A higher state of consciousness

Anyone for a spot of yogic flying? Chris Leadbeater heads to the Canadian Rockies, where mountain meditation comes courtesy of a rather noisy helicopter

When the silence recovers its composure, it does so with authority. It seems to wash over everything – the surrounding mountains, the patches of scrub on the ridges, the boulders that cling to unlikely gradients. I close my eyes, try to pick out a sound. There is nothing.

Of course, there is a chance that my ears are still adjusting to the sudden shift in volume.

Six minutes earlier, I was in the process of being deafened, the blades of the helicopter howling even as I stood on the scales by the terminal, having my weight checked ahead of the flight. Then we were clambering aboard, four of us in the belly of this metal vulture, headphones and lip-microphones affixed, allowing us to speak amid the roar.

The noise increased as we leapt from the ground, Cline River Heliport diminishing, the shape of Abraham Lake – a crooked, beckoning finger – becoming more identifiable as we rose. Within seconds, the only witnesses to our progress were several bighorn sheep, looking on aghast from a lushly grassed slope.

They too fell away as we soared onward – fir trees a blur of green – before dropping on to a clearing flat enough to enable the helicopter to land.

This contrast between calm and clamour is all part of the plan. The disappearance of the latter – which fades as the chopper picks up its feet and returns to the valley – is a hint that I am now, along with my fellow adventurers, "lost" in the wilderness.

But we are here to escape – and we will do so by hiking along sparse trails, breathing the clear air of lofty altitude, and indulging in a spot of yoga in a section of the Canadian Rockies that guards its privacy. Were it not for the helicopter, the only way to reach this high outcrop would be a day of sweat and toil, climbing ropes slung across shoulders, blisters on weary soles.

The remoteness of our location is instantly obvious. We are perched 2,195m (7,200ft) up on a crag that sits in the V-shaped intersection of two waterways. On one side, Cline River Canyon ploughs a north-westerly furrow. On the other, Coral Creek Canyon claws a route west, slicing through rock towards the spine of North America's most iconic mountain range.

Here, especially, the cloud-scraping drama of the Rockies deserves applause. Yet there is no one here to clap but us. It is 30 miles west to the fabled Icefields Parkway, where the motorhomes of myriad holidaymakers chase road-trip nirvana, lolloping past the slow-flickering tongues of ancient glaciers.

It is 100 miles east to Red Deer, where "civilisation" re-emerges in this dormitory town between Calgary and Edmonton (the two key cities of Alberta). Give or take the occasional soaring eagle or wandering bear, we are on our own.

And we need to start moving. Though this is summer, a chill hangs on the breeze, and the ghost of winter waits by some of the paths, haunting the scene in stubborn dabs of white.

So we begin walking, heading loosely back towards Abraham Lake. In parts, the going is easy. In others, the terrain kicks up, causing calf muscles to complain. Elsewhere, the land plunges and I find myself staring into the abyss, frozen above a descent of giddy depth.

After an hour at a fair pace, we push through a cluster of bushes and onto the Wedding Knoll. Its name is a clue to its personality. Blessed with a 360-degree panorama, it is used by Cline River Heliport as a setting for marital occasions.

The same characteristics – a direct line of sight across to a phalanx of mountain shards opposite, peaks clustered like a colossal coxcomb; the sky wide and epic – make it an ideal site for a little group exercise.

I am a long way from being an expert at yoga. But against such a backdrop, there is a quiet thrill to slipping off my boots, unrolling a mat and drifting again into hilltop silence.

At one corner of the square into which we form ourselves, Martha McCallum, the leader of our band, has rather more knowledge of this peaceful discipline.

A yoga practitioner for more than 20 years, she has been staging these helicopter-powered forays into the upper realms of the Rockies since 2008. In an earlier existence, she ran a café in Canmore, a ski town just outside Banff National Park. It is not difficult to grasp why she fled from the kitchen.

"Breathe in. Let yourself sink into your surroundings. Look around. Take in the beauty,' she says, running us through a series of poses that stretch sense and sinew: the arched back of Downward-Facing Dog; the bowed head of Dolphin; the upthrust arms of Warrior I. Despite my relative unfamiliarity with these movements, I find myself subscribing to the situation.

Through the mat, I can feel the mossy softness – seasoned with the odd pebble – of the ground below my toes. Dashes of sound that were hidden in the aftermath of the flight are now perceptible: the murmur of water on the edge of the clearing; the rustle of an unseen animal, rooting in undergrowth; the faint cry of wind, flowing around the peak.

It is an eventual wrench to break out of this reverie. But there is food to be eaten. Packed lunches – prepared by our hostess, a nod to her catering days – are handed out. There are meaty sandwiches and sticky flapjacks, boxes of salad and piles of fruit. A healthy feast.

As we are chewing, a jet's vapour trail gouges the firmament. The aircraft is invisible, but given the context, this seems a gross interruption – a burglar alarm at 4am; a mobile phone in a library; a coughing fit during a ballet performance. Yet it is also a reminder that the cord has not been cut. One call on Martha's radio will summon the helicopter. Sure enough, it bursts forth at her order, audible long before it is present. And despite the fact that the alternative – a complex trek downwards – is unpalatable, I am sorry to see the taxi arrive.

Travel Essentials

Getting there

British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) and Air Canada (0871 220 1111; aircanada.com) fly to Calgary from Heathrow.

Visiting there

Martha's Heli-Hikes, Cline River Heliport, Highway 11 (001 403 609 0824; marthashelihikes.com). The "Soaring Spirit Heli-Yoga" package costs from C$429 (£268) per person, and is available from May to September.

Touring there

Timeless Travel (0844 809 4299; timelesstravel.co.uk) offers an eight-night "Timeless Alberta" road-trip package that involves a drive from Banff to Jasper along the Icefields Parkway. From £1,460 per person, including flights, accommodation and car hire.

Staying there

Baker Creek Mountain Lodge, Bow Valley Parkway (001 403 522 3761; bakercreek.com). Doubles from C$165 (£103), room only.

More information

travelalberta.com

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: .NET Developers / Software Developers

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: our .NET Developers / Software Dev...

    Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

    £25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Ashdown Group: Project Accountant (Part-Qualified Accountant) - Manchester

    £23000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Project Accountant (Part-...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat