Stories & Articles


Break Away: Hiking high in the Selkirks B.C.

Back in 1980, Ruedi Beglinger pored over maps of the Selkirk Mountains in search of the perfect area for a commercial ski touring and mountaineering operation. He settled on the Durrand Glacier, 40 km north-east of Revelstoke, an area with ample snowfall, varied terrain, and numerous easy peaks as well as a few challenging ones. Durrand Glacier rapidly became a mecca for ski tourers and, more recently, snowboarders.

Over the years, Ruedi and his wife Nicoline have invested a lot of time and effort into trail building to attract summer visitors to their wildflower-strewn meadows and rocky peaks. My husband, Peter, had been to Durrand Glacier several times during the winter, but I always felt a bit intimidated. Were my telemark skills up to it? I wasn't sure, but I was a strong hiker, and we jumped at the opportunity to visit Durrand late last summer.

I was astonished right from the start. As the helicopter dipped over a flank of Selkirk Peaks, I stared in disbelief at half a dozen tiny specks on a ridge, surrounded by mountains, glaciers and deep-cut valleys - specks that quickly grew into recognizable buildings. When Nicoline greeted us with an offer to show us to our room, I was surprised over again. Our own room? What a treat! Most other backcountry operations I'd stayed at provided a sleeping loft, shared with a dozen or more guests

...That first day brought us in a round-about way to the toe of Durrand Glacier and an area called the Needle Ice Fall. Round, pillowy rocks, scraped smooth by the intense weight of the massive icefield made for easy hiking, and a lovely breeze off the glacier helped keep us cool.

Subsequent hikes took us to the peaks of several mountains: Moon Hill, Goat, Woolsey and Elm Peaks were easy scrambles, while Tumbledown and Fronalp Peak required a head for heights. at each summit, we sat munching our sandwiches, quietly contemplating the awesome Selkirks.

In all, Ruedi and Nicoline have mapped and marked about a hundred kilometres of hiking trails within a day of the lodge. Trails to the north and the west traverse moderate terrain, the more difficult sections negotiated with the use of fixed ropes, chains and ladders. The hike to Swiss Meadows and Fronalp Peak west of the lodge involved steep, 300m descent to the valley bottom and an equally steep ascent to the meadows. On the way, we crossed an avalanche slope thick with alder - just the type of feeding ground favoured by grizzlies. Though none have ever been encountered here or in the vicinity of the lodge, we sang and hollered all along the trail, and Kendra kept her pepper spray and an air horn handy.

...Days at the Durrand Glacier began early giving us enough time to shower, relax on the deck, swim in the almost-warm water of a shallow lake, have a beer and eat. Afternoon "snacks" consisted of appetizers and freshly baked European pies and cakes, often using berries picked on a morning hike. After a nap or a stroll around the lodge, it was time to sit down to a delicious gourmet dinner. Evenings, we chatted with other guests, read a book or looked through photo albums of skiing and hiking trips. The night before we left, we were treated to a cello concert by Kirsten and her protégés, Charlotte and Florina (on pretend instruments), Ruedi and Nicoline's young daughters.

Although the terrain looks difficult, there is something for everyone: photographers, naturalists and hikers will be awed by the Selkirks' beauty, and delighted by the hospitality.

Explore Magazine By Marion Harrison, January/ February 1999