a conversation with the earth guidebooks + guided hiking

Posts categorized “Hiking/Trekking Canadian Rockies”.

Canadian Rockies Guide Books

Vacation time is like cash. It’s easily misspent. But if you’re coming to hike in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, there’s a sure way to invest your precious time for the greatest possible return. Get the Canadian Rockies guide book “Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies, the Opinionated Hiking Guide.” It’s your guarantee that you’ll hike only the most scenically rewarding trails.

Our Canadian Rockies guide book is for hikers who don’t have forever. It rates 145 hikes “Premier,” “Outstanding,” “Worthwhile,” or “Don’t Do.” Essentially, it puts all these trails on trial, then provides you with insightful verdicts for each one. The authors’ opinionated descriptions illuminate the highlights of every trip, allowing you to quickly visualize the experience before you commit to it. As a result, it’s quick and easy for you to choose the right trail for your interests, ability and mood.

Guidebooks are not a commodity. Some are bad. A few are good. This one is great. The authors have devoted themselves to hiking the Canadian Rockies year after year after year. And every few years, they re-invented their already unique book, making it a more complete and efficient resource, rewriting and reformatting it to be more inspiring and beautiful, and filling it with the most current and accurate details. The all-new 7th edition of “Don’t Waste Your Time In The Canadian Rockies” is now ultralight gear. It’s the first hiking guidebook actually designed for adventure, not just the armchair.

For 25 years, hikers have relied on the discerning opinions and insightful facts provided by the Copeland’s Canadian Rockies guide book to make the most of their vacation time. You should, too.

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The all-new Ultralight Gear 7th edition of “Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies, the Opinionated Hiking Guide”

Hiking Guidebooks have always been hiking gear. They just haven’t fulfilled their mandate until now. Play video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dv3PyKzZ1rU

The Canadian Rockies

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The Canadian Rockies’ Supreme Crest Walk near Calgary: Pocaterra Ridge

IF this current blast of cold and snow in the Canadian Rockies is merely an early warning from the Weather Gods, IF blue skies, sunshine and moderate temperatures return, and IF you can arrange a day off with a couple friends and two vehicles, we urge you to hike Pocaterra Ridge (Trip 30, page 164, Where Locals Hike in the Canadian Rockies) within the next few weeks. Otherwise, give it high priority on your hikes-to-do-next-summer list. Because Pocaterra is the supreme crest walk in Kananaskis Country.

While re-hiking as many Kananaskis Country trails as possible (checking for flood damage), we hit Pocaterra on a perfect day. Midway along, we agreed this is one hike we’ll eagerly repeat every year. As for flood damage: none here. Sure, we noticed a few places where the effects of voluminous, swift water were evident, but the flood left no impact on Pocaterra Ridge that hikers need be aware of. Even the final, short, bushy thrash between the north end of the ridge and the highway is much the same as it’s long been: the route remains evident.

Why the need for two vehicles? Because the ideal way to hike Pocaterra Ridge is one way: south to north. Pre-arrange a shuttle, and the trip ends when the hiking ends. If you’re willing to hitchhike, you can do it with one vehicle. Bear in mind, hitching is much easier on weekends, when more people are hiking in K-Country and driving over Highwood Pass. Our preference is to hitch in the morning, so our vehicle is waiting for us at day’s end.

This time we felt lucky, came with only one vehicle, and didn’t even consider hitching in the morning. Midway along the ridge, we met two women hiking one-way, in the opposite direction. We chatted, recognized our mutual need, and offered to exchange keys. After dismounting the ridge, we delivered their car to the other trailhead and picked up ours. Challenge overcome. And the day’s perfection was burnished by an act of mutual trust between mountain folk.

Walk on!

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Bears Menace Hikers in the Canadian Rockies

grizzly bear

Bears are constantly menacing hikers in the Canadian Rockies. Not through direct encounter, which is rare, but through the towering, terrifying shadow they cast across hikers’ imaginations. As a result, countless hikers are so intimidated, they never probe the wilderness deeply, never stray from the most popular hiking trails.

We want you to fully appreciate the Canadian Rockies. That’s not possible if you limit yourself to short hikes on crowded trails. Because there’s more to experiencing wilderness than simply seeing it. You must feel it—which you can’t do if constantly distracted by the sight and sound of other people.

Wilderness hiking requires confidence. Confidence that a bear encounter is unlikely. Confidence that, should you see a bear, you can prevent a close encounter. Confidence that even in a close encounter with a bear, you can walk away uninjured. Such confidence is based on knowledge. So here’s what you need to know.

But first, would you rather listen than read? Download our 30-minute Bears Beware! MP3. Click on “Books” in our  home page menu. You’ll find it under “Bear Safety.” Listen to it at home, or on your iPod while driving to the trailhead.

You prefer to read? Carry on here. We’ve shortened the 30-minute MP3 for you:

Only a couple hundred grizzly bears roam the Canadian Rocky Mountain national parks. The black-bear population is comparable. You’re more likely to see a bear while driving the Icefields Parkway than while hiking most backcountry trails.

Grizzlies are the slowest reproducing land animals in North America. Only the musk ox is slower. So Banff Park’s grizzly population will remain small.

The Banff Information Centre posts trail reports that include bear warnings and closures. Check these before your trip; adjust your plans accordingly.

Grizzly bears and black bears can be difficult to tell apart—even for an experienced observer. Both species range in colour from nearly white to cinnamon to black. Full-grown grizzlies are much bigger, but a young grizzly can resemble an adult black bear, so size is not a good indicator.

The most obvious differences are that grizzlies have a dished face; big, muscular shoulder humps; and long, curved front claws. Blacks have a straight face; no hump; and shorter, less visible front claws. Grizzlies are potentially more dangerous than black bears, although a black bear sow with cubs can be just as aggressive. Be wary of all bears.

Any bear might attack when surprised. If you’re hiking, and forest or brush limits your visibility, you can prevent surprising a bear by making noise. Bears hear about as well as humans. Most are as anxious to avoid an encounter as you are. If you warn them of your presence before they see you, they’ll usually clear out.

Use the most effective noisemaker: your voice. Shout loudly. Keep it up. Don’t be embarrassed. Be safe. Yell louder near streams, so your voice carries over the competing noise. Sound off more frequently when hiking into the wind. That’s when bears are least able to hear or smell you coming. To learn more about what sounds to make, where and when, download our Bears Beware! MP3. It’s subtitled “Warning Calls You Can Make to Avoid an Encounter.”

Bears’ strongest sense is smell. They can detect an animal carcass several kilometers (miles) away. So keep your pack, tent and campsite odor-free. Double or triple-wrap all your food in plastic bags. Avoid smelly foods, especially meat and fish. On short backpack trips, consider eating only fresh foods that require no cooking or cleanup.

If you cook, do it as far as possible from where you’ll be sleeping. Never cook in or near your tent; the fabric might retain odor. Use as few pots and dishes as you can get by with. Be fastidious when you wash them.

At night, hang all your food, trash, and anything else that smells (cooking gear, sunscreen, bug repellent, toothpaste) out of bears’ reach. Use the metal food caches provided at some provincial-park backcountry campgrounds. Elsewhere, a tree branch will suffice. Bring a sturdy stuffsack to serve as your bear bag. Hoist it at least 5 m (16 ft) off the ground and 1.5 m (5 ft) from the tree trunk or other branches. You’ll need about 12 meters (40 feet) of light nylon cord. Clip the sack to the cord with an ultralight carabiner.

Backpackers who don’t properly hang their food at night are inviting bears into their campsite, greatly increasing the chance of a dangerous encounter. And bears are smart. They quickly learn to associate a particular place, or people in general, with an easy meal. They become habituated and lose their fear of man. A habituated bear is a menace to any hiker within its range.

If you see a bear, don’t look it in the eyes; it might think you’re challenging it. Never run. Initially be still. If you must move, do it in slow motion. Bears are more likely to attack if you flee, and they’re fast, much faster than humans. A grizzly can outsprint a racehorse. And it’s a myth that bears can’t run downhill. They’re also strong swimmers. Despite their ungainly appearance, they’re excellent climbers too.

Climbing a tree, however, can be an option for escaping an aggressive bear. Some people have saved their lives this way. Others have been caught in the process. To be out of reach of an adult bear, you must climb at least 10 m (33 ft) very quickly, something few people are capable of. It’s generally best to avoid provoking an attack by staying calm, initially standing your ground, making soothing sounds to convey a nonthreatening presence, then retreating slowly.

What should you do when a bear charges? If you’re certain it’s a lone black bear—not a sow with cubs, not a grizzly—fighting back might be effective. If it’s a grizzly, and contact seems imminent, lie face down, with your legs apart and your hands clasped behind your neck. This is safer than the fetal position, which used to be recommended, because it makes it harder for the bear to flip you over.

If you play dead, a grizzly is likely to break off the attack once it feels you’re no longer a threat. Don’t move until you’re sure the bear has left the area, then slowly, quietly, get up and walk away. Keep moving, but don’t run.

Arm yourself with pepper spray as a last line of defense. It’s available at outdoor stores. Keep it in a holster—on your hip belt or shoulder strap—where you can grab it fast. Cayenne pepper, highly irritating to a bear’s sensitive nose, is the active ingredient. Without causing permanent injury, it disables the bear long enough to let you escape. Many people have successfully used it to turn back charging bears.

Research presented to more than 300 bear experts at the 4th International Human-Bear Conflict Workshop, in Missoula, Montana, suggests pepper spray is more effective than firearms at stopping a bear attack. The combined results from two studies are convincing: 98% of people who used pepper spray to stop charging bears walked away from their encounters unharmed, and none of the people or bears died. 56% of people who used firearms to stop charging bears were injured, and 61% of the bears died.

Vigilance and noise making, however, should ensure you never encounter a bear at close range, thus preventing you from having to so much as unholster your pepper spray. Do so only if you really think your life is at risk, at which point the bear is at risk as well. A bear confronted by a human being is at one of the most precarious, dangerous moments of its life.

Any time bears act aggressively, they’re following their natural instinct for self preservation. Often they’re protecting their cubs or a food source. Yet if they maul a hiker, they’re likely to be killed, or captured and moved, by wildlife management officers. So when you go hiking in the Canadian Rockies, you’re accepting responsibility for the protection of these beautiful, magnificent creatures.

Merrily disregarding bears is foolish and unsafe. Worrying about them is miserable and unnecessary. Everyone occasionally feels afraid when venturing deep into the mountains, but knowledge and awareness can quell fear of bears.

Just take the necessary precautions and remain guardedly alert. Experiencing the grandeur of mountain wilderness is certainly worth risking the remote possibility of a bear encounter.

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Fall Hiking in the Canadian Rockies: Arm Yourself with Weather Info

It’s Wednesday, August 31, and our annual blast of winter-preview weather has arrived. It’s 4°C at our house in Canmore. It’s been raining all day. The clouds are so low, the mountains ringing our town are obscured. Tonight, the rain will likely turn to sleet or snow. And when the clouds clear, the summits will be white. But the clouds will clear. The lashings of wet snow will melt off the peaks. Summer weather will return—soon. This is just the annoying-yet-motivating reminder notice we always receive this time of year from those capricious Weather Demons who lord it over the Canadian Rockies. “Take full advantage of optimal hiking weather,” they’re saying, “because those days—numbered to begin with—are now fiendishly few.”

Weather info sources that will help you plan the remainder of the hiking season:






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Hiking and camping in the wilderness can be dangerous. Experience and preparation reduce risk but will never eliminate it.

Information published in a book or on a website—regardless how authoritative—is not a substitute for common sense or sound judgment. Your safety is your responsibility. The unique details of your specific situation and the decisions you make at that time will determine the outcome.

When hiking, threats to your wellbeing are unpredictable; you must always be aware. In the backcountry, risk is subjective; you must gauge it for yourself. Away from civilization, small mistakes can have severe consequences; you must vigilantly prevent injury and avoid becoming disoriented.

Never hike alone. Before setting out, check the weather forecast and current trail conditions; adjust your plans accordingly. Always carry a map and compass, a first-aid kit, extra clothing, a personal locator beacon, plus enough food and water to survive an emergency.

If you doubt your ability to negotiate rough terrain, respond to wild animals, or handle sudden, extreme weather changes, hike only in a group led by a competent, licensed guide.

The authors and the publisher disclaim liability for any loss or injury incurred by anyone using information published on this website or in the books presented on this website.