Welcome to Explor8ion!

Welcome and Intent

Welcome to explor8ion! I hope that my adventures can inspire you to complete your own – whether they are following my footsteps or creating new ones of your own. Despite seeming like a bit of a ‘brag fest’ – this site has 25 years of content and grew from very humble beginnings. I love hiking, climbing, skiing, scrambling, canoeing and many other outdoor pursuits. I also love taking photos, videos and writing blogs about my adventures. I do all this work so that someday I can look back and relive my many adventures. I love sharing my pursuits with others and love inspiring people to go beyond their comfort zones but this isn’t my primary mission in life or even the primary goal of this site. 

I make no claims about being fitter, faster, more prolific or any other comparison metric with others. The hubris of self promotion is not something that I’m interested in. I simply do what I do because it gives me pleasure to do it. That’s it. No agenda, no lists, no goals, no side hustle, no grandiosity. When I feel like doing a trip, I do it. When I feel like posting a GPS track, I do it. Pretty darn simple, and simple is what I like best.

This site has always been public and free for all to use. That will likely continue but it could change at some point for a variety of reasons. A lot of folks don’t realize it, but this site costs me hundreds of dollars per year, all paid out of my own pocket. Yes, the annoying Google ads pay for some of it but not even close to the full amount. I’m happy to do this for my passion but again – likely not forever! Don’t panic, I’ll make sure to give everyone notice of any site closures or major changes before they happen – assuming the universe grants me that luxury of course.

How to Use Explor8ion

Let’s explore how you can get the most out of this site because with over 920 peaks, hundreds of hikes, dozens of canoe trips and tens of thousands of images, the sheer amount of data is overwhelming. Unfortunately it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage and present all of my many trips in an effective and easily digestible manner. Here are just some of the most efficient and sensible ways to view all of my data.

The exciting summit ridge of South Twin Peak.

Standard Disclaimer and Safety Tips

This is your standard disclaimer so that I don’t get sued when you follow one of my tracks or reports and get yourself into trouble. Use this site and the beta contained therein at your own risk! The author makes no claim of authority or relevance of any of this drivel on the successful outcome of your trip. Mountains are a dramatically changing landscape and routes that I plotted over 10 years ago might look and feel completely different today.

Please carefully read my difficulty ratings and know what I mean by them. Always travel prepared for the conditions and terrain you’re on. Just because I didn’t use a rope on a glacier does not mean you shouldn’t. Conditions, personal risk profiles and stupidity levels are different for each and every one of us. I know I don’t wear my helmet enough for example. Wear a brain bucket – the Rockies are doing their best to fall down and often they wait until you’re around to do it.

The Relative Unimportance of Fun (and this site!)

I’ve written on this topic before, but it behooves me to point out that none of what is documented on this site is very important in the grand scheme of things. I’m not really making the world a better place – you could argue I bring attention to areas that don’t need any more human feet than they already get. Of course, in the end what is the point of any of it? There isn’t much. I recognize this as the great comedy called ‘life’. No matter how big you climb or how many peaks you summit, there is always going to be someone faster, fitter and more accomplished. There’s always more summits. There’s always more hikes. In the end this is all just entertainment for people like us with enough time and money to enjoy ourselves on the weekend and destress from our regular lives. 

About Me

Some basic facts about me that may or may not explain some of what you read or see over the decades of trip reports. I grew up on a small family farm in southern Manitoba – about as far from mountains or even hills as you can get! I was raised in a very strict Calvinist religious sect and grew up with a correspondingly strict and limited world view. I moved to Calgary in 1999 and my first mountain was Ha Ling on a work trip. I was immediately hooked. I didn’t know it at the time but over the next 20 years the freedom of the hills would slowly work its way into my whole life and eventually set me free in many ways I never thought possible. 

I have always struggled with my weight and have a borderline eating / body dysmorphic disorder. My weight fluctuates terribly and mountains have always been the one way that I can somewhat regulate it – although eating always wins out in the end. I chuckle at well-meaning folks who think exercise is an automatic way to stay slim – I am living proof that it is most certainly not! I have managed to gain weight while exercising ridiculous amounts. The mountain community is certainly not immune from folks with eating disorders and body issues. If you thought you were alone in this fight – you are not.

I am a hiker that dables in alpinism, rather than an alpinist that hikes. I wish it were the other way around but it’s not. I never had the luxury of wandering the world when I was young. I got married and started a family in my early 20’s and have always had to work to support them. All my mountains and trips were done on top of a full time job while raising my two wonderful kids (Kaycie and Niko) with my even-more-wonderful partner (Hanneke). Sometimes the things you love have to suffer for the people you love. In case you’re wondering, Hanneke and I were childhood sweethearts and have been together since we were 13 years old which is pretty darn cool, I think. Although my family is the joy and ultimate priority of my life, I’d be lying if I said it was always easy balancing their needs and my burgeoning passions for adventure and explor8ion. When the kids were young and we were a single income family there were many tough days trying to balance the two. Now that both my kids are done college I will have more time to pursue some of my other life passions. Hanneke won’t do sketchy scrambles with me, but she’s game for canoe trips which is pretty great.

That’s enough about me for now. If you want some more of Vern’s philosophy you can check out some of my articles;

Feel free to reach out any time to discuss anything you read or see on my site or to ask me questions or make suggestions. 


34 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!


    • 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! :))

  8. Wow, what an incredible website! I am from Washington State and am currently planning my 2nd trip to the Canadian Rockies and I am very thankfu to have your beautiful photographs and detailed write-ups to aid me in planning.

  9. Wow, what an incredible website! I am from Washington State and am currently planning my 2nd trip to the Canadian Rockies and I am very thankful to have your beautiful photographs and detailed write-ups to aid me in planning.

    • Thx for the kind words Tobin, hopefully you have a great time in Canada and can use my site to focus your trip on things you want to experience in the Rockies.

  10. Hi Vern! Such a great site…thank you for giving so much to the community!

    A couple years ago, I was sitting on Willis looking East, thinking I wanted to go back in there sometime. And then a few months ago I saw your great WG Wanderings post and I shall use that as a basis for a planned trip in August. I will add in Mount Stewart to start and see if I can descend North into Afternoon Lakes. And, of course, I am adding three days! The WG death march you did was impressive but I’ll leave that to you!

    Sometimes I leave all-weather notebooks at peaks and I will take three or four in with me. I can probably manage a couple PVC tubes as well. Based on your Stewart write-up, I will place one there. Any other locations that might ‘need’ one?

    And if you have any general tips or do-over ideas that aren’t in your write-ups, I’d love to hear them.


    – Daniel O

    • Hey Daniel! Glad you get use out of my site. Good luck with the trip this summer – what a beautiful area. I think most of the peaks we did had pretty good registers but some of the booklets were damp or wet as usual for pvc tubes that are opened once a decade. 😏

  11. We do a lot of mountain climbing with reference to your data when hiking.
    I’m going to go chick-a-boom ski traverse tomorrow, but I need a gpx file. Could I get a gpx file from you?

  12. Thanks so much for Explor8tion, an outstanding resource that you have shared with us all. Your trip accounts are very insightful, and the images are simply spectacular. The Emerald Peak ski touring article just hooked me,
    Now I am a couple of hours in reading about other trips, and inspired for more adventure in the Rockies.
    Safe trekking!

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