Family in High Places

Family In High Places, The Globe and Mail.
David Exner.

The mountain slope is steep. If we were skiing, this would be a double black diamond, an ideal challenge on a descent buried in snow, as it is through the long winter. Instead, the month is August and we are hiking, the sun high in the mid-afternoon on a beautiful day, the Selkirk Mountains all around us. The Durrand Glacier backcountry chalet, where we set out from, is in the distance.
Under our boots is a jumble of loose rocks. The sensation is like wobbling on a teeter-totter while walking downhill. To me, it’s fun – but each step promises to upend my 72-year-old mother.

Annelies Ebner is tense. She started skiing in her late 30s and got pretty good. Her legs are strong but here she shakes, unsure, worried. The spectre of a smashed hip burns in my brain and in hers. I coach her and counsel careful, slow and certain steps.

She can do this, I know.

But maybe she was right.

Maybe, when we were on the precipice above this slope – one tough but short off-road stretch to get back to an established trail – maybe she was right. Maybe we should have turned around.

Backcountry lodges dot the mountains of British Columbia. Most of them are reached by helicopter and serve as bases for backcountry skiing. But in recent years, backcountry hiking in summer has become more popular, offering a foray into the wilderness without the cold or requisite skiing ability and gear. A modicum of fitness, a sturdy pair of boots and a sense of adventure are sufficient. 

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