Changes on Explor8ion

If life has taught me one thing it’s that change is inevitable and that it’s rarely welcomed with open arms when it occurs. As 2020 progressed and the Covid-19 virus kept us all cooped up at home with nothing to do, something that was slowly becoming more and more apparent to me over the past few years suddenly became crystal clear. Scenes showing hundreds of cars lining highways that used to be empty made me realize that the need for guidebooks, GPS tracks and websites such as mine is officially over. People don’t need more resources telling them exactly where to go and how to get there – they have plenty of avenues to help them with that already and I would argue there’s way too many of them. Friends, I have concluded that it’s time for me to take a big step back in this regard, resulting in some pretty big changes here at explor8ion. As I am want to do, I will ramble on a bit about it below (!!) but let me summarize;

  • GPS tracks have been removed from all posts and I will not be providing these going forward. Explor8ion is meant to be a repository of story and adventure, not a store of GPS tracks.
  • I am limiting access to certain trip reports to people who create a user login on my site (you can use an existing WordPress account if you have one). Anyone who logs in qualifies – the reason for doing this will become clear if you read my musings following this summary. The short version is that I wish to limit the sharing of certain trip reports to folks who have genuine interest in my art as expressed through photos and stories, not just blindly following my tracks.
  • Trip reports from common areas that are already widely published will remain public for now – albeit without GPS tracks.

One thing is certain. There is an end date coming for this site – I am quickly losing interest in driving more and more people into more and more obscure and remote areas of our backyard when I see what’s happening nowadays in our front yard. That’s it for immediate changes, now let’s get into some of my reasoning behind them.

What and Why is Explor8ion?

As anyone who has hiked, biked, skied, climbed, scrambled or just hung out with me will already know, I’ve been struggling with an identity problem for many years when it comes to explor8ion. Is it a repository of GPS tracks and beta on peakbagging, hiking, backpacking and canoeing? Is it a blog? Is it a photo album? Is it a brag list? It is all those things? The biggest question of all is the shortest but also by far the toughest.


Why have I spent countless hours of my own time maintaining and producing thousands of pages of content on explor8ion? Why do I spend hundreds of my own dollars each year to keep the site going, year after year? Why have I shared it so publicly with so many people – most of whom I don’t know and have never met? Answers I’ve come up with include;

  • Personal enjoyment – I love writing and photography and most artists love to share their work with others
  • Preserving good memories for myself and my friends
  • Ego – wanting all my efforts to mean something and desiring some sort of recognition for them
  • Boredom and anxiety – I get ‘twitchy’ very quickly at work or at home, explor8ion is a nice outlet for all this energy
  • Beta sharing & community spirit – encouraging others to get off the couch and explore
  • Future income – books, sponsorships and potential partnerships if I ever get around to these

When I meditate on what I really want out of explor8ion I realize that I want to write and share stories, photos and video of my various adventures around the Canadian wilderness. I consider myself an artist and a Canadian farm boy explorer who loves to poke around in corners of our vast landscape that I haven’t seen before – sharing my impressions with others through writing and photography. I want to preserve great memories with my friends and family, and I want to share just enough beta to inspire others to do their own unique explorations. I do not want explor8ion to be about my ego (i.e. site traffic stats / social media) or boredom. I do not want explor8ion to be a simple map of the landscape with lines for others to follow blindly and pad their summit stats with. I’ve never been a fan of turning a hobby into a source of income or enduring the hassles of a paid partnership.

These realizations have real-world consequences on how I go forward with this site into 2021 and beyond. The first consequence is the removal of all GPS tracks. Over the years I’ve come to realize that much of the traffic to explor8ion is simply to download GPS tracks in order to blindly follow them and duplicate my experiences and pad summit stats. If I’m 100% honest about it this is the main reason I added them in the first place. I wanted to encourage more traffic to my site in order to feed my own ego (it’s surprisingly hard to admit that). I do not want explor8ion to be a GPS track repository, there are other sites that already do this. There are also many other trip report sites that have tracks for you to download and follow. I want folks to browse explor8ion for the adventures and the story that it contains. I want people to enjoy and get inspired by my photographs. I want to inspire people to do so much more than simply follow my tracks – I want them to create their own tracks, wherever life takes them. This is why I’m limiting certain trip reports to what I’m calling “premium content” users. In short, if you aren’t interested in my art or long winded rambles then this is clearly not a site for you and there are many others that will happily provide GPS tracks and easy summits. I can’t change what other folks do with their stories, I can only change my own and that’s what this post is all about.

Billion dollar views from the summit of Mount King Edward. Some of my best stories on explor8ion involved getting to this spot with three attempts required!

The End of Discovery

My theory on the end of the age of discovery in the Rockies wilderness is quite simple. The 1st age of discovery in the Rockies was before anything was known about them in the wider world, other than local aboriginal knowledge (which sadly is still not very well known). This was an age when Swiss guides were hired by the railway companies to take their clients on tours of the Rockies and up unknown peaks. Rich Europeans and poor explorers dragged themselves and their clients all over the Rockies, bagging first ascents and mapping the rugged landscape in a frenzy of activity until the world wars disrupted a lot of them. The 2nd age of discovery was from around the mid 1900’s to the early 2000’s. This was the age of folks such as some hard core American and Canadian climbers and many other adventurous travelers. They wrote about their experiences in common shared media such as ACC journals, published guidebooks or their own personal notes and the odd summit register. Eventually some of them started publishing their adventures on the Internet using sites like bivouac or gravsports. Folks like Rick Collier managed quite a few first ascents of some very remote and obscure peaks but most FA’s were completed long before even these hardy folks started wandering around the more obscure rivers and valleys of the Rockies, following topo maps and their noses up many of the peaks for only the 2nd, 3rd or 4th time in recorded history.

Capricorn Lake is another special area of the Rockies that should not see too many visitors in order to remain pristine. Sharing places such as this with too much beta (i.e. GPS tracks) is never going to help keep them wild.

In the early to mid 2000’s the age of the Internet and the 3rd age of discovery began in earnest and all mystery in the Rockies (and pretty much everywhere else on earth) was doomed to be lost. First it was just a small trickle of revelation. Sites like the Gravsports, RMBooks and ClubTread forums resulted in up-to-the-minute trip beta, trip reports and many photos and even videos to accompany them. Inevitably the competition for tough or hard-to-access peaks began in earnest as people recognized that there are only so many of these adventures remaining out there. “Bucket Lists” were started and finished, including completions of the “Kane list”, the “11,000ers list” and many others. Social Media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter took off, leading to even more competition and sharing of personal accomplishments and trips including photos, video and GPS tracks. Sites like ViewRanger, Strava and Gaia ensured that little dotted lines now crisscross the Rockies wilderness like goat paths – only these can be easily followed on a device that sits comfortably in our pockets. Today, other than a very few, very remote and obscure peaks and valleys, the 3rd age of explor8ion in the Rockies is coming to a rapid and inevitable end.

Personal Culpability

I’ll be the first to admit that when someone else posts a trip report from a relatively obscure area that I’m interested in, I lose my enthusiasm to attempt it myself. Even if I do eventually attempt it, it’s much less exciting and interesting than it would have been had I not known so much about it. The discovery buzz that comes with 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th ascents of many of the most remote and obscure Rockies summits is rapidly coming to an end for those of us that live for it. Soon all peaks except the truly obscure and relatively unknown or unattractive ones will have dozens of ascents and likely tons of Internet beta including Facebook posts, YouTube videos, Gaia GPS tracks and Instagram tags. I’m pretty sure we’re close to VR tours of most areas of the world, likely put together by satellites or drones and covering even the most hard-to-reach spots that haven’t seen an iPhone yet. Sites like FatMap and the Sentinel satellite system are just the beginning of this trend.

It’s taken me a long time but I’m finally starting to realize that while photos, videos and stories can be inspiring – maps, GPS tracks and too much beta can be have the exact opposite effect. Oversharing special areas of our planet for no reason other than ego or personal gain is never going to result in more protection, more solitude or more wilderness. It will always result in less of those things and it will always mean more human impact in places that don’t need or desire it.

My passion over the last 15 years or so has been exploring and documenting my travels through the Rockies but I have to admit and reconcile the fact that doing this in a public forum has impacted not only the landscape and wilderness itself, but a sense of the unknown that was so special about trekking through the Canadian Rockies. I’ve gotten more than one email from folks expressing their disappointment that I documented an area before they could get to it – taking away some of their anticipation and sense of adventure. The easy answer to this concern is that people can choose to stay off social media and sites like mine but that is easier said than done in this connected world of ours. It also doesn’t prevent a formerly quiet, natural area from getting much busier from folks who do read and use sites like mine and many others for trip ideas and new areas to set up camp or tramp through on their way to somewhere else.

Frankly, it’s getting harder and harder for me to defend sharing as much beta as I have been, when the end result is clearly less and less “wild” in our great Canadian wilderness. Another impactful trend that I’ve noticed over the last few years is the competitive side of humanity that treats the mountains and much of the landscape as a giant natural obstacle course. I’m not entirely without fault here either, as I post my total distances and times on every trip report which is sometimes seen as a challenge, even though I certainly don’t intend it that way. While I understand competition and the strive to be “the best”, this relentless attitude obviously doesn’t help the natural world! When trails and routes are simply props to set PB’s and brag to our Strava buddies how quickly we did the same peak or route as someone else they are doomed for abuse and overuse. And yes – once again I am not at all innocent here with my 53 ascents of Prairie Mountain so far this year! I fully understand and acknowledge that I am the world’s biggest hypocrite as far as most of this discussion goes and it’s starting to damage my soul more than I care to admit! Hence this post and hence these real-world actions that I’m taking to assuage some of the damage I’m sure I have inadvertently caused.

A stunning morning sunrise from camp in the upper Whitegoat Wilderness. This used to be a very quiet little corner of the Rockies but over the past few years it’s not uncommon to see several tents in this exact spot on any given weekend.

It’s impossible for those of us who spend so much of our lives in the wilderness to ignore the fact that many special landscapes are now significantly impacted by (too much) human activity. Locally, I think of areas such as the Carnarvon Lakes, the White Goat Wilderness, Egypt Lakes, Highwood Pass, and obviously Lake Louise and the Skoki area. The Columbia Icefields is another area which was always well-traveled but never in the numbers of folks up there on a weekly basis nowadays, especially in spring. Skiing Mount Columbia in a day used to be rare. Now it’s done almost daily in prime season – often by multiple parties on the same day! The hwy 93 corridor used to be extremely quiet in the winter and is now full of parked cars and people everywhere you look on most weekends. The Rockies 11000er’s used to be an obscure list of mostly crappy, loose peaks that very few climbers were seriously interested in. Now the Facebook group supporting the quest has over 2700 members and some of the most remote peaks are seeing many ascents every year. The Scrambles in the Rockies Facebook group has something like 12,000 members! Then there’s the example of David Thompson Country. Only around 5 years ago most people wouldn’t be able to find it on a map. Than photos of the ice bubbles on Abraham Lake exploded it all over Social Media. Now it’s Covid-19 and random camping that’s made it popular. The area has been completely overrun by random campers everywhere, with guns, dogs, toilet paper and camera phones and is on a fast track to becoming an overused wasteland unless it’s granted some protected status very soon.

Even the remote landscapes of Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in Ontario can’t escape the inevitable damage that human attention causes. I clearly remember when we first visited this special place there were very few established campsites and very few other paddlers to be seen anywhere. Over the past 5 years or so there are many more float planes landing on remote lakes carrying canoes and supplies. There are many more overused campsites along routes which have seen guided tours with paying clients introduced to them. Fishing in some of the hottest lakes has seen a dramatic drop in the numbers caught and melted beer cans now sit in well-used fire pits looking over hidden little back bays that used to see 1-2 paddlers per year at most. I can’t stop “progress” but I can certainly limit my impact in these and other areas by limiting the beta that I share on them.

The Carnarvon Lake area has seen much more traffic and random camping damage after I published a report and beta for it in 2017. Trees have been harvested for firewood, campsites have been overrun with too many campers and any peace and quiet here is a distant memory on most summer weekends. Is this coincidence? I think not. 🙁

These are just some small examples of the incredibly ironic and frustrating issue of humans literally loving (and “liking”) the wilderness to its detriment. There is nothing I can think of to rectify this inevitability – and I grieve the loss for all those many people who never got to experience this sense of discovery and for myself and my friends who won’t experience it in the same way for very much longer.

I cannot see how profiting off of the natural world in any sense (whether through money or popularity) is ever going to result in a cleaner, wilder and more pristine world. I cannot see a clear path forward for our tiny area of this planet that doesn’t result in less wild in our wilderness.

I know there will be many who say I’m exaggerating or off my marbles if I think that publishing a trip report on a relatively remote and hard-to-access area is going to result in its eventual demise or impact by humans. There will even be people who will say that my ego is way too inflated if I think my site has contributed in any way to the busy weekends in the Rockies west of YYC. I can only hope you’re right! Hopefully I’ve had ZERO impact with explor8ion and my conscience can be cleared on the matter. In the meantime, I’m taking the actions that I feel I need to take. You are more than free to take, or to not take your own actions as you wish.

Moving On

We all have the same right to go out of our front doors and go on adventures in the wilderness. We all have the same right to make a living taking others on exciting trips that make their lives worth living. We all have the same right to share a nice photo or exciting video on social media and encourage everyone else to go take the same one. We all have the same right to enjoy an invigorating run in beautiful landscapes and challenge our friends to beat our times. We all have the right to make a living doing something we love. We all have the right to start a website or business that inspires others to get out of the concrete jungle for some much needed nature therapy.

Honestly, the issue here is not one that I can see any of us, including myself, ultimately resolving. There’s just too many of us humans with too much time and too much money, and simply too little wilderness to host us all without impact. It’s simple math. As an animal on this planet, we are too many and our appetites for new experiences and adventures are simply too large to be sustainable. C’est la vie.

I know this all sounds very bleak, but I challenge you to look inward and ask yourself what you and your friends are willing to do to limit the impacts we’re all having on the natural world? Are you willing to stay home on weekends so that the campsite you were going to stay at remains quiet? Are you willing to stop posting photos on social media so that others aren’t tempted to run out and duplicate your success? Are you willing to quit running mountain trails so that the mountain valleys remain untouched by human feet? Are you willing to stop sharing powder days with your followers so that the distant glaciers and valleys remain untouched throughout the long winter months? Are you willing to stop showing others new areas to explore for the sake of the wilderness itself? These are hard questions that I don’t have the answers to myself. 🙁

If I’m not willing to give up days like this, I certainly can’t expect anyone else to do it either! Maybe my commitment has to be only keeping these memories for myself and a select group of friends instead of sharing them with the world? I don’t know yet. 😐

As for me and my contribution towards the ending of the 3rd age of discovery and the impact that explor8ion has had on the natural world, I am not 100% sure where my path goes from here over the next few months and years. It’s surprisingly hard for me to simply shut the site down – even though that’s what I think I must do sooner than later. I guess I have so much time invested into it that I’m not sure what I’d do without it. I know it’s also a blow to my ridiculous ego which is probably the only reason it’s still around at all – and I really, really hate that. I love this site and I love sharing my adventures as an inspiration for others to get out and explore this beautiful world. I mostly love exploring wild places and if one cannot exist without the other than I feel an obligation to do what I can in preserving that which is rapidly disappearing. Anything that I can do to lessen my personal impact on the natural world and promote user responsibility towards it is 100% worth it to me. If this means that explor8ion.com loses fans and fades into oblivion I am at peace with that.

73 thoughts on Changes on Explor8ion


    I recently realized my “mountain community” on social media was really just a “mountain competition” and the moment that realization hit, I was sick to my stomach. It wasn’t a community at all. Community, is people that uplift you, aid you, support you and spend real face time with you. Community is people who will ditch the mountain to be with you through hard times and drink beers with on you on the holidays. What we had instead was people bragging about mountain times, best routes taken, criticizing those who knew less, and even worse selling their name for simple granola bars and t-shirts. Since leaving all forms of social media I have reclaimed a healthier life and discovered who my true community and friends are. I can only hope this pure realization comes to others before they lose themselves too deep in the “pseudo mountain community” they long to believe they are apart of.

    Thank you so much Vern for the wonderful words of truth and exposure into your life and the changes you are making. As well thank you for the amazing adventures you have intentionally or unintentionally sent my feet travelling on. I too, feel torn on where my feet and final destination will be. But I do know one thing, I’m headed in the right direction and so are you!!


    • Wow. Thx for the kind words Sheena. I appreciate it. It’s so awesome that you found your way and are living your very best life on your own terms with people you love! There is nothing more important than that. 👊🏻

  2. Though I am personally saddened to hear of the changes to your site, I have a ton respect for your decision Vern. Thank you for sharing your honesty and sentiment… during all of this please don’t forget that there is also a o much good that’s come of this site! Some of my favourite memories have been a result of Explor8ion trip reports. I initially had a bunch of rebuttal typed but am well aware that I am a part of the problem and bottom line is, I appreciate all that you’ve done and will reserve room on the bookshelf for when paperback editions are available 😊 I’ve had many good chuckles reading and re-reading your reports and admire your photographs. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thx for the note Carrera! Remember – my site isn’t going anywhere. And for anyone who is willing to sign up for the restricted reports they will still have access to everything except gps tracks. And you can always ask for those too, since you’re one of the “good ones”. 🙂👊🏻

  3. Thank you for your honest evaluation. Yes, we are ruining what we love. The mountain landscape is changing from a community of people who are trained and respectful, to a mass of tourists thumping around with no thought to the damage they are causing. I am also part of the problem. I am a 25+ year mountain thumper, but that’s nothing compared to my husband who started when he was a bump in his mom’s tummy as she climbed a route on Castle.
    I want you to know that I have used your site extensively for beta and for tracks, and that it is a valuable resource. While not inexperienced by any stretch, I am also not at your caliber or speed (I lag at least an hour behind your times). Your route photos are extremely useful. When you say you needed a major stretch to make a move, or found a route difficult, that gives me pause as to whether this is the mountain route for me.
    In short, I am glad you are offering your prime sites by subscription. I often wonder what the authors of guide books think about the free online content. If all the bloggers went to paid subscriptions, would that change anything in mountains?
    So much to think about, so many motivations to questions. Thanks for starting the conversation.

    • Thx for the comment and kind words Alisen. I think the need for guidebooks is pretty much coming to an end with phone apps now offering much more up-to-date content and trail information than any book could ever provide. Of course there’s always going to be people like me who like to read a guidebook in front of the fire during long winter months but I’m afraid that’s dating me quite a bit! 😀

      Just to be clear – I’m not charging anything for my so-called “premium” content. Just ask me and I’ll give you access – unless you’re going to turn around and share it on Facebook to 25,000 other people of course! 🙂

  4. The conversation of outdoor ethics is coming increasingly to the forefront, as folks like yourself come to the realization of the impact of sharing their adventures. As you note, often its the unintended consequences, or sometimes, an extension of the intended ones. Gillean Daffern sold ~50,000 copies of her books; just one hiking Facebook group has 50,000 members, and there are dozens of such groups. More frightening are the people actively making a living actually influencing people with their adventures. The impact and reach of social media is dramatic, and research in K-Country is clearly demonstrating social media’s impact on wildlife, among other things. But like you, many are struggling as to the answer, and what can be done, both individually and collectively. One possible approach is to attempt to expand the education from trusted people such as yourself, with Leave No Trace as at least one common rallying point, but even LNT struggles with messaging on use of social media and websites. Sadly, though, there is a LONG way to go — as any “conversation” on social media about the choice to go up Mt. Indefatigable (past the REALLY BIG SIGN asking you not to) will demonstrate. Good luck going forward; it’s a big issue and big conversations are needed on it.

    • Thanks for your thoughts on this Derek. I have tried to avoid social media as much as possible since I knew it would be toxic for someone like me. I go onto those groups sometimes and am always a little shocked at the sheer numbers of people. Like you say, there isn’t an easy answer to the problem of our numbers. We’re all free to enjoy nature but unfortunately nature isn’t free to keep our numbers and impact reasonable. Cheers and see you in the hills some day!

      • Hey Vern I just want to say thanks for all the time and effort you’ve put into creating this site. I’ve spent countless hours on here not only gaining knowledge about trips but also mountain philosophy. When I first got into scrambling and hiking 5 years ago I loved sharing pictures/stories on various social media feeds and getting a nice hit of dopamine every time someone liked or commented. Soon though, the feeling turned to guilt and I couldn’t bring myself to share anymore seeing how much places like K country changed in just a few years was alarming to say the least. I share the same views that none of us have more rights to an area than the next person but perhaps if people have to actually put in a bit of research and effort to get there instead of blindly following gps tracks maybe they will treat it with more respect (or maybe not go at all) I hope to see this site stick around as I enjoy your writing and photography very much and of course the beta. However I can definitely respect you throttling back on the beta part, especially as your trips grow more and more remote. Thanks again for the countless hours you’ve put into the site as it’s provided me with a healthier philosophy towards the mountains, a passion for photography and of course inspired me to see some pretty wild places!

        • Right on Daniel – I appreciate the comment and am happy to hear that you evolved your own philosophy over the years too. I guess in the end that’s what this is all about. We all need to decide for ourselves what we’re willing to live with as far as our actions are concerned. Cheers!

  5. Hello Vern,
    I just want to say thank you as your blog as been a great source of inspiration to discover the Canadian Rockies as an immigrant to Canada. I was born in France in the 1950’s and use to extensively hike / scramble in the Alps as a teenager and experienced the overuse of many areas over 20 years similar to what you eloquently describe. When I came to Canada in 2003, I was in awe to discover the sheer size of the Rockies and the limited number of people hiking and scrambling and I indeed felt I was back in Europe in the 1970’s. For me, the best part of your blog is when you share your trips with your daughter as it reminded me of my adventures with my dad! Take care and “un grand merci”

    • Thanks for the kind words Jean-Francois. I hope to keep sharing and inspiring with more and more trips with my family and friends over many years to come! I’ve also decided to focus more on my photography next year so hopefully that comes through in my reports too. 🙂

  6. Thank you for your trip reports – I enjoy your pictures and your analysis of the trail and it’s difficulty. Your gps has been useful in a few trips especially with alternative descents or i didn’t save a pic of the crux. I hope you keep your tracks available as I do appreciate the extra tool. I always spend a couple of hours looking at other people’s posts or books before I go but sometimes that is not enough. It is nice to have an aid that you can refer to in the event you do get turned around. For the most part my tracks are turned off; but I will miss this tool to match up to your report. Perhaps charge a modest fee for the right to download – or a subscription – when people have to pay for something it changes the dynamic.
    I don’t believe the numbers in the mountains will continue and I was horrified this year to see Pocaterra become the new Everest (such a beautiful spot). I wish you well an thank you for wag at you have provided

    • Thx Scott. If you ask me nicely I will still share my GPS tracks with you (if I have them) as long as I know you won’t turn around and share them with a million other people! 😛

      Just drop me an email or IM and I’ll be happy to provide beta where needed. I completely understand the safety and planning angle and am not looking to stop supporting locals who are trying to make their trips as safe as possible. Cheers!

  7. It is sad to hear about your decision Vern but is one to be respected. As one of those “social media friends that we’ve never met” I can tell you your reports have inspired me to go on many trips and adventures. Yes I’ve used your GPX tracks but more than to know the way in, it’s been to know a way out in case things didn’t go as planned. Your trip reports have been an invaluable contribution to the community in many ways. I know some of those places I probably won’t go, but it’s been great knowing of them while randomly browsing through your reports and enjoying your amazing pictures.
    Whatever path you choose for explor8ion, it’s important that you feel at peace. I’m sure your decision isn’t an easy one so good on you for taking those steps. Wish you all the best and hope still be able to read about your adventures. Cheers and maybe one day I’ll get to meet you out there!! Safe exploring!!


    • Thx Luis! And feel free to contact me if you need specific beta. I’m always willing to share with folks like yourself who are responsible wilderness users. 👊🏻

  8. Yours is a favorite site and resource of mine. While I’m sad to see these changes I understand where you’re coming from. I’ve been actively hiking for 4.5 years now and even within that time period the major increase in trail users has been evident. Videos like the one of Highwood Pass during the larch march weekend make my heart ache. I found myself posting trip reports less and less on Hike Alberta over the last 2 years as that group has just grown so massive. Anyway, I’ll continue to visit your site for the write ups and photos. Thank you for all the time and effort you’ve put into maintaining Explor8tion.

  9. Thanks for all the trip reports in the past. I’ve used a couple of your track logs to figure out what I’m getting into. My favourite trips have always been the ones where you might see one other group from afar so I appreciate any efforts to keep the bar for entry high on those fragile and secluded locations. I personally enjoy the adventure of a route planned from nothing more than a line on a 50k topo and a description that may or may not be entirely accurate.

  10. Vern – a thoughtful response to a problem we live with every day we head out on old routes now swarmed with jaw dropping crowds! Thanks for all the inspiration you have provided over the years for our crew in Canmore.

  11. Vern, thanks for inspiring people to be the best person they can be, and go out “exploring”. The lure of the unknown is definitely a powerful attractant! I’ve enjoyed reading many of your reports as they have many tidbits of prose that align strongly with some of the struggles that I also think about. Good for you for deciding to try protect the environment by removing your site as a source of gpx tracks. As you indicate, there are other sources available to people – removal of a source such as yours makes it a little harder for someone to just blindly follow a track… encourages research. The research plays a big part of safety in the backcountry, and blindly following a line on a device doesn’t help that. Having discussions with people about a route, and truly understanding what challenges they might face is golden.

    I can’t say my self awareness of my ego is as developed as yours. I know I have an impact when I publish stuff too, but I hide behind this facade of helping others understand potential route challenges. In reality, that probably just encourages others to go see for themselves… I want my trip reports to be something that I can go back to and “re-live” an experience, or sit back on a rainy or otherwise miserable day, and watch a video of a compilation of some adventure that I really enjoyed.

    … so many things to think about – thank you for getting me to think about them!

    • Thx as always for your response Doug! It never hurts (too much) to give our actions and motivations some analysis. Thx also for inspiring me to some pretty sweet areas that you’ve pioneered over the years!

  12. Vern, your adventures have been an inspiration to me ever since I started following your site several years ago, and I have found a lot of value in your route descriptions and photographs. I’ll also admit to living vicariously through your site a lot over the past couple of seasons as I have fought through various injuries that made it tough to get out there myself. A couple years ago I probably would have felt differently about the changes you are making, but after seeing the overwhelming crowds out in the mountains this summer I am in 100% agreement with what you are saying. It is often a fine line between preservation and enjoyment of the environment, especially when the activities we pursue contribute directly to the degradation of the pristine places we aspire to attain. Selfishly, I still want to continue going to those places – I just don’t necessarily want others to do the same, especially those whom may not take the due care and attention to ensure their own safety or protect the areas they visit. I understand fully that I am part of the problem, and that an “it’s OK for me but not for you” mindset isn’t fair or helpful, but all this to say that I understand where you’re coming from I’m not wanting to make the issue any more widespread than it already is. Just know that if you do decide to take the site down, it will be sorely missed by many. In my opinion, between the photos, the trip reports, and the information provided, explor8ion is the best site of its type on the web.

    • Thanks for the kind words Adam. I appreciate it. It’s such a tough thing isn’t it? The balance between loving something enough to enjoy it but not enough to destroy it? I feel like there’s gotta be a few operas written on this subject. Too bad I’m not cultured enough to know of any… 🤔🤷🏼‍♂️

      Cheers and see you in the hills someday! 👊🏻

  13. Thank you for your introspective post. As a long time member of the ACC, I can assure you that the trends you find disturbing have been around for a long time; social media has just super-charged them. I too am troubled by what has happened in the wake of my explorations and F.A. / F.W.A in the Chinese Himalya – especially ice climbing. I salute your effort to stop fueling the problem. I think we need to live with the sacrifice of the front country day hikes / scrambles areas (minimizing adverse impacts) in the name of saving habitat for wildlife in the remote areas….particularly while we continue the policy of widespread forest fire suppression (which limits habitat). I hope you can continue your own explorations to fill your own soul, but keep them to yourself, and those you travel with. They will never mean as much to anyone else, and risk becoming another tick on someone’s bucket list.

    • Thx for commenting Marion. It’s interesting to hear that this is an issue even in the remote areas of the world that you have visited. I agree that the only practical solution is to keep our most special adventures to ourselves and our friends and limit our own impacts on easier front country objectives – especially if we’ve already done them multiple times ourselves.

      Everyone needs and deserves a place in nature to get away from the concrete jungles that most of us are increasingly confined within for the vast majority of our lives. If the more experienced of us save the more accessible landscapes for the less experienced then maybe – just maybe – we can stem the tide of destruction just a little. Cheers!

  14. This was incredibly well written and shockingly honest. Exposing your ego is never easy to do.

    This past spring I posted on one of the Facebook groups with a trip report and photos of Smutwood and Smuts. Probably for my ego. I felt almost personally responsible for the weekly photos from Smutwood I saw throughout the summer, having to bite my tongue and refrain from saying “I wish people would stay away from these remote areas!”. I grew up in the rockies and this summer began feeling a sense of sadness in reaction to the incredible visitation numbers. I can’t pin the blame on anyone, though, because how can you blame anyone for wanting to explore?

    I really don’t know the answer. It’s a tough one!

    • Thanks for the comment Eric. You can absolve yourself of any guilt for the Smutwood hordes – trust me, it gained popularity a few years ago already with many fall posts. It’s a stunning area! Who wouldn’t want to visit it?! The desire to share our stoke for hard-won trips, long-sought adventures and beautiful landscapes is embedded somewhere deep within. Social media exploits our impulse to want to stand out from the crowds around us – for our experiences to mean just a bit more, even just for a few moments before everyone scrolls on past.

      Cheers and see you in the hills some day. Just not on Smutwood OK?! 😛

  15. Hi Vern.

    I wanted to say thank you for allowing us to follow adventures through your eyes. I’ve used a few of your tracks in the past and wanted to give gratitude for all the work you’ve put in. 100 percent respect your decision and I look forward to following your future adventures via pic and story ( as they are always inspirational and educational ).

  16. A very interesting read Vern. Firstly, thank you for sharing you wonderful adventures and photos on your website. As we all know, this year has really brought out an increase in the number of people enjoying the wilderness. I am also struggling with “why” am I viewing posts on facebook and posting my own hikes scrambles and ski outings. Part of this must be ego, but I also justify it by thinking this is how I am documenting my own trips for future reference, and also for my kids, family and friends to view. I sometimes wish I didn’t join facebook a couple years ago. I was born and raised in Calgary and have hiked and skied most of my life (not even close to your extent). As we drove on the gravel roads years ago, we took for granted the tranquility of the Rockies. This has changed as everyone has mentioned, and we have to accept that people have a right to enjoy nature as much as anyone else. C’est la vie, as you said. On a positive note, once a person gets off the beaten track it is still relatively common to hike all day and rarely see another person. As you’ve mentioned, this will get increasingly more difficult. You should be very proud of your accomplishments and sharing your adventures with everyone, and I thank you for that. Good luck with whatever path you choose with your website and documenting your adventures.

    • Hey Carl, thx for commenting and for your encouragement. Change is difficult, especially for old farts like me. 🙂 Phil pointed out something to me that resonated. He figures that people like us are not totally understanding the younger generations and the way they do life and this is part of our angst on the state of things like social media and the “look at me” culture. I distinctly remember the first time I noticed that people were sharing photos of themselves in the scenery rather than just the scenery. It made me uncomfortable and I guess I never really caught on to that fad and here we are years later and I’m still struggling to be at peace with it. 😉

      Cheers and see you in the hills sometime!

  17. I really appreciate the honesty of this post. I hope the changes you are making to your site will help to give the balance you seek. You have an exceptional site and your reports/gpx files are influential, that’s not just your ego talking.

    I have seen the overcrowded parking lots and trash near the trailheads, but I personally rarely encounter other people once I’m out on the trail. There is still lots of wilderness to be found if you’re willing to work for it. I would argue that we don’t have too many people for our vast wilderness, rather I think there is a lack of education among new users.

    • Thanks Jo. I know we share a love of wild places and healthy respect for them too! I agree with you – there is lots of wilderness left. I am simply doing my part to ensure it stays that way for as long as possible! 🙂

  18. You should seriously consider writing a book if you want to move away from content on your site! You are a extremely talented writer. I rarely use your site for beta, I read the reports and look at the pictures to vicariously enjoy the adventures you have. It’s the next best thing to actually climbing the peaks! If you published a book about mountain adventures, I think many people would love it!

  19. Wow Vern, that is honesty and self evaluation at its best. Your trip reports are and have been an inspiration for many years for me, sorry to see it possibly go but understand your reasoning.
    Even though it would be an asset to have the trips in a book (without gpx!).

  20. In Canadian Rockies, the hiking season is simply too short for any damage due to overcrowding to occur.
    The rest of the year, most people whether admittedly or not, are gladly following someone else’s post holing work that facilitates their summit success.
    It’s a hard environment out there.
    If people were to spread around to more trails, it would benefit everyone.
    I personally never use a GPS file, I follow sometimes what is available on apps such as Gaia.
    I prefer to watch a movie made with a storytelling format, that keeps me interested, rather than the feel of a museum expo presentation .
    A story gives life to a trip report, rather than a blunt statistics.

  21. Vern, I have been an avid follower of your adventures for many years. Your website is second-to-none and has been a big source of inspiration for me. At the same time, I have often wondered about the damage that sharing our adventures does to the special places we love by promoting overuse, ego, competition, and commodification of our wild spaces. Some years ago, I ceased tagging locations in my Facebook photos and shortly after stopped posting trip reports after seeing the impact of social media on our parks. I applaud your courage and honesty in recognizing that what we need may not be more accessibility and beta, but less. Wishing you all the best and hope to see you on the trail sometime.

  22. Good read! I’ll be signing up for an account on here. In addition to being excellent resources, your trip reports are fun to read, and often hilarious (especially when things go wrong)! All the stuff about gpx downloads surprised me a bit. I don’t own a gps and tend to just kinda wing it…
    As long as I know I’m in the right valley, I’m generally unconcerned with the specifics! Given enough time, I tend to over-research routes I want to do. However, trips where I know that the route “goes”, but don’t know every single detail in advance often end up being more enjoyable and the accomplishment feels more significant. You’ve made me think about my own motives in the mountains, thanks for that.

  23. Hey Vern,

    I (and many of my closest friends) read and appreciate your website more than we could ever convey. It’s a great resource of photos, information, story, adventure and dreaming that you should be very proud of. I can understand the conflict of sharing all of this information publicly, so that anyone can use it in any way they choose. Unfortunately, as you know and have stated here eloquently, some of these users are irresponsible on different levels. They may use this information to gain access to a picturesque place to increase their following to sell candy bars, or to simply go and trash the place. It sucks. But it’s not on you, and with every person that does this, there are dozens (hundreds?) of other folks of many different levels of experience who use your website for good. They read it, enjoy it, daydream over it, and use it as a source of guidance. They appreciate it. They get out to explore and adventure and create memories for a lifetime, and you have helped them do that. I am one of these people and I know many others. Please don’t beat yourself up over the jerks that may use your information to cause harm. It’s no surprise that the Rockies are getting busier, you know this better than most of us. It’s inevitable. Social media is part of this for sure, but there is good that comes from it (and bad, of course). I guess I just want to say that you’ve got a wonderful resource here that has done far far more good than it has bad. The people that may have used your website to overrun and disrespect the wild are far outnumbered by the folks that went out and enjoyed themselves responsibly, enriching their lives with adventure, exercise, and appreciation for nature that they may not have been able to do as successfully without this great resource. I battle with this myself at times, posting trip reports and photos that probably reach the folks with wrong intentions, but I tell myself that at the end of the day, the decisions that they make are not my own. I hope that I have inspired responsible adventure with my reports, and I know for certain that you have, and continue to do so. It sucks that you feel the need to slightly restrict your website because of the actions of others, it’s probably the right thing to do, just please don’t blame it on yourself. See you in the hills – the ones that are a little harder to get to 😉 … – Jake Finnan

    • Thx for the excellent thoughts Jake. I do understand and appreciate that most folks are like you and I and simply love to get out and enjoy nature. As you know – even too many well intentioned people can inadvertently impact delicate areas of the alpine.

      That being said I have received many inspiring stories from folks over the years at least in part due to explor8ion. This is why I’m keeping it around for most of my reports and opening access to anyone who asks.

      I know you’re definitely one of the good ones and again – thx for your thoughts and beta over the years. 👊🏻

  24. Hi Vern, if you remember I asked you this summer about Cyclone and Pipestone Mountain traverse beta. I didn’t succeed due to a 5m downclimb with death on both sides. I read your recent post and wanted to contribute my thoughts.
    I was born in Calgary and was out hiking and camping with my Dad in the late 70´s. Started backpacking in the 80`s and then peakbagging and alpine climbing in the 90`s. I posted on the RMbooks Peakbagging website too. Wanting a change, I moved to Europe and returned this summer after 12 years away. I have timewarped into how have the Rockies have changed. Parking lots completely overrun, line ups for car camping, backcountry reservations full, booking stuff in December for the upcoming year, 6am at Moraine Lake for a parking spot ?! WTF?! The infrastructure can’t keep up with the crowds.
    The secret is out. It’s all due to social media. Everyone wants to say look what I did and share their experiences whether it be Facebook, Trailforks etc or personal websites. Why not, the experiences are incredible.
    I did Mt. Daly 15 years ago, saw no one, got rained out on Mt. Niles, went back this summer to get it. I saw 6 different groups in Niles Meadows, couldn’t believe it. I asked how they found out about this place, they all said “Trailforks” Not a book or map.
    I did some hiking and peakbagging in Scotland. I reached important trail junctions and surprisingly found only wooden posts with grid references. You had to have a map and compass and know how to use them. In Norway, I couldn’t find a guide book in English and very few in Norwegian. I was told to buy maps. They are trying to keep the secret and keep the newbies away. Here as you say there are so many Facebook pages, everyone happily spreading the secret. Look at me, look at what I did. The post I like the best “I want to do Mt. Lady McDonald, how much water should I bring?”.
    I hiked over 600kms this summer, multi-day backpacking and bagged many peaks, all solo. I’d like to share my experiences but I refuse to post anything, I am not going to share the secret, I am not going to contribute.
    That being said, I have used your website several times, it’s great ! Obviously you love the mountain experience. Congrats on all you´ve achieved. I applaud you for removing the GPX files, I have never used them. Have you removed the maps as well, make it harder, make people get out a topo map themselves.
    This got way longer than I wanted. I had to write to you. I share your concern.

    • Hey Steve. Thx for your thoughts on this. Funny how long they get when you start writing eh? Welcome to my world… 🤔😂

      I have thought about removing maps but I think by requiring people to register and ask me to add them for premium trips will drastically cut down on the sheer numbers of people seeing these reports.

      We’ll see. I am somewhat torn because I think we all have the same right to explore and I enjoy writing and sharing my photos for the sake of the art itself.

      See you out there some day!

  25. You definitely don’t know me but I’ve been following your blog for years. I’ve used your GPX tracks almost exclusively but always read through your trip reports to understand what I’m getting into and what obstacles you overcame. Love, love your blog but completely understand the need to redirect your energy. I’ll continue checking out Explor8ion but want to thank you for your years and years of effort and love poured into this site. It’s helped me push myself to do bigger objectives after reading about your experiences so I hope you continue to share this epic part of your life with us!

  26. Thanks for the post Vern. It comes at an interesting time for me in my life in that today was the day I set aside to get myself off Twitter and make concerted efforts to strip away some of the negative aspects that the internet has brought into my (our) lives. Recently and randomly I found myself on a YouTube site that was dedicated to exploring “vintage” websites from pre-2000. I almost found myself in tears and feeling tremendously sad to see the degradation that has taken to place with the internet on a whole. Pre social media, pre-amazon, the late 90’s / early 2000’s internet was poised to fundamentally change the whole course of the human race – the fast and easy spread of information was to bring in an explosion in human knowledge and progress. I felt so excited about the internet in those days – not only was it fascinating, but it was vibrant and dynamic and interesting. Then capitalism saw the tremendous opportunity that could be exploited and the post 2010’s internet has largely been to transformed into a human enslavement tool, where everyone is rushing for the next hit of dopamine via either raging to their identity groups on Twitter or posting up content on whatever their fancy is to get “likes”. What makes the internet so dangerous right now is that all of us falling into this trap is actually quite natural – we want to be liked, we want to achieve things, we want something to feel good about – and the corporate interests know it and have fed us a diet of “likes” and other incentives to keep us hooked. For me in my life I got completely and totally consumed in the madness of what has gone in the US since 2016 and the election last week was to be my “cutoff” for Twitter. I believe the rise of a dictator in the US is yet another symptom of what the post 2010 internet social media culture has given us.

    I have been thinking about all this A TON recently. Our society has not learned how to live with the internet in a healthy way and in the meantime our interest and attention has been completely hijacked. I do not see how our society on a whole can start to recover and reform the internet until we rid ourselves of the poison of social media in all its varieties.

    You and I have a long-standing history and I have always appreciated your frankness and look to you as a leader. Since I have always used your website for inspiration and entertainment and rarely for some of the more negative reasons you have outlined, I hope you will keep your fans in the loop in terms of the premium access you note in the post.

    Cheers Vern!

    • Thanks for the comment as always Brandon. Your thoughts on social media are dark but I have a hard time disputing most of them. I do know that certain personalities such as yours and mine should NOT spend too much time there. It’s not good for us. As for the premium content, please go to this page and it should be clear how this works.

  27. Vern, thanks for these insightful words that leave a lot to think about.

    Unlike many that have posted comments, long timers in the Front Range, I’m a relative newcomer so your post demands particular introspection on my part. I’m also not at this time a recreational scrambler–it’s a means to an end, but I’m more focused on getting to particular rocks than bagging summits–and your and other GPS tracks have helped tremendously to both get my team where they needed to go and restrict our passage to limit impacts on fragile ecosystems. This has been especially important to us when these sites were only visited previously by geologists back in the 50s and 60s when even the peak names could be different.

    However, the beauty of your photography kept me coming back to your site, so I signed up for the email updates. Also, the majesty of just being out in these hills have had me thinking of just getting out to be out in it. But I’ve seen the park ups in various places this year too so I haven’t done (it also seems selfish to me when my partner can’t also enjoy this level of physical exercise and has been otherwise stuck at home by the pandemic) and honestly I’m more attracted to the solitude than the Instagram selfie. I’m also working my way through how I might be impacting on traditional land use ongoing to this day.

    Anyway, thank you for these well considered thoughts, as difficult as they were for you to write and for me to read.

    • Thx for commenting Jason. If you or your team ever need a gps track from me feel free to ask. You have a great use case for it. I hope you continue to enjoy the solitude that our mountains give. It’s so important to get out to the sounds of silence. 👊🏻

  28. Vern:
    Wow, very well said. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I approve fully of what you are doing. You have successfully put in words exactly what my thoughts have been over the last several years. I have become attached to your reports over the past couple years as I have sought out places to experience the same solitude that has drawn you to those places. I came to understand and appreciate your brief difficulty rating to do a quick assessment for myself. Your photos have always inspired me. I hope our paths cross someday in some remote location in our beautiful mountains.

  29. Vern, thank you for being so open and honest. And thank you for sharing these photos and stories over the years. I’d love to still be able to read them. I love to read how you are pleasantly surprised on an easy hike and don’t enjoy one you were expecting to. I enjoy your shared adventures with your daughter, as I am backpacking more with my own. I’ll never use your GPS tracks (or anyone’s, really, as researching the map is half the fun), since I live far away and may never return to your area, although it is very high on my list. I also struggle with how much to share on my blog and question whether I am making an negative impact, but hope to instill that love of the wilderness enough that my readers will become stewards and help save it. That being said, I have a few spots that I’ve found during my research that are undoubtedly shared by only a few.

    • Hey Derek. Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately there’s very little evidence that driving more people into the wilderness makes them become “stewards” of it. I’ve read more than one study on this topic and seen more than one example of it myself. The issue also is that for every 1000 groups that do respect the land, it only takes 1 or 2 to do a LOT of damage, especially in alpine environments.

  30. Vern,

    Firstly i’d just like to say, as a younger person, you really changed my life with Explor8ion, the photos you posted were what inspired me to really get into the hiking, scrambling and landscape photography scene all the way back in 2016 and have given me such cherished new hobbies that I might have never been into without your website.

    That’s why, despite being quite saddened by the eventual disappearance of the site, I really agree and understand your decision. With Corona I saw parking lots of formerly rarely visited mountains packed with cars, garbage up in ridiculous amounts on trails (All the pockets in my cargo pants were filled just on Lipsett!) and literal Apple-store level line-ups of people at the different parts of Yamnuska, it’s horrible to see such disrespect to these beautiful areas and I really can feel your dread of even having the 0.000001% chance of being an enabler to these people who have zero respect nor care about our beautiful wildlands.

    I love going through your website during winters just to remember how exciting summer is, how much there is left to explore, it really fights back the seasonal blues that come from Calgary’s lovely winter months.
    Maybe instead of removing the site you can make it entirely private and locked behind a small paywall to keep it running? I myself would be happy to keep Explor8ion going because the stories you tell with your photos and articles are priceless.

    Thank you for everything,

    • Hey Nick, thanks for the comment and your thoughts! Firstly, explor8ion isn’t being shut down just yet – likely not any time soon. As any artist is want to do, I like to share both my words and my photos too much to stop completely. 🙂 I just have to do it differently going forward. Popular areas will remain open to everyone because the cat is way outta the bag on those. Think most Kane and Nugara scrambles and any of the really popular hikes and backpacks. There’s no reason for me to hide those behind “premium content” because they’re so popular. I am going to experiment with premium content subscriptions (free) for now and see how that goes. Cheers and see you in the hills!

  31. I am an admirer and intense checker on Explor8ion. I am so sad to hear it will go. I am also a mountains and photography lover, returning from every day hike with an average of 500-700 pics. I wasn’t born here and I am pretty new to Rockies. I try to get friends together weekly to go hiking. And when is to chose a trail I use Google Maps or Fatmap for orientation, distance, surroundings, etc. And once I make a pick, I google it. Explor8ion is always on the first page beside Spirko, Steven, Sony and Matt. For me this is not competition, it is gold. It is a Pentagon of big mountaineers whose notes and pictures are very valuable. Yes, there are plenty of books but no text will prepare you better for a hike than a picture taken by a pro in mountaineering. These pros know exactly what to photograph and how to help readers “understand what to expect. Go to Alltrails and yes, see the maps and routes but cannot count on almost any information written there because all contributors have different levels of experience, risk and understanding.
    Explor8ion and the other 4, for me became not only “visual maps” but also etalons. When they say it is a 15km trail, I know that it is and when they say 6 hours, I know I take 8 🙂 . But this means so much beside all the explanatory pictures! Reading Explor8ion is like documenting the same trail from one book, one photo album and one trip journal…is an all-in-one website.
    Personally I am happy to have the opportunity to document myself on Explor8ion and I would deeply regret to see it coming to an end, regardless the reason. Again, there are more and more names trying their virtues on dedicated web pages but what the big 5 accomplished is their and will be their forever. Same like for them a Kane and for others a Nugara or Daffern was, it is just a more modern way to present. A book will never have enough pictures to really get the feeling what to expect. A website does. And text can explain further if needed. Moreover, is the size of these pictures, where Explor8ion and Matt are exceeding any expectation. And yes, there are also maps and routes for both.
    And once again, there are not many beside the 5 I mentioned who offer text, pictures and maps for almost any mountain you can be interested on. Moreover, some describe the trail in summer, others in winter or in between so whenever you want to go there is a resource of information for you.
    I also spend a day per week searching for trails, another day to process and distribute pictures but I know these things are making happy not only my hikers but also our admirers who for their own reasons cannot accompany us.
    And this is enough for me to keep going without even thinking about it. Should I better use this time for me and my family instead? Maybe, but then what, where, who, why will be daily questions in my mind.
    And, when comes to spreading info about secluded places, it will happen anyway. The internet is unlimited. But let’s not forget that hikers that we don’t like on the trails are mostly unseasoned and won’t adventure too far or too hard. Exceptions apply. But even for them, is better to have a trustworthy guide like Explor8ion than a series of selfies taken on a peak by brave people who are there only to brave, not showing what they went through to get there and so encouraging fellow dreamers to do the same regardless their expetience level.
    For me, the Pentagon guys, Explor8ion being one of them, are there not to brave, not to sleep, not to promote but to teach, to guide, to save lives or keep safe others on the trails I can say. And it is a big role, be proud of it, moreover you do it while following your own passsion so everybody wins.
    Happy hiking and please think not twice but 3 times before deciding the future of this website!
    Thank you!

  32. I have been following your blog for years, and I love your brilliant photography and clever writings – thank you so much for posting your adventures! As sad as it is, I totally understand and agree with your decision to pare back on sharing details. I am an avid hiker and have had a recreational property in Canmore for nearly two decades, with the Bow Valley and Rockies in general having been my favorite place to spend my free time. The last few years however have really been disappointing, as the trails are overrun with people who have little respect for nature, and the abuse that the backcountry is taking is shocking. For me, it is to the point where I have decided to sell my condo and redirect my outdoor interests elsewhere.
    I do hope you are able to continue to find untouched (or somewhat less traveled!) areas to explore, and please do continue to display your lovely photos – they are truly inspirational. Thank you again!

  33. Your journey is a familiar one. I’ve enjoyed your writing and photography, much like I did with my late friend Rick. It has made me a frequent reader of your stories. Especially when you have gone into remote areas and seldom visited peaks, ones that bring back special memories for me.
    Less is sometimes better. The mountains are a place to go and escape society, challenge ourselves, and appreciate nature. Its hard to do that following your electronics to a summit, or having someone solve all of your problems, it reduces the experience.
    Social media and the internet will be the downfall of our natural spaces. It almost feels unstoppable at this point. And it is why most people who love them descend into silence, hopeful that their last remaining special places remain unknown.

    • Hey David. As I’m sure you know, Rick is still a major inspiration for many of our adventures. He is surely missed even by those of us who never met him in person.

  34. Hi Vern,

    I’ve been following for site for a number of years now, although I have never gotten in touch or left a comment. I find your trip reports to be just the right mix of humour, helpful, and inspiring and have always enjoyed your writing (and your photographs!).

    I worked in Jasper for three years as a guide in the front country (and grew up in Northern Ontario surrounded by a very… flat “mountain”). I found your words here powerful and relatable – spending so much time in the trees and with those mountains gives you an appreciation for the wilderness only gained through experience.

    I was working 6 days a week in Jasper, with that 7th day being saved for a weekly adventure where I could find some quiet (laundry and groceries could be done some other time…). Often, on my last day of work for the week, I would rush down to the townsite to sneak into the Library just before it closed to read up on where I should go for my day-off. I think the library staff definitely recognized me by the end, and would quickly give me the Wi-Fi code and I would run and grab the Kane guidebook. Your trip reports have a wonderful, nostalgic place in my heart – I often find myself reading them even now, far away from those mountains as I am back in Ontario completing my schooling in Veterinary Medicine (soon to move back to the West, of course).

    I respect your decision to remove your GPS tracks from your website – although I will miss comparing my own tracks to yours and laughing when I notice how much more efficient you are!

    Sorry for this novel of a comment. I hope you have a safe, enjoyable winter and I look forward to reading the stories about your adventures again and again.


  35. Hi Vern,

    Although I have never left a comment or made contact, I’ve been following your site for years now and wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed your incredible adventures through your stunning photography and entertaining writing. I would laugh when you forgot how exhausting certain trails were – that you had already done (this is something I regularly feel) and smile at the simple things in nature that would catch your eye. I have so much respect for you in the decision you have made.

    I feel grateful to experience the joy that adventuring and spending time outdoors in these beautiful mountain landscapes bring, but I too often think about how we must do so responsibly. I will admit I’ve consulted or compared your GPS tracks many a times, and I have also seen the crazy increase in traffic throughout the mountains within the last few years… and realize that I am not at all excused from my impact. This is something I constantly struggle with and feel guilty about. I still want to get out and recreate in these places that truly bring me so much joy but I am always reflecting on how I can be better, to help protect the wild places we all love. Thanks for these thoughts. I hope to, at least, continue listening to the stories you choose to share for they remind me of my own thoughts and feelings and range of emotions of being a tiny speck in these vast landscapes. Happy adventuring, cheers!

  36. Hey Vern,

    Though we haven’t connected before, I wanted to share how helpful and inspiring I’ve found your site to be over the years. I’ve lost track of time pouring over the trip reports, perusing your utterly stunning photographs, and daydreaming about finding my own little slices of adventure and paradise. Your site has provided me with a good sense of my own limits and bounds of comfort in the backcountry and in the alpine, but also with aspirations and goals to build towards. For that, and for taking the time to share your passion of our backyard with us all, I’d like to say thanks.

    I understand your decision and can certainly empathize – backpacking and hiking lately, especially this past summer through the throngs and throngs of people and cars, has had some of the magic taken away. As others have already shared, I too feel the same conflict each time I step on a trail, push up a ridge, or dodge a fallen tree. I can only hope that redoubling our efforts to both push for conservation of our natural areas and build awareness and sensitivity in those newly seeking out natural spaces will help mitigate some of our effects on the backcountry.

    Once again Vern, thank you for sharing your thoughts, your passion, and your thirst for adventure and beautiful spaces with us all these years. Whatever you choose to offer the world, I look forward to letting it transport me back to the pleasant memories of my own adventures or helping me imagine future escapes.

    Hope you’re well!

  37. Hello Vern,

    I’d feel remiss if I were to not leave a thought or two, even though my thoughts reflect what has been said here so eloquently by many others.

    -Thank you for all the personal time that you have spent putting this website together in all its components. That came at the expense of your family and a lot of sleep.

    -Thank you for accompanying me on our French/Jellicoe – Prairie Lookout trip this past summer. That was a high energy, standout day for me. I look forward to future suffering through the bushwhack up Chancellor and braving the last 2 hours of Robertson with you if you are still inclined. Both peaks are certainly worth the effort.

    -Yes, each one of us has an impact on the environment around us but it’s the exceptional few who make the greatest and most negative, long-lasting impact on the surroundings that we love so much. These exceptional few are the most significant threat to the parks’ flora, fauna & geography (trail braiding [most notably Prairie Mtn], litter [everywhere], cutting down trees [Vents Ridge last week], defecating near paths and waterways [you’ve written about this], creating avoidable avalanches [usually by high marking on snowmobiles or by not knowing how to interpret avi conditions], etc.) because they cannot possibly share our love, appreciation, passion and compassion for the mountains. They are in it for the reasons stated by others above. We should not compare our impact with the impact of these others.

    -Regarding social media comments made by Brandon and others, you may be interested in checking out: Stromae’s “Carmen” (it’s in French as he is a musician from Belgium but you can view his video with English captions) and the documentary, “The Social Dilemma” available on Netflix.

    -I have never used your GPS tracks (or anyone else’s) simply because I’m not tech savvy enough to know how. I am not even sure where the cord to hook my GPS to my computer is. I have, however, looked forward to seeing your red line maps to verify ascent routes. If these must go, so be it.

    FINAL WORD: I think that you are heading in the right direction but I would advocate keeping your website for the simple reason that it balances the irresponsible trip reports posted on social media and various meet-up groups. You present a responsible, stewardship-minded way of viewing the mountains and our ventures into them.

    Kind regards and appreciatively,


  38. Interesting post, a real conundrum (not enough wilderness to keep it wild the way we’re going), and an interesting question how much or whether your site and sites like it contribute to increasing crowds. I greatly enjoy your trip reports, pictures, and quick and dirty ratings. Also entertaining om over Hanneke en Wietse te lezen. A lot of areas that have become popular are now well-known and relatively close to Calgary. Cross-country skiers complain about Chester Lake no longer being skiable because of the winter hikers with no etiquette or idea how to not damage xc tracks. Picklejar Lakes and that entire area have become very popular and ‘easy’ backcountry skiing places have become very busy as well.

    I think your website has a number of functions for different people. For me, I enjoy reading the trip reports and especially the pictures of areas I will never visit. I can hike 30 km/1500 meter (something you mentioned in a post on the Molar area) but I can’t scramble or climb and my ultimum backcountry ski goal is the Haig/French/Robertson traverse. Your pictures are a window on areas I won’t see in person. A second use for me is looking at your rating and pictures to try to decide if something is within my limits. For instance, I looked at Cirque Peak before going because for me that looked like a challenging hike, but it’s of course well-known, also without your site. Neither of those uses would give increased traffic to specific areas. For high-end scrambling/climbing I wouldn’t know how much difference sites with beta make, but those lists are out there, and having descriptions like yours should be useful for others?

    I think potentially the most problematic use is popularizing remote/unknown areas. I agree too many people have too much time and money to go anywhere, and protection of areas lags way behind. Personally I like being outside and am happy to ski in resorts (which are no longer wild to begin with, mostly), climb Bourgeau every year, walk to Healy Pass area a few times, and do hike/bike in ‘standard’ areas on established trails, but I would guess beta on remote/unknown areas is likely to increase traffic there from people who wouldn’t try without having some information. Maybe not publishing gps info or detailed practical tips is a good compromise, and perhaps for the most sensitive areas consider not posting them?

    Regardless of what you decide to do, thanks for all the effort you put in this site. I will definitely miss the site if you decide to stop with it.


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