You couldn’t hear the shutter release of my camera inside the roaring cockpit of the Bell 212 helicopter. I must have taken 1000 photos during our short 7 minute “heli bump” from the luxurious CMH Bugaboos lodge up to a high alpine ridge we were about go running on.
The CMH ACMG Hiking and IFMGA Mountain guides (respectively) Emily Compton and James Madden prepared us for safely exiting the helicopter once it landed. Our group of 10 runners, including our two running guides, as well as myself and my filming partner Hailey Playfair.
We all exited the heli and immediately crouched in a semi circle together as the Pilot quickly lifted off. We all watched as the helicopter quickly disappeared down the valley, and all of a sudden, silence.
Alpine meadows, knife edge ridges, stunning glaciers, we all took in the scenery for a quick moment before tying our running shoes, and strapping on our hydration vests. This was going to be the run of a lifetime.
So what is Heli-running?
Traditionally CMH offers heli-skiing, heli-hiking, via ferrata and a number of other mountain activities. This heli-running program however, is one of the first of its’ kind in North America. The launch of this program is cutting edge and really leaning into a market that’s still in its’ infancy in many ways.
The remote Purcell mountains that would otherwise take days to access.
Heli assisted alpine running allows you to explore peaks and ridge-lines in the remote Purcell mountains that would otherwise take days to access. The 3 day alpine running packages allow you to cover an incredible amount of alpine landscapes that might otherwise take weeks to explore.
Life In The CMH Bugaboo Lodge
The CMH Bugaboo lodge serves as a luxurious basecamp nestled in the prestine (name) valley with an un obstructed view of the Bugaboo Spire. After a long day of running, the lodge staff welcome you back to the lodge where they encourage guests to make themselves at home.
Both Hailey and I eat completely plant-based diets. Being that the lodge is incredibly remote, we were anticipating limited food choices. Instead, we learned the menu catered greatly to vegan diet options. We both agreed that these were some of the greatest meals we had ever enjoyed.
Filming literally “on the run”.
Logistically, filming and photographing the launch of the new alpine running program was a welcomed challenge. CMH had organized a team of athletes from all around western Canada to participate in the product launch and promotional shoot.
The shots weren’t posed or setup just for the camera.
Keeping up with the athletes was the first logistical challenge for us. It was important that the media was a true representation of what a guest might expect on their own experience. Which meant we run the runs, captured the media in an editorial style. The shots weren’t posed or setup just for the camera.
Then there’s the challenge of packing down the physical equipment we can take with us in the helicopter, and furthermore, run with alongside the athletes.
My typical setup includes lightweight mirrorless camera systems which are great for these kinds of projects. It’s all the additional equipment that really bogs you down – for example, gimbal, drone, audio etc.
Really knowing your equipment inside and out is important to shooting on the fly. Navigating menus and setting up your camera on the go can slow you down or even have you missing great shots as they’re happening. I always make sure to have all my camera systems set up exactly the same way so nothing changes from one camera to the next.