New photos of Jasper online

I have uploaded some images of Jasper and Mount Robson to a new Photoshelter account. Check out the Jasper National Park and Mt. Robson galleries on the new site.

Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park

Mt. Robson from Hargreaves Shelter

Nordic skates

These skates are the cat’s meow for going out onto natural ice. They consists of a skate blade with a skate-ski binding. Click in your skate-ski or classic ski boots and off you go. These are bar-none the most comfortable skates I have ever used, because the boots are so comfy, and provide lots of support. The blades are curved up at the front so they handle bumpy ice and snow better than regular speedskates. You can supposedly skate through several inches of snow.

For added speed and stability, add some nordic skate poles. And best of all, you can put on the boots in the comfort of your home, and just clip on the blades once you get to the ice. If you are skating in Holland, they are also great for klûnen. Once you have tried a pair of these, you’ll never go back to regular speedskates again. There is an importer in Vermont,, who sells all the equipment, or if you are in the Canadian Rockies, Wild Mountain in Jasper sells them as well!

Can I recycle paper and plastic packaging?

Recycle messageHow often have you wondered if you can recycle one of those paper packages with a plastic “window” and some other bits of plastic in it? The plastic usually doesn’t have a recycling symbol. I recently found this excellent recycling messaging on a package for an iPod cover made by Griffin. Simple, clear, and direct. If only all recycling messages on packaging were this clear!









The quest for adventure

“The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts” – Yvon Chouinard.

Scott Gilbertson describes very eloquently why most people no longer experience real adventures when they travel. We plan everything, and we know what we are getting into because we’ve researched all details of our trip on Tripadvisor and guidebooks, or have asked a travel agent to arrange all details of our trips. Yet we call our trips to faraway places an “adventure”.

180 Degrees South is a great movie that follows Jeff Johnson on a trip to Patagonia. Along the way, lots goes wrong, but it doesn’t matter; the trip is a a great adventure. Along the way we are introduced to Chouinard (founder of Patagonia) and Doug Tompkins (co-founder of the Northface), and the ways they use their fortunes to save the environment.

My greatest adventures have been when things went wrong, like getting stuck in a river in Mongolia, running out of gas in the Gobi desert, or walking through the rainforest of New Guinea without water for 30 hours, or even getting stuck in snow storms in the far northwest of BC. None were planned, but they were all epic adventures in places that are not listed in the guidebooks or on Tripadvisor.

As Mark Twain said: “… throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Oh, and go places where there is no cell phone coverage or Internet, and which are not in the guidebook.

Sacred Headwaters in northern BC

Sacred Headwaters in northern BC

Sacred Headwaters in northern BC

Check out the slideshow of the Sacred Headwaters in northern BC.

In northern British Columbia, three of the province’s greatest salmon-bearing rivers are formed in the subalpine basin known as the Sacred Headwaters. The land has one of the largest intact predator-prey systems in North America, earning it the nickname, “Serengeti of the North,” and is the traditional territory of the Tahltan First Nation.

The Headwaters is at the centre of a dispute between the Tahltan, resource industries, government and environmental groups. Competing interests concerning land use, mining and hunting have created divides and put the future health of the Sacred Headwaters at risk.

Stunning photos of an amazing landscape. They are worthy of support through The Big Wild’s Big Wild Bucks campaign.

Banff Film Festival World Tour trailer

The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour trailer for 2010/11 has been posted. As usual, it is action-packed and inspiring. The eagle at 0:12 was shot in Mongolia’s Bayan Olgii region in a segment on Mongolia’s eagle hunters as part of a film on mountain peoples. Jasper National Park’s Maligne Lake made it into the clip as well, at 2:05.

Canada ranked #1 country brand in the world

In 2006, Canada languished at 12th place in Future Brand’s country brand rankings. But four years later, it has grabbed the coveted #1 Country Brand from the US. The rise to the top spot was aided in part by the legacy from the Vancouver Winter Olympics, and the strong Keep. Exploring brand. Congratulations CTC! It’s an honour to have been part of their Brand team.

How accurate is a Garmin GPS?

I spend a lot of time out on the trails in Jasper National Park with a GPS these days, so I want to know how accurate my unit is. My Garmin Vista HCx displays an accuracy number (EPE, or Estimated Position Error), typically ranging from +-3m to +-10m. One would think that this means that I am within 4-10m of my true location. However, this is not the case. An EPE of 4m actually means that there is a 50% chance that you are within 4m, but also a 50% chance that you are further off! However, there is a 95% chance that you are within 10m, and a 98.9% chance that you are within 10.2m. See the bottom of this article on GPS accuracy for more information.

Worse, one cannot easily compare the EPE among different GPSs, even units made by Garmin. This is because the EPE is a number that Garmin arrives at through a proprietary formula. Different manufacturers arrive at their EPE differently, and even among models made by the same company, the calculations may vary. So EPE is merely a qualitative measure of accuracy.

Interestingly, older Garmin units, like the 12 series, used to display DOP (Dilution of Position). This measurement is calculated according to a standard formula, so it can be used to compare accuracy of a location among different units. Yet it was dropped from more recent models, presumably because it is just a number (a DOP of 3 is better than a 4), so it doesn’t mean much to the average user.

Once you have recorded a trail, there is no way to compare its relative accuracy to other GPS recordings of the same trail because none of the accuracy information is stored with the waypoint or track data. For more details on all this, read this forum thread on GPS accuracy.

What does this mean for the average user?

1. After you turn on your GPS, allow it to record its position in one spot for a while before taking a waypoint. Accuracy tends to increase once a GPS has been on for a few minutes.

2. Keep an eye on the accuracy numbers. If they go up to for example 15m, then your track may be off by as much as 50 m. Normally this is not a big deal, but it could mean that a trail running close to a creek may appear to be on the other side of the creek. Keep a close eye on the map, and know how to read it. I always carry paper maps as backup.

3. If you use your GPS to record trails, get one of the more advanced units, like the GPSMAP 62s. They have more sensitive antennas, which work well even within buildings or under tree cover. My Vista HCx also performs well in the forest.

But most importantly, get out there, and have fun!

Movie shot with new Canon 8-15mm fisheye

Canon recently commissioned a short movie, shot exclusively with its new 8-15mm Fisheye. The results are pretty amazing. So is the technique to create the movie – using a remote-controlled helicopter. Very cool.

Canon Fisheye movie

Canon Fisheye movie

The making of With

The making of "With"

Trekking in Bhutan featured by Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet just released a list of Top 10 sustainable experiences in the world on its website. Fourth on the list is hiking in Bhutan. As main resource it lists our Mild and Mad Day hikes in Thimphu and my Trekking in Bhutan website.  Visitation to the site doubled instantly. Very cool.