“We created this traverse in the hopes of experiencing something so immense, so incredible, so epic, that it would change our lives forever.”
This was Martina Halik, from Fernie, and her mother Tania Halik, from Invermere, describing their plan to ski trek the length of the B.C. Coast Mountains. Although experienced outdoor adventurers, the two had never attempted anything so extreme: a journey of 2,300 kilometres from Squamish, B.C. to Skagway, Alaska, with 15 major ice fields and 12 large river valleys on their route.
The winter of 2017 – they embarked from Squamish in January –was one of the harshest B.C. winters in recent memory, with -20C temperatures and high winds for weeks on end. In addition to the unrelenting cold and snow, Martina and Tania faced not only personal fears, but discomforts like hunger, fatigue and isolation. Traversing the unforgiving landscape, carrying upwards of 80 pounds each, required physical exertion to the breaking point. Complicating their journey were lost food drops, a dangerous river crossing, bears emerging from hibernation and a monster late-season storm. But these are all offset by the most remarkable and stunningly beautiful sights, including a magical ice cave and a full moon over remote ice fields.
As the film’s director, Grant Baldwin, said, few Canadians truly experience the majestic mountains that comprise much of our nation’s landscape. His documentary, This Mountain Life, is “a love letter to the outdoors” and a riveting chronicle of the mother-daughter trip. Because of the difficulty and length of the Haliks’ journey (almost six months), the women recorded much of their own expedition on cell phones and GoPros, but Baldwin also filmed them on many legs of their trip.
Interspersed through the Haliks’ story, the director introduces us to other people living the mountain life: an artist who “paints” with his skis, a nun in a monastery in the Garibaldi Highlands, a snowboarder who survived an avalanche and a homesteader living off-grid, highlighting the danger, the escapism, the simplicity and the magnificence of mountains.
As the Haliks’ journey was described by the Vancouver International Film Festival: “We marvel at their daring and resolve, their ingenuity and endurance and with them, we savour a taste of the sublime.”
This Mountain Life shows at 5 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2 at the Salmar Classic.