Banff Mountain Festival

Finally, after all these years of watching the Banff Mountain Film Festival Road Show, I have a chance to go to the festival itself. It promises to be an amazing four days. I had to miss the first evening as I had to give a slideshow on Mongolia here, but there are some great presentations in the coming days.

New marine conservation area for Lake Superior

The government will announce a new Marine Conservation Area for Lake Superior tomorrow, creating the world’s largest marine conservation area. Great news for Canada’s National Parks – and Canada’s Tourism Brand.

Best 25 new guided trips

It is time for the annual lists again. National Geographic Adventure Magazine rated what it thinks are the top 25 new trips in the world. This time, there are two Canadian trips. Searching for polar bears in the Torngat Mountains with Wildland Tours, and paddling the Great Bear Rainforest with Legendary Expeditions from Canmore. The latter got a 6-page spread and front-page coverage. Not bad to get 2 out of 25 trips.

Among their list of top 55 tour operators in the world there are also three Canadian companies. There may be more in their full online list of 160. They are mainly outbound, but do operate some great Canadian trips too. Obviously, the media and clients are pretty happy with Canada.

Kayaking around South Georgia

People sometimes comment on the exotic places I have visited, or the out-of-the-way trips I have made. They may appear wild to many, but as far as I am concerned they’re strolls around the block compared to the solo sea kayaking expeditions my friend Hayley Shephard comes up with. She was the first woman to solo kayak around Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlottes), and is currently planning the first ever solo circumnavigation of South Georgia in a sea kayak.

Capt. James Cook described South Georgia as “a land doomed to perpetual fridgidness, whose savage aspects I have not words to describe.” That alone is reason enough for me to immediately book a flight there!

Hayley takes some amazing pictures as well.

BC Forest Service information

My friend and fellow explorer Jason found some great links to information on BC Forest service campsites.

Green travel

Today is Blog action day – bloggers are asked to post something about the environment. For tourism in Canada that’s not too hard. I just had to put together a media itinerary around eco lodges in Canada, and found some great environmentally friendly lodges in Alberta/BC. ONe of my favourites is Purcell Mountain Lodge. It is true that one has to fly in by chopper, but once there, there are endless alpine meadows to hike in.

Shadow Lake lodge in Banff NP is even better, you hike or snowshoe in, and stay in simple, historic cabins.  Lake O’Hara lodge ain’t bad either.

Of course, if you really want to rough it eco-style,  then glamping in Clayquot Resort is the ticket.

Sometimes getting there is half the fun

Cheamakus Canyon from The Whistler Mountaineer’s observation car.On my way back from Whistler this weekend, I decided to take the train. It’s a bit more expensive than the bus, and a bit slower, but it provides a totally different perspective from the road. The train first travels through the spectacular Cheamakus canyon, before passing by the Brackendale eagle reserve en route to the shores of Howe Sound. The journey ends in North Vancouver. All along the way, the views are much better than from the road.

If you want to sit all the way, then the Glacier dome car with worth the extra money, since it has gorgeous large windows. But for a real experience, get the cheaper seat, dress warmly, and spend all your time in the open-sided heritage car. Lean out the side, walk from one side to the other, and touch the trees as you roll by.

The train slows to a crawl at several places along the way, which makes for great photos.

Highly recommended.

Adventure Travel World Summit

I just returned from the 3rd Adventure Travel World Summit in Whistler, organized by the Adventure Travel Trade Association. A great conference, attended by some amazing individuals from the adventure travel industry. Keynote speeches by the founder of Earthwatch, the president of Virgin America (keep an eye on them – they promise to bring some amazing service to the north American skies!) were among the highlights.

Latin American countries had a strong showing. Especially Ecuador and Brazil put on great shows. I will have to add these to my (long) list of places to go.

Trekking in the Pyrenees

I spent most of the month of September in Europe, hence my lack of postings. Most of the trip was spent with family, but we did sneak in a three-day trek in the French Pyrenees.

Map of trekWe did a typical European mountain trek – walking from hut to hut, along well-marked trails. The huts are not little shacks, but rather well-appointed hostels with most amenitied. The stays at each hut included four-course meals. Slightly different from your average Canadian trip.

Mt. Vignemale - north faceWe hiked a part of the GR10 in the Parc National des Pyrénées – from Pont d’Espagne to Gavarnie. While the park is still quite spectacular, with some amazing moutain walls, it was interesting to observe the differences with our Canadian park system. Most surprisingly, there are no entrance fees. It saves one money of course, but as a result, the average visitor doesn’t even know there is a national park. Apparently, general awareness of the park is very low. Interestingly also was that sheep and cows continued to graze throughout the park, even in the core zones. As a result most grassy slopes looked heavily grazed if not over grazed. Of course, people have been grazing their cattle here for thousands of years, but one’d expect a few core areas to be cattle-free.

Valley west of GavarnieOn the other hand, the hut system worked well. It keeps most people on the main trails, and allows people who don’t want to carry a heavy pack with tent and food to enjoy the back country. But of course they also attract additional hikers, and so put an additional strain in on the environment.

The dearth of huts in the Rockies puts many people off doing treks here, although there now are a few huts (both from the Alpine Club and high-end lodges). A few hut-based treks in Canada could certainly attract additional European visitors. One wouldn’t want to turn all the trails in the Rockies into hut-based treks, though!