Part 2 Selkirk Mountain experience – Hiking nirvana
A bit about Ruedi
“It’s all about the guiding,” Ruedi Beglinger told me as we had dinner at his home, the Durrand Glacier Chalet. “If it wasn’t for the guiding, I wouldn’t be here.” Here is 1,946 metres tucked deep in the Selkirk Mountain range near Revelstoke B.C.
And way beyond his alpine backyard, Ruedi is a legend for his backcountry ski touring and mountaineering history and skill. Several profiles have been written about him in magazines, like Outside, National Geographic and Ski Canada; and a film called Life Ascending made of his life is available on iTunes.
I find I’m dining with a understated and intense man who is made of the same rock, rushing steam, wildflower and big air of the place. I got the feeling he wasn’t interested in extraneous stuff. He cut to the chase asking me about the publication I was writing for, and the demographics and reading habits of Calgary Herald readers. And when we hit on photography, he was keenly interested and showed me a couple of useful settings on my Nikon. I wanted to take a photo of Ruedi and his family, but it just didn’t work out. So among my thousand (round it off) photos, I do not have one of Ruedi or Nicoline. Although I do have several of Charlotte, who acted as our guide for a couple of days.
Ruedi doesn’t normally guide hikers anymore. He guides his mountaineering and alpine rock clients, climbing glaciers, granite ridges and steep alpine peaks in the Mt. Moloch area based out of Ruedi’s 2,205-metre-high Mt. Moloch Chalet, a glacier away from Durrand Glacier Chalet. I never did get to see it. I’m sure it’s fabulous.
It’s all about the hiking
During my stay at Durrand Glacier Chalet we formed two groups for our daily guided hikes: one was faster and went farther; the other enjoyed a more leisurely pace. The repeaters hiked on their own. I joined the faster group and found I could keep up, even though I frequently stopped to catch my breath, marvel at the scenery and admire exquisite wildflowers.
We walked all day – through breathtaking landscapes, stopping for lunches and snacks, photo opportunities and to drink in the expanse that encompassed us. Some of the trails were more extreme than others. Like the 18-kilometre La Forme-Woolsey Pass loop where at one point, we used ropes to help up and over exposed cliffs. Challenging, exhilarating experience.
And I’ve never felt as safe hiking in such remote wilderness. I loved having a guide. And too, Ruedi’s trails are, of course, famed for their optimal safety and aesthetic considerations. And they avoid bear habitat that tends to be in lower wooded areas.Wildlife isn’t in great abundance at this elevation so the normal hiking concerns, like encountering bears and cougars, aren’t likely to happen. Other than us humans, the area is home to several families of mountain goats and ubiquitous marmots whose whistles often accompanied us on our hikes. Ravens, eagles and hawks are elusive inhabitants of the skies.
Welcome to solitude. It’s just you and rocks of all sizes and descriptions, scented spruce trees, rushing streams, waterfalls, cold lakes and alpine meadows strewn with dozens of varieties of multi-coloured wildflowers.
And so much playground to play in.
I swam in mountain lakes every day. At Tumbledown Lake, I dove in, yelped repeatedly and swam back to shore through chilly water as quickly as I could. At the warmer, shallower Marmot Lake, I spent several languid, liquid moments at the end of each hiking day in the water floating and swimming, immersed in emerald reflection of the landscape around me. I didn’t leap from the four-metre cliff into the icy-cold Mirror Lake, as did three youth in our group, including the reluctant Charlotte.
We also slid down snowy slopes on our bottoms – the ultimate “weeeeee-factor” experience.
We sidestepped around timid ptarmigans and thrilled at seeing families of curious mountain goats following us closely before becoming bored and bounding away. As I watched the goats scamper effortlessly up the rocky cliffs, I wanted to channel them. I climbed challenging ascents slowly, one foot ahead of the other, taking in huge gulps of mountain air. Charlotte’s beaming smile was the constant beacon that coaxed me up to peaks as high as 2,500 metres above sea level.
The rewards were huge – breathtaking panoramas of mountain tops as far as the eye could see, clouds skittering across the sky at eye level. And not another soul in sight.
Find Durrand Glacier Chalet at Selkirk Mountain Experience: www.selkirkexperience.com