There and Back Again – A Radio Operators Vacation

April 15, 2016 Liam Harrap

Even Radio Operators at Last Frontier Heliskiing need days off. What do we do during our free time? Well, it depends. Some head to Smithers and/or Terrace, spending time partying and relaxing. Perhaps go to yoga or the ski hill, keeping their ski legs in tip-top shape and hoping for a free seat on the helicopter the next work week. Others travel, such as flying to Vancouver or road tripping to Prince Rupert. We work in shifts, week by week. I usually work three weeks on and one week off. Since we get a nice chunk of days off (none of that only-two-days-off-a-week nonsense), you can get up to some pretty cool stuff. I went skiing on my last days off, or at least I tried…

Even If Conditions Say No, We Still Go Skiing | Liam Harrap
Even if conditions say no, my friends and I still go skiing. Anyways, having no snow is just a minor technicality | Photo – Liam Harrap

I went to Mount Robson Provincial Park with three other friends: Jake, Ben, and Josh. We wanted to try Mount Resplendent, Mount Robson’s (the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies at 3954 meters) milder, but still mighty neighboring peak.

I Wish We Had A Helicopter To Get To The Good Stuff | Liam Harrap
I wish we had a helicopter to get to the good stuff. Sorry skis| Photo – Liam Harrap

It’s a mountain I’ve wanted to go up for years. It’s the classic ski ascent in the Canadian Rockies and an 11 000er. If you ski back to the car from the summit, the run is 2600 meters, spread over 29 km, and through spectacular scenery.

At Least I'm Told It's Spectacular. We Had Some Good Aimless Wondering In Mist And Fog | Liam Harrap
At least I’m told it’s spectacular. We had some good aimless wondering in mist and fog | Photo – Liam Harrap

You might think our staff sleeps in on days off. Wrong!

Ben Leading The Way At 3 Am | Liam Harrap
Ben leading the way at 3 am on our summit attempt day. Not only is the day long, but you travel over some technical terrain and it’s always better to start earlier than later. Before the snow gets mushy and travel becomes difficult | Photo – Liam Harrap

I try and be as active as possible on my days off, this way I can eat more of the smoked salmon platter at the lodge when I return.

Skiing Lets You Go To Some Pretty Cool Places | Jake Alleyne
Skiing lets you go to some pretty cool places | Photo – Jake Alleyne
| Jake Alleyne
This is big country. Wow! | Photo – Jake Alleyne

It wasn’t mist and cloud all the time. Sometimes the sun did emerge, if only briefly.

Now This Is A Week Off | Liam Harrap
Now this is a week off! Awesome! | Photo – Liam Harrap
Even The King Of The Rockies, Mount Robson, Peaked His Head Through The Clouds | Jake Alleyne
Even the king of the Rockies, Mount Robson, peaked his head through the clouds | Photo – Jake Alleyne

However, the sun soon disappeared and clouds rolled in. It began to snow heavily, and we couldn’t tell left from right. Fresh powder was waist deep, and while this makes for tremendous skiing, it also greatly increases avalanche risk. Thus, we retreated down the mountainside to the world below and amused ourselves through other means.

Always Bring A Game In The Mountains. You Never Know When The Weather May Stump You | Liam Harrap
Always bring a game in the mountains. You never know when the weather may stump you | Photo – Liam Harrap
The Slopes Behind The Hut Were Still Safe. Here's Jake Telemarking Up A Storm. Yeehaw! | Liam Harrap
The slopes behind the hut were still safe. Here’s Jake telemarking up a storm. Yeehaw! | Photo – Liam Harrap

Even vacations must come to an end. After a week, it was time to return to Last Frontier Heliskiing.

There And Back Again - A Radio Operators Vacation - Dsc04257
Skiing home and feeling slightly green that my holiday is nearing an end | Jake Alleyne

Of course, I had much to look forward to back at the Lodge.

The Life Of A Radio Operator Is Never Easy. Sometime You Have To Wear A Tie, Especially When You Invite The Mayor Of Stewart To Dinner (Second From The Left) | Bailee Macnab
The life of a Radio Operator is never easy. Sometimes you have to wear a tie, especially when you invite the mayor of Stewart to dinner (second from the left) | Photo – Bailee Macnab
I Got To Do Some More Skiing. This Time With A Helicopter - Hoity Toity! | Liam Harrap
There’s even more skiing, but this time with a helicopter – hoity toity! | Photo – Liam Harrap

Overall, my time off is pretty awesome. Sure, we didn’t get up the peak this time, but then again you can’t succeed at everything. Sometimes it’s taken me four times to get up a mountain, either due to weather, route finding, or lack of courage. Neverthess, you keep trying.

And Now It's Time To Plan The Next Trip. Here's A Recent Picture For Our &Quot;Ski&Quot; Approach To The Freshfield Icefields. Oh Dear Goodness - I Better Start Stocking Up On London Fogs At The Lodge. They'll Numb The Pain | Zeljko Kozomara
And now it’s time to plan the next trip. Here’s a recent picture of our “ski” approach to the Freshfield Icefields up the Howse River in Banff National Park, scheduled for next week. Oh dear goodness – I better start stocking up on London Fogs at the Lodge. They’ll numb the pain | Photo – Zeljko Kozomara

A skier is always planning the next trip, whether it’s in the backcountry or heliskiing. We’re all addicted.