. To make sure I get the shot I want, I shoot the image several times.
Moving on, head down, trudging up, up, up. I need a break. So I stop. I gulp water and air greedily. I look around. I see a…
That’s why the thousand-plus shots. Light and angle are everything.
Bit of background.
I’d just spent four days hiking among some of the most picturesque high-altitude vistas on the planet. Fresh wonders awaited me and my fellow hikers around every bend and over every peak in the alpine wilderness. On some mountain tops we were so close to big sky I felt that I was more part of the air than the earth.
Our base was the Durrand Glacier Chalet, on the edge of the Durrand Glacier system, just below the tree line and a stunning 15-minutes by helicopter from Revelstoke, B.C. No one gets there unless they’re with Selkirk Mountain Experience; or they walk through harsh mountain terrain for three days. You won’t encounter many other hikers. The helicopter flight gives you the starting point to the high-altitude hiking.
The rest is all self powered. Sturdy legs, boots and hiking poles are de rigeur. Knowledgeable guides lead the adventure allowing guests to safely explore the beauty at the outer reaches of the wilderness.This is Ruedi and Nicoline Beglinger’s backyard – one writer called it ‘Ruedi’s National Park’. It covers roughly 90 square kilometres of rugged alpine terrain. Selkirk Mountain Experience is the Beglinger family’s commercial entity.
The family’s name is synonymous with the Selkirk alpine experience – winter and summer. Originally from Switzerland where he became an accredited mountain guide, Ruedi came to Canada as a young man and fell in love with the Selkirks. In 1985 after securing an approximately 80-square-kilometre leasehold, Ruedi enlisted friends to help him build an environmentally green structure on top of a treed outcrop at 1,946 metres elevation.
There he met and fell in love with a client, Nicoline. They raised their two girls at the chalet, letting them amble among the hills with the mountain goats. Now the young women, themselves as agile as the goats, act as hiking guides while their father guides advanced mountaineers.
Over the years Ruedi and Nicoline have expanded the dormitory-style backcountry hut into a proper Swiss chalet with private rooms, hot showers and a chef who turns out gourmet meals. The rustic elegance of the Durrand Glacier Chalet offers cozy alpine comfort – what the Swiss call ‘Gemutlichkeit’ – on a remote rocky peak.
Changing glaciers transforming landscapes
The chalet sits near the mouth of the Durrand Glacier, one of 14 glaciers comprising a 42-kilometre system.
Every year the glaciers recede more, especially those facing south and west – they can lose up to four metres of thickness over a summer. In 1900 the Durrand Glacier was practically at the doorstep of the building site of Durrand Glacier Chalet; a century later, it is creeping back up the mountain, now at about 2,050 metres. This is disheartening in the context of global warming, an example of how climate change is affecting the natural world. Nonetheless, the glaciers are impressive, amazing flowing seas of ice, moving mountain sides and leaving rocky rubble, mountain lakes and wildflowers in their wake.
All part of this wondrous landscape that changes with elevation, and depends on which side of the mountain you are on. We skipped over rocks to cross streams and followed paths marked with painted rocks and cairns. Using pickaxes and rakes, the Beglinger family has constructed a network of about 80 kilometres of hiking trails over approximately 90 kilometres.
And around every bend, over every peak new wonders awaited. From rock and ice to rushing streams and waterfalls, lakes and meadows full of flowers. This is a hiker’s nirvana.
Find Durrand Glacier Chalet at Selkirk Mountain Experience: www.selkirkexperience.com