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Seven Continents

Banff Lightning

CANADA | Thursday, 9 July 2015 | Views [354]

Sven Michael Davison and

Sven Michael Davison and "Huey"

One of the benefits to playing a role in my friend’s wedding party was that I had the privilege of experiencing heli-hiking, aka the lazy man’s way to summit a mountain. Heli-hiking involves boarding a Huey helicopter– think Apocalypse Now– from an alpine chalet, roaring up to a glacial peak, dispersing to explore the rocky world for an hour before a guide radios for a lift to the next mountain. Physical effort is not a factor on the hiker’s part. For myself, I’m happy to sweat it up a mountainside in order to taste the sweet success of achieving a summit under my own power, but heli-hiking was certainly worth the attention once in my life.


Our first ride from the lodge sent us over a clearing atop a lower peak where we spotted two hikers shaking a sign that read: Help. Our pilot circled the hikers and put the skids down a few dozen yards away from the distressed couple. With our rotors spinning, several of the passengers jumped out along with our guide and intercepted the hikers. Upon closer inspection we discovered they were a man and a woman. They wobbled up to us, disheveled, dirty, and exhausted. I was surprised at their lack of gear with and I wondered how they had reached so high with so little.


“Thank god you spotted us,” the man cried. “Two nights ago we were hit by lightning. It took us two days just to leave our camp and crawl to this spot to search for help. We’ve been hearing your choppers since we starting hiking three days ago.”


“You’re damn lucky the lightning didn’t kill you,” Our guide responded as he led them to the chopper.


In her weak daze the woman nodded. “It struck our tent in the middle of the night. I saw the electricity jump on the ground and hit us in our sleeping bags. I think the tent saved us. It’s melted and fried.” She tugged open the back of her shirt and I saw a network of glossy jagged lines carved into her skin. They were not bloody, but had a cobalt hue. I never saw anything like it before or since.


We made room on the chopper and our pilot flew us back down to the lodge. We disembarked before our pilot transported the hikers to the nearest hospital. I ruminated over my past few days driving through Banff and my private room at our opulent mountain chalet. My experience was in stark contrast to the hell they had endured. When the helicopter returned to take us up to Houndstooth Peak for our hike, the image of the woman’s back remained etched in my mind. It was something that none of us would ever forget. 

Tags: banff, helicopter, hiking, lightning



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