Saturday 23 June 2018

On this day thirty years ago I began my walk the length of the Canadian Rockies

At the Canada/USA border in Waterton Lakes National Park

June 23rd 1988 I set out on one of my most ambitious walks, to hike the length of the Canadian Rockies, which had not been done before. I was inspired to do the walk by Ben Gadd's superb Handbook of the Canadian Rockies, which I'd bought the year before when I was in the Rockies for a ski tour. That trip made me want to go back to these spectacular mountains. Ben's book gave me a goal. In it he wrote that a great challenge would be 'to hike the whole length of the Canadian Rockies, a distance of 1450km as the crow flies. It seems possible to do the whole hike in a summer'. As soon as I read those words I knew I wanted to do that walk. So I did. It took a bit more than a summer though. I ran well into the autumn, finishing in late October after 97 days and 2414km. I carried Ben's book the whole way and stayed with him in Jasper. He came and met me at the finish too. Thanks for that Ben and for the inspiration.

On the Rockwall Trail, Kootenay National Park

The walk split roughly into two. In the southern half I was mostly in national parks, which meant good trails but also permits and restricted camping (this section is now covered by the Great Divide Trail). In the northern half there were few trails and no parks, making the walk a much wilder and challenging proposition. I loved it! I met no other walkers at all once I left the parks. No-one out in the wilds at all in fact, just hunters in camps.

Looking over Keily Creek to the Great Snow Mountain Range in the Northern Canadian Rockies

Photographic note: the images are scans from Fujichrome transparencies. I took an amazing amount of camera gear on this hike - the most on any long walk I think. Two SLR cameras, 24mm, 28-70mm, and 70-210mm lenses, 2x Tele Converter, tripod. The total weight was 4.5kg. I took 3000 transparencies.

Book note:  This walk was the subject of my second book, which came out in 1989. It's been out of print for many years but should be republished as an e-book sometime in the next year along with Walking the Yukon, which is about a walk I did the length of the Yukon Territory two years after the Canadian Rockies walk.


  1. This looks like a gem of a book Chris. Can't wait to read it.

  2. I'm looking forward to both of these books Chris. I hadn't heard about the GDT until earlier this year. I've exchanged a few emails with a Canadian hiker who thru-hiked it, and it left such an impression on her that she is doubting if she'll attempt a PCT thru-hike, which could be seen as 'tame' (my words, not hers) in comparison? I've read Rattlesnakes and Bald Eagles so I'll be interested to read your accounts of the Yukon and Rockies. I can't imagine many wilder routes.

  3. I found both of your Canadian books in a used bookstore in Portland Oregon several years ago. I enjoyed both. It was interesting to re-read the High Summer after going to Banff this summer, it sounds like it has changed quite a bit.