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Welcome to Explor8ion!

Welcome to my website. The intent of this site is to combine the best of my photography  (verndewit.com) and my trip reports (explor8ion.com). Over the years, I’ve built myself a bit of a monster – or rather a pair of monsters – on both the Zenfolio and the Explor8ion sites. With almost 900 peaks, hundreds of hikes, dozens of canoe trips and tens of thousands of images on both sites, the sheer amount of data is overwhelming and increasingly difficult to manage and present in an effective and modern manner. The goal of this site is to allow me to efficiently store and manage my vast collection of photos in one location (verndewit.com), while storing my numerous trip reports in a modernized blog at explor8ion, also with photos double or more the size of my old ones. 

Walter and Christian Peaks rising over the Lyell Icefield.

The way I’m planning to organize my trip reports here is by using a small subset of representative images (10-20) along with text for the main trip report with a linked album to all my photos from the trip (20-100 or more depending on the trip length and size) embedded at the end of the report and linked to my Zenfolio site. Another reason to have photos stored both within the blog and without, is that if I lose the Zenfolio site for whatever reason, at least I’ll still have some key photos displaying inline with the text. I have organized trips by their date in descending order and by the areas that they are located in. Due to the number of photos loading from the Zenfolio site at the end of the reports, you might see a slight delay in bringing up some of my trip reports. Where there’s a ridiculous amount of photos (i.e. 10 day canoe trips with over 300 photos), I will only show a few photos in the blog but will link to the Zenfolio albums where you can browse through them all. The new site is optimized for Retina, or high definition displays and will look better the bigger you view it, so don’t hold back! Go big screen, high definition and share in some of the spectacular sights that I’ve had the privilege of enjoying over the past 20 years or so, while reading about the adventures behind them.

The exciting summit ridge of South Twin Peak.

I am going to be experimenting with different ideas, themes and photos over the next few months on this site, so please excuse any churn. I am also experimenting with different ways to monetize some of my work, either just on my Zenfolio site or possibly on both Zenfolio and Explor8ion, only to cover some of the operating costs of these sites which cost me hundreds of dollars per year. I will attempt to make the ads and buying options as unobtrusive as possible to allow you to enjoy the content of both sites without too many distractions. I remain fundamentally opposed to the idea of turning what I love doing in my spare time into a full-time career so have no fears about that happening any time soon. I can think of no better way to ruin my love of adventuring and the outdoors than turning it into a daily grind that has to feed my family and put my kids through college.

Vern

25 thoughts on Welcome to Explor8ion!

  1. I stumbled across explor8ion.com looking for some climbing and hiking info. I absolutely wasted an entire day reading some of your exploits, and was fascinated by all the peaks you’ve “bagged” as you call it. I myself am a early 40’s man with two daughters in their very early teens and would love to do some of these easier peaks with them. We went to Waterton in 2016, before it was ravaged by wild fire, and climbed Bears Hump which is a short hike. But I absolutely loved it, as did my daughters, and we scrambled up aways after we got to the top of that part of the hike. My wife not so much…maybe I can turn her though. Are there any 5-6 hour summits that doesn’t have too much bush-wacking to get too that would be a fairly moderate climb? Looking for some adventure and love the Kananaskis area.
    Thanks for the awesome documentation of your adventures.

    • Hey John, I’ve wasted many days compiling explor8ion – as you can imagine! 🙂 There are many 5-6 hour summits that are fairly easy with no bushwhacking. The easiest way to find them would be to use the Trip Log page on my site at http://www.explor8ion.com/filter-trips and filter by technical difficulty 1-6 (select 1-6) and category of “Off-Trail Hiking” and “Scrambling” (select both). This should give a good sample of trips to suit your needs. Let me know if you need assistance.

  2. Hey Vern,
    I’m a Kananaskis local, and I love your explor8ion blog. They are my go-to trip reports for sure! I had a question about your photography- what camera do you currently use? I am going to be investing in a camera this year to take better photos, and I was looking for one that I can take hiking, scrambling, and into the backcountry. Any recommendations? Cheers 🙂

    • Hi Kate, thx for the kind words – I’m glad my blog assists you in your adventures! As for cameras / photos, that’s a great question LOL. I use many types of cameras (I’m a bit of a gearhead) but my goto is still either Olympus or Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras / lenses. The nice thing about m43 is that you can use Olympus lenses on Panasonic bodies and same with Panasonic lenses.

      The reason I love these cameras so much is that they are the perfect compromise between size and quality of pictures. I would highly recommend either the Olympus E-M10 II with the kit lens + cheap zoom like the Olympus 40-150mm, or a Panasonic DMC-G85 with kit lens + same cheap Olympus zoom lens (40-150mm). Both of these cameras are great and produce great results.

      If you have money to burn get the Olympus Pen-F. This is what I shoot with. I put a 14-150mm lens on it and this covers all the focal lengths I need, which is very handy. I carry macro and specialty lenses as desired.

      Of course, any of the other so-called “mirrorless” cameras are good too, any modern camera is great to be honest. Fuji is very nice (X-E3) and so is the Sony (A6000). I would stick with “mirrorless” as opposed to a full DSLR just for the sake of size, weight and costs. Remember – it’s the lenses that can really weigh you down if you’re not careful.

      Hopefully this helps a bit!

      V.

    • Hey Derek! Yeah, I’m still trying to decide how best to have both sites available until the transition is completed.

  3. Great site Vern, but i’m missing the canoe planning reports from your old site.
    Is there a link to them somewhere.

    • Hey Scott, thanks! I honestly didn’t think anyone read those! 🙂 I will dig around but I’m not sure they’re still available. I am doing another 16 day canoe trip this year so I’ll make sure I put a planning section in.

  4. Amazing site Vern! I used your info to hike all over Banff and Jasper last Summer (planning another trip this Summer). Your trip details and maps are amazing…and obviously your images are superlative. I’m a photographer also and for me it’s nice to see the grand view at the end (so I can capture it too). Thanks for all the hard work!

  5. This is the best site for resources for canadian rockies and beyond. I always come here when making plans for the weekend. thank you!!!!

  6. Hey Vern, I’m a dad with two boys (7 &12) and am spending my summers with them in the great outdoors. Your trip reports look like a great resource thanks so much for them.

    I have a question about icepack. Last summer (2022) my trip with my boys in Garibaldi park was derailed by unexpected lingering icepack around July 23. The trail to Russet Lake from Whistler peak was outright closed and our other stay at Elfin Lakes got abbreviated from further day hikes around the area for snow as well.

    My mistake was not having the right foot gear or micro spikes combined with bad luck of the apparently record levels of Spring rain prior. This year I’m trying to do better. I’m still working with July month though, and even with right foot gear concerned about the snowpack especially early and mid July.

    I’d love to hear any insights you have this. Some specific questions:
    – How exceptional was July snowpack in 2022 in your experience?
    – Can I find historical snowpack data anywhere?
    – What foot/other gear would you recommend for having a good time regardless of the snowpack levels
    – Generally what should I be expecting in early/mid July in the Rockies? Snowpack all around? Just the summits?
    – Should I account for harder hiking on snowpack versus not?

    • Hey Jason, I’ll have to think about this one a bit. Obviously you are aware that the coast mountains are quite different from the Rockies in terms of planning and conditions.

      Here in the Rockies we can usually count on good hiking conditions by July. Some years earlier some a bit later. Last year was a very late snowpack.

  7. I was actually not really aware of that! That’s very helpful to know! My window is July 5-31. Based on that experience last summer I had in the Coast mountains in a similar time window I had been hesitating how easy it would be to plan a great experience or not for my kids. Do you recall any other year having snowpack as late as last years’? Would you bet against a repeat this year haha?

      • Still far from a final itinerary but I have a sketchy list of areas of interest that I’ve accumulated and begun studying more closely. We’re focused on backpacking:

        – Skyline
        – Rockwall area
        – Devon Lakes area (+Wellington ascent?)
        – Healy pass area (+Pharaoh Peak ascent?) (your trip report was a big input!)
        – Magog lake area
        – Lake O’hara Alpine Circuit

        I’d like to summit at least a few times, but I’ll probably have to choose carefully and sparingly to accommodate what my kids will handle. It is however one of the things they really want to do (summit, scramble).

        Spend as little time in forest as possible. Valleys and high camps sound great too. We’ve never experienced alpine basically (except that very brief Garibaldi trip that fizzled out). We live Montreal (I grew up in Victoria) so there’s just nothing even remotely close to what’s going on in BC around here :).

        • Hey Jason, some quick thoughts on the plans you’ve put forward. I’m assuming you’re bringing your boys along on these? I’m assuming they must be pretty used to backcountry travel and wilderness camping if you’re taking them on trips like this? Please excuse me if the following sounds negative – I’m a realist and just trying to give you realistic expectations. 🙂

          For Skyline, Rockwall, Egypt Lakes and Lake O’Hara you will need to make reservations to camp and these will almost certainly be VERY difficult to attain. These are some of the more popular areas and book up very early and very fast. If you’re trying to do day trips like Pharaoh Peaks your boys will need to hike 40kms and over 2000 meters of height gain – this is a lot for anyone, nevermind a kid. My kids wouldn’t do it! Even day tripping the Lake O’Hara alpine circuit isn’t easy. IF you get a bus ride up the access road it’s a doable trip (possibly snow in July) but if you have to walk the road it adds 22kms and over 500 meters of height gain.

          For the Devon Lakes area, this is not an easy area to get into. There will be horrible mosquitoes in July and going over the Quartzite Col with kids and possible snow on the far side could be more of a challenge then they’re used to. For a similar experience I would recommend Fish Lakes which are accessed entirely on trail. Bugs are still going to be an issue in the Rockies in July, no matter where you decide to camp. See my Bonnet / Hickson trip video for an example. Make sure you’re prepared for it with spray and / or bug netting.

          Again – not to be negative but I think you might be slightly underestimating how difficult most these trips are. I’ve been tramping over the Rockies for 20+ years and sometimes I make things seem easier than they are for people who aren’t used to it. I would highly recommend picking up a guidebook or two and get some more ideas and perspectives from them.

          • Thanks so much this is super helpful!

            Yep they’re pretty good hikers but I would say I’m going to level them up this year a bit from the past too. Last summer we did 40km in three days (~1000m EG) on the Juan de Fuca Marine trail (just south of the WCT). And that trail was often tough/technical. The soft limit I’m using for km/day is 15 and lower given EG considerations. I’m looking to book camp sites on trails with generous number of days to include big breaks and recoup times. In the past I’ve generally hauled 50-70 pounds for all of us, but I hope to decrease that this year, and also leverage light day hikes from a base camp.

            Between hikes I’m thinking of hitting towns to resupply and enjoy a hot shower and meal here and there, but my mindset is hostels, (working on a tight budget).

            On the reservation aspect I’m aware yeah and it’s a bit scary haha. I’m planning to book “on the second” that reservations open but I have quite a bit to book potentially (e.g. different areas, reservation systems, and campsites) and realize I might just not be able to do it (or maybe I need to recruit a family member to help me).

            For the Alpine circuit I read that getting a camp site guarantees a shuttle trip. For books I’m using “Don’t waste your time in the Canadian Rockies” and “Hiking Canada’s Great Divide Trail” (although presently using the former a lot more).

            I’ve read about these mosquitos and can’t say I’m excited for that part. It seems no one is ever saying it ruined their trip but yeah gear needed for sure (head nets etc. some said). I’ll check out your video!

            Aside: One blissful aspect of the cost trails (JDF, I assume WCT) is the total lack of mosquitos. I think that might be because of the salt water/wind but I’m not sure.

            I think snow is an aspect that I feel some insecurity because it adds additional trouble (harder route finding, colder ground for sleeping, less familiar to us in our experience, etc.). So for example snow for us could be the difference between trying a modest peak vs not.

            I’m super grateful you’re actually replying to my questions and sharing your insight, truly it’s hugely appreciated. Not feeling you being negative at all thanks! :))

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