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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.
A heli-hiking expedition with Revelstoke-based adventure company Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing promises incredible views. // © 2016 Michelle Juergen
Our adventure began with a helicopter safety briefing from our pilot and our guide from Selkirk. // © 2016 Michelle Juergen
From the helicopter, we spied skinny pines, craggy rocks and alpine lakes. // © 2016 Michelle Juergen
After we were dropped off by the helicopter, we hiked along a cliff and began forging our trail. // © 2016 Michelle Juergen
The Selkirk and Monashee mountains have an abundance of sedimentary and metamorphic rock. // © 2016 Michelle Juergen
The rocks are delicate and quite sharp, so trekking over them can be somewhat precarious. // © 2016 Michelle Juergen
We hiked carefully over the remnant of a glacier, then down a steep slope. // © 2016 Michelle Juergen
In hotter months, guests can dive into the glacier-fed alpine lakes. // © 2016 Michelle Juergen
Not a bad spot for a rest and some trail mix. // © 2016 Michelle Juergen
A storm rolled in as we made our way down a grassy slope, cutting our hike time a little short. // © 2016 Michelle Juergen
The helicopter swept us up right before the downpour would have made it impossible, and we made it back to safety (and hot cocoa). // © 2016 Michelle Juergen