Previewing The Cariboos Lodge 2018 Summer Adventure Program

No matter the weather, excitement awaits in the mountains

In the late ’70s, the Cariboos Lodge was the first location that adventure tourism group

Canadian Mountain Holidays used for summer lodging. This destination ceased operations in 2008—until now. We previewed the 2018 Cariboos Lodge Summer Adventure program, a follow up of sorts to last year’s Canadian Mountain Holidays’ Summer Adventure at their Bugaboos lodge. The return is exciting; the location boasts huge glaciers and canyons beneath breathtaking ridge-lines. While the weather wasn’t entirely conducive to Canadian Mountain Holidays’ regular program, the team’s improvisation and the stunning location didn’t fail us.

Getting to the Cariboos is an experience itself. From Calgary, the six-hour journey traverses through Banff then onto the Icefields Parkway, past the Athabasca glacier and Mount Robson. Stunning vistas all the way to the helipad. There, the helicopter whisks visitors up the valley to the Cariboos lodge, where a warm fireplace awaits. The rain didn’t stop us from flying in, but it could impede on next couple days. At dinner, lead guide and manager John Mellis explained that he’d do his best and would make sure we had a memorable time regardless of the weather.

The morning brought more rain and heavy fog in the valley. We loaded up in the helicopter, flew up the valley and back, only to the return to the lodge. Mellis helped us off the heli and explained that he could have had us dropped off somewhere pretty awesome, but we might be stuck there all day—if we waited for the fog to lift, we would get to go somewhere spectacular. Mellis, who has been at the Cariboos for 24 years, has ample wisdom regarding when and where to go.

We embarked on an impromptu hike around the immediate surroundings. Led by mountain guide Tom Gruber, we saw the massive vats where the helicopters’ jet fuel is stored, along with the lodge’s plumbing system. This might seem a bit odd, but with Gruber’s charisma and knowledge the “industrial tour” as he called it, was a complete success, captivating the group.

Back at the lodge, we were treated to hot soup, sandwiches and fresh baked cookies. Mellis announced we were heading back to the helicopter. Our pilot Jens Gessner bobbed and weaved through the parting clouds and rainbows, landing us on a ledge dubbed the Ninth Hole, overlooking the North Canoe glacier. Undeniably spectacular, it was a view that is entirely unforgettable. We returned to the lodge swam in the pond, soaked in the hot tub, and a lucky few had massages.

Day two had the same late start as day one. The fog was back in again so our flight was postponed until after lunch. As it turns out, this was another decision with rewards. We made it through the fading fog to land next to the South Canoe glacier. After a hike, we were picked up by the helicopter only to be dropped off on the most out of place location, Zillmer Canyon.

Affectionately nicknamed “The Tropics of the Cariboos,” Zillmer Canyon features waterfalls flowing from the Zillmer glacier. It looks more like Moab than interior British Columbia, with burnt brown and orange marbled rock. Our group along with guide Erika Flavelle’s group did what they call the “adventure hike”—scrambling up the slick hard rock. Since we didn’t have much time, Flavelle and Mellis broke trail along the canyon’s cliff, taking us to a scenic flat spot with nearly perfectly spherical views of glaciers.

From there we flew nearly out of the valley to some of the ridgelines surrounding the valley. Here we were able to see some of the Premier peaks and Mount Robson revealed itself from parting clouds as the sun came out. We followed Mellis up to the top of the ridge, some two thousand meters high. We all prepared for the helicopter and flew off the ridge for the last time.

Images by Toby Harriman