Just Go Up: An Opportunity To Fly

Words and Photos:: Sarah Bulford

I’m a serious planner. I plan every single day ahead of time and don’t adapt well to change. I’m definitely not the impromptu, jump on a plane, take a vacation type of person. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy going away for a weekend or traveling somewhere new; I just want to have it well organized. I guess for me, it’s about maximizing my time off. It’s about not wasting the time I have and being able to relax and enjoy it.

So when I got a call that extra seats were available on a last minute, permitted work flight into the mountains,

I obviously took it.

article continues below


Blackcomb helicopter up near wedgemont
The bird of steel awaits

The time-frame was short: drop off at 10:30 am and a flight out at 1 p.m. We hadn’t explored this area of BC much, but had put a few of the mountains on our list to eventually summit. Typically, I am up in this area for work (Park Ranger), so time to explore is very limited and on my days off, I usually end up elsewhere. Saying yes to this flight would mean skipping out on 3 hours in the forest, ascending about 1200m in roughly 6 km – which would leave us plenty of time/energy to summit a nearby peak.

The flight was confirmed in the evening and we decided not to make summiting plans and just sus out our options upon arrival. This was a scary thought, years of being on a Search and Rescue team has drilled the importance of planning into me. I am always thinking “what if” and trying my best not to rush anything.

Before bed, I began running through my brain list:

  • Weather is forecasted to be great: Check.
  • We have all the gear we need: Check.
  • The scrambles we can do are well within our skill range: Check.
  • We have a backup plan if we can’t make the time cut off: Check.
  • We have chocolate: Check.

Whenever I get in a helicopter I feel so lucky. They are such amazing machines and even though I fly in them a lot for work and SAR, they still wow me everytime. You’re just in, what feels like a tin can, whipping through the air and high above the mountain tops. It’s exhilarating. I love the way that heli’s fly, so effortlessly and suave and the pilots so in tune with each movement. It’s always impressive.


Sarah Bulford and Pearce Mundy in a helicopter headed towards Wedgemont
“I’m so bummed to be inside this helicopter”, said no one ever.   With Pearce Mundy

We touched down just slightly after 10:45, losing a bit of our scrambling time. We looked up and decided on which peak seemed the most attainable with the time allotted. We set off towards our desired mountain which began with a steep, scree field. We had a general idea of where we needed to go and a faint trail confirmed the way for us.

We felt the pressure to move quickly and only take very few breaks. It was self-driven pressure because in the back of our heads, we knew that we could always take the long way out. But this was kind of fun – a challenge that we don’t usually take on. Let’s beat the clock and hit this summit.


Sarah Bulford on the summit of Mount Cooke outside of Whistler, BC
On the summit of our alpine sprint mission.

As we reached the top we took a deep breath of that fresh mountain air and high-fived knowing we would make our departure time.

Each time I am on a summit, doesn’t matter the height or difficulty, I always have the same feeling rush through my soul. It’s that wild, “we’re really out here”, feeling. It’s wanting that moment to never end, wanting to go further and discover every place in view. It’s also a feeling of respect and fear of the mountains. Fear of sudden, changing weather, fear of being stuck. I always listen to that feeling because it’s what brings me home safely after each adventure.


Looking over the peaks near Wedgmont and Mount Cooke outside of Whistler.
Looking over the peaks from our summit in the Coast Range.

When we flew out, I looked over the trail we had just ascended and beyond into the valley below. I looked at the surrounding mountains and felt grateful. It’s not everyday that you catch a flight and cut off the majority of an ascent into the mountains. We live in such a land of opportunity, especially in Squamish. The connections you can make through work and your personal life are endless. The adventures you find yourself on are unlimited. My knees thanked me for that trip and when we got back, it still felt like we had the whole day to explore – or sit and drink coffee because that’s almost as good.


Looking down at Wedgemount Lake from the summit of Mount Cooke
Looking down at the glaciers below our sunny summit

Instagram: @mountaindarlin

Website: mountaindarlin.com