Saturday, November 21, 2009

It's All Downhill With Heli-hiking

View from Table Mountain, Cape Town

Last week there was an article in my local newspaper about a particular branch of glamping called heli-hiking. This involves taking a helicopter up to some scenic outlook, and then making your way back to civilization with a guided hike. If you have to ask how much it costs, you probably can't afford it!

My first reaction to this was to label it "cheating". After all, those who slog their way up the hill to the scenic outlook have earned the view - those who flew up in a helicopter have not!

On the other hand, there are lots of places around the world where people take a cable car or some other mode of transportation up a hill and then wander their way back down. The only difference with heli-hiking is that the location may be more remote or challenging.

Admittedly, I used a similar "cheat" in Cape Town, although the other way around. After slogging our way up the steep, rocky path to the top of Table Mountain, we took the Cable Car back down to the bottom to save our knees (and some time.)

Cable Car on Table Mountain

In the end, everyone has their own limits, and their own idea of how much effort is enjoyable and how much is just suffering for the sake of suffering. The only time I would rail against the heli-hikers is if they start using areas that are popular with regular hikers, and ruin the atmosphere with their noisy flights.

Anyone out there been on a heli-hike? I'd be curious to hear what you thought of it. Leave a comment.


Anonymous said...

A group of us went heli-hiking to the Canadain Rockies, actually the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia. We stayed in Banff the night before then travelled through two national parks to the helicopter staging area in a little village probably on very few maps. The helicopter picked us up and took us to this remote casually luxurious mountain lodge. Only 40 of us with over 1000 sq km of mountains and more mountains. Each day the guides divided us up to small groups (usually 6 to 8 people) based on our interests and abilities. One small group of 4 were in their 80's. They went to places they never believed they would see again. It was so insipiring to watch the joy and sparkle in their eyes and faces while being in such wild places. Then there was a family of 18. Grandma picked up the tab. It was if they were all at summer camp, pond swimming, basketball, bocci, ropes course, all after a full day spent exploring in these mountains. Their laughter at dinner drew everyone in to their fold of memory making. We were four girlfriends, celebrating 50!! We had all met working at a ski hill...too many years ago to tell anyone. We spent a day zooming across zip lines in the river valley. The next day on a via ferrata (the first in North America. The mountain guides had gone to Europe to learn from the masters)where we pushed our limits and bonded our friendship more than ever. Then we went for a glacier exploration. It felt like we were in the middle of somewhere no one had ever been before. Our three days felt like we had escaped the day to day for weeks. If you love nature, mountains, places few have ever heard of, you have to go here! Check out

JDS said...

I agree all the way around. I love hiking and wouldn't want to encounter helicopters every time I'm out in the woods, but let's face it, those encounters are never going to be commonplace. If people are enjoying traveling and seeing the world, and helping the local economy by doing so, who cares how they get to where they're going? Those who take time out of their lives to admonish heli-hikers are nothing more than outdoor elitists...and just elitists from all other walks of life, they try to affirm themselves by excluding people who do things differently than them.

Mike said...

Helicopters are great in a lot of circumstances. I know New Zealand's certainly had issues with them becoming a little too invasive in some places, though. If you're going somewhere to get away from that kind of thing, I guess it can be irritating and that's why there are designated "wilderness areas" here within parts of the conservation estate. In such cases there are specific emergency-only rules about aircraft, among other things. These guys ran into that problem in early 2008, and I think might have embarrassed themselves a bit whether they acknowledge it or not.