Mountain Guide Tim Ricci Puts the 2022 Land Rover Defender to the Test
My name is Tim Ricci and I’m an Internationally Certified Canadian Mountain Guide. My job takes me to some of the most remote mountain venues with some of the most difficult off-road terrain Canada has to offer. To do my job well, I don’t need good … I need the best. That’s why I’m testing out the 2022 Land Rover Defender.
Over the course of three months, I will be putting the 2022 Land Rover Defender through everything I possibly can. As a guide for Yamnuska Mountain Adventures, Canada’s Premier provider of Mountain Adventures for over 40 years, I’m going to be visiting some incredible places. And I’m going to need to rely on the Defender to get me, my clients, and all our gear to wherever we need to go, in whatever weather we encounter, through some of the craziest conditions you’re going to find in Canada.
I’d been planning this trip for weeks.
Packing three different—and when I say different, I mean very different—sports into one day takes the right timing, the right locations, and the right vehicle.
The first phase was packing up the Defender with a full load of skis, a bed, a mountain bike, climbing gear, tents, and more. Then, we left home (Canmore, AB) and headed up the 93N highway towards the Columbia Icefields. The 93N is, without doubt, one of the most scenic highways in North America, and it has the extra benefit of connecting you to Banff and Jasper National Park.
We spent the night near the Icefields so we could set off as early as we could in the morning. The Defender fit my single mattress no problem, and I was able to spend a comfortable night sleeping in the back. After 4hrs of rest the crew was up and eager to attack the objective.
40km of Travel, 1400m of Elevation
We were up at 2am in preparation to make the day happen. The three sports we were tackling were:
• mountain biking
• paddle boarding
Once mapped out, the total distance to complete the three would be roughly 40km with a total elevation gain of 1400m. On top of all that, our stretch goal was to summit a peak on skis (just to round it an epic day!).
We loaded our packs with all the gear we needed and mounted the skis to the outside of the packs. We then jumped on the bikes and grinded our way up the snow coach road to the Athabasca Glacier. Once we reached the glacier, we ditched the bikes and put the skis on for the long ascent of the Athabasca Glacier to the Columbia Glacier.
The ski ascent of the Athabasca glacier took us through two main icefalls to a feature referred to as the ramp, before ascending to the Columbia Glacier. Timing is key to getting through this and to this point mother nature was on our side! We made it through the icefalls of the Athabasca and onto the Columbia Icefields. The crew was feeling fit and poised to continue with the journey.
The weather was also working in our favor. In order to efficiently travel on skis, we needed conditions to stay cool. We decided to go for a summit before ascending the Columbia Glacier onto the Saskatchewan Glacier. We went for Mt. Androlumbia, a smaller peak tucked off the back side of Mt. Andromeda. It has an elevation of 3240m and is one of the many classic ski ascents on the Columbia Icefields.
All Socked In, Only One Way to Go
On our way up, the weather changed, and we ended up getting socked in (AKA we were stuck in the clouds) but we were able to pick our way to the summit. After a quick high five on the summit we began to make our way down through whiteout conditions and eventually picked our way through the clouds to the ski line. The clouds parted ways and the sun came out.
Considering it was June 2nd we had a phenomenal ski down and decided to continue working our way down the Saskatchewan Glacier.
The descent off the Saskatchewan Glacier is a long planar low angle glacier. From the point where you exit the Columbia Glacier to the toe of the Saskatchewan is approximately 10km. If conditions are in your favour it is a great ski where you can take in amazing vistas. If the weather is not in your favour you are in for a long slog post holing and breaking through a variety of snow surfaces. Luckily, conditions were in our favour, so another guide and I leap frogged each other through the trek and we were able to keep the crew gliding the majority of the way down the glacier.
Once close to the toe of the glacier it was time to put the skis away and don the crampons to walk down the rest of the glacier on bare ice. Relatively straight forward travel took us right to where the crew had stashed their paddle boards the week before. Once at the paddle boards the team needed to pump them up, mount their skis, and packs to the boards, and put wet suits on before beginning to paddle.
A Rising Tide Lifts All Paddleboats
In the previous week leading up to the trip the water level was not high enough to make it down past the initial body of water at the toe of the glacier. Fingers were crossed working our way down, and with continued luck on our side the water level had come up.
The other guide and I high fived the crew and began the walk out back to the vehicle. After a 10km walk we made it back to the vehicles. We got word later that evening that the rest of the crew had been able to paddle board the majority of the way out.
All in all, an extremely memorable day with an equally amazing crew, one that will stick with me some time to come. We loaded the Defender up with a vehicle full of gear and mad the trek back home with the next journey already on our minds…
About Tim Ricci
Tim moved to the mountains over 20 years ago and has not looked back since. Tim is a fully certified Mountain Guide and holds Canadian Avalanche Association Level 3 and Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT) Level 3 certifications. Since September 2018 Tim has worked as Yamnuska Mountain Adventures Assistant Director of Operations. Located in Canmore, Alberta at the Banff National Park gates, Yamnuska is a premier provider of mountaineering, ice climbing, rock climbing, backcountry skiing, avalanche training and trekking experiences in the Canadian Rockies for over 40 years. Tim Resides in Canmore, AB, where he lives with his wife Wanessa and two kids, Ella and Miles.