Twenty-nine year old Martina Halik is either one of the bravest women we know or one of the craziest. Two weeks ago we posted to the web our article The Long White Line about one group’s attempt at skiing the coastal mountain range from Vancouver to Alaska. A few days later a reader told us a Fernie resident and her 59-year-old mom were planning on recreating that same traverse in 2017.
January 19, 2017 Update: And they’re off! Martina and her mother Tania have embarked on their epic mission to traverse the entire coastal mountain range of British Columbia. They began earlier this month with a tour from Squamish to Whistler, past the famous Black Tusk peak and are now skinning their way north. They picked up a food cache on January 15th and, as of this writing, were on the southern shore of Lillooet River, about 100 kilometres north of Whistler. Only about 2,100 kilometres left to go! To follow along on their adventure and see regular Spot updates with their location, log on to coastmountainepic.ca.
Martina Halik in her natural element.When we first heard about Martina’s trip plans, we were understandably intrigued so we set up a phone call to hear more about the adventure. It turns out Martina and her mom plan to start their trip next January in Squamish and over the next six months ski tour the 2,300 kilometres to Skagway, Alaska past 15 ice fields and through 12 river valleys. This is our interview.
Hey Martina, thanks so much for agreeing to talk to us. I guess my first question for you is are you certifiably insane? (click the play button below to hear her response)
Yeah, that’s amazing your mom is joining you on this adventure. Tell us a bit about her.
Mom needs to write a book about her life. The story of how she escaped communist Czechoslovakia while pregnant by wading through icy rivers and sneaking past border guards with machine guns and getting caught and getting sent back and escaping again…And then her and my father were unable to keep their refugee status in Switzerland so eventually they arrived in Vancouver with two children and only $800 in their pocket. She has an incredible background. Eventually she got a job at Panorama working as a ski instructor and avalanche forecaster and also did 20 years of volunteering with search and rescue. Every summer she goes up north into the Northwest Territories with my sister and they do one or two months of canoeing on remote lakes. Every year it gets a bit more crazy. Last year they finished on the Arctic Ocean somewhere. She’s done canoeing, backcountry skiing, rock climbing and mountaineering all her life. Neither one of us have attempted anything this big before but we both have the skills to be successful.
What about your own background?
I grew up in an adventurous family who emigrated to Canada for the outdoors and for the freedom to do whatever you want in the mountains. I actually didn’t really like doing sports as a kid – I preferred hanging out in the ski hut and reading books. But now I’m living this lifestyle of rock climbing in the summers and skiing in the winters and trying to fit in a bit of work as well. I’m an avi technician for Avalanche Canada in the winter and the rest of the year I work as a professional photographer. As far as what lead me down this path, my mom is an avalanche forecaster and my dad used to work with Canadian Mountain Holidays so I grew up around that whole heli-skiing world and being outdoors. (For more about Martina’s background, and the fact she was once featured on a bag of HardBite potato chips, check out her Coast Mountain Epic page.)
One of the things that was interesting about the initial trip described in our story was the group dynamics. How do you see this trip playing out with your mom?
Most people would be like, “You want to do what with your mother?” I would love to find more people to come along on this trip but for the sake of group dynamics I know I can get along with my mom for that long. We’ve done two-month trips with each other and we never fight. We know one another really well. We know when to take care of one another. We’re ok with the idea of inviting people to join us on sections of the journey for like one or two weeks. It’s great to have the people there to interrupt the monotony. I’ve had pretty good response from friends who want to come out to Mount Waddington or the last section in Skagway for example but I’m happy it’s just going to be my mom and I for the majority.
What about safety?
Yeah, two isn’t the safest number for glacier travel. But it’s good that we’re the same weight and we have a lot of knowledge and skill in that terrain.
Tell us a bit about the itinerary. Are you going to walk out of Vancouver like the original expeditioners?
I don’t see a reason to walk out of Vancouver. I think we’re going to start out of the north end of Squamish. It’ll kinda be like starting with a section of the McBride Traverse. It’ll be about the same distance as starting at Pitt lake where everyone else started but logistically I think it’ll be easier. After that things will be quite different from the original expedition because there’s a lot more industry and logging these days so it’ll probably be a slightly altered route due to that.
Why do this when it’s already been done?
Actually I think we’re doing something unique. Yeah the traverse has been done in the past but we want to be the first women to complete it in one season. And the fact I’m doing it with my mom is pretty special.
What are you biggest concerns? (click the play button below to hear her response)
What do you think the biggest highlights are going to be?
There’s no way you can do a trip like this and be the same person afterwards. I’m really looking forward to seeing what it will be like to live and witness an entire winter in the Coast Mountains. Early native settlements wouldn’t even have done that…The highlights are going to be beautiful spring days on glaciers that only a handful of people have been on before. To be so remote and away from civilization like that gives me shivers.
Unlike the first expedition you’re hoping to get this adventure sponsored. Where are you at with that?
We have a clothing company on board but no monetary sponsors yet. We’ve budgeted that it’ll cost about $30,000 for the trip and most of that will be food drops. (My mom and I are both small so carrying an 80lb backpack is unreasonable.) We’ve also applied for grants.