Mother-Daughter Team Navigates 6 month, 1,430-Mile Ski Tour of the Coast Mountains

Spencer Miller |
“Some days on the Icefields it “feels like hanging out on a treadmill inside a humidifier” Then the clouds break.” Photo courtesy of Raven Eye Photography.

Tania Halik, 61, and her daughter Martina, 30, take family time seriously.  And (logically) what other activity can foster mother-daughter bonding better than a 2300 km (1429 mile) ski traverse across the Coast Mountains?  Well, they apparently did not come up with anything better, and set off on this harrowing adventure starting in Squamish, British Columbia and concluding in Skagway, Alaska.

This due crossed:  15 major icefields, 12 large river valleys, 1,430-miles.

This team was only the 2nd crew to ever complete this ski traverse.

Ski traverse
Squamish, British Columbia to Skagway, Alaska.

The duo spent 6 months trekking through storms, navigating crevasses, and avoiding avalanches.  But they successfully conquered the route, a feat that the Haliks claim has only been done one other time.  Their journey was ultimately smooth (as smooth as an epic backcountry trip like this can be) with no significant injury, but with constant mental and physical battling.

Monarch Icefield
Long days, but with decent views. Photo courtesy of Grant Baldwin.

In one of their many must-read blog posts, Martina writes,

“6:10 AM, it’s Day 27. My stomach whines at me in the dark like a beaten puppy and sighing I unzip the sleeping bag and begin the process of trying to get into solidly frozen ski boots. At least I don’t have to put any clothes on, I haven’t taken off my down layers in weeks. The sun won’t rise for another hour and a half. It’s -20C out again. It’s been -20C for weeks, but at least there’s no extreme wind trying to blow the tent into oblivion like last week. Reaching for the beacon handheld and the phone, I step out into the softly drifting snow and resume walking in 20m grid lines for the second day in a row. This is absolutely the last thing I want to do in the world.

Three hours and kilometers of zigzags later, with the phone (our gps) battery dead, I return to the tent and feel the urge to cry again. Mum looks relieved I didn’t fall into a crevasse while she was sleeping, yesterday I disappeared in the whiteout suddenly and she thought I did. I got back to camp just as she was rushing off to search for me with all the rescue gear in tow. Just another “at least“. She recharges the phone and heads back out to search. I want to believe she will find it but I know she won’t. The beacon must have broken when it fell from the plane, or the batteries froze in the -20 temps, or maybe it’s still emitting a nice strong signal from inside a wolverine’s belly somewhere – along with all our carefully prepared food. I can’t stop thinking about the toblerone bar that’s probably buried somewhere just a few feet from the tent under a foot of snow.  

We’re also out of toilet paper but at least there’s lots and lots of snow to use. Lunch is a couple of spoons of ice tea crystals in warm water and a meager handful of nuts with some butter. It’s the last of our food. At least the stove (nicknamed “Princess”) worked that time, sometimes it takes 4 hours of tinkering and pleading to get enough hot water for a meal.

Hours later, phone battery down to 20% again, mum returns and announces it’s time to give up. Our next food drop is 6 days away and the weather forecast indicates our Squamish based pilot will not reach us for a resupply for at least 4. The closest helicopter option is just a mere $3100 bill away. At least we don’t have to burn calories trudging in zigzags anymore. There’s always an “At least” on the Coast Mountain Epic I’ve learned. No matter how bad things are, they could always be worse, and indeed they probably will be very shortly. We pack up camp and start the descent down the Goddard Glacier. “Shoulda been named the Goddamn Glacier in my opinion” I call out as we crest a roll and look down upon a sea of broken ice and crevasses as the wind picks up and the whiteout closes in again.”

Dewey Lake
Final descent into Skagway, AK.  Photo courtesy of Raven Eye Photography.  

Sound fun to you?  Insight like this beckons for the question, “Why the hell would anyone do this?”  The two responded on their Coast Mountain Epic site, saying, “We created this traverse in the hopes of experiencing something so immense, so incredible, so epic that it would change our lives forever.  It is our hope that our journey will motivate others, especially women both young and old, to explore their backyards too.  For us, this will be the hardest thing we’ve ever done.”

But when you read more about Tania, you might soon question the claim about the Coast Mountain adventure being the most difficult thing she has ever done.  In the 1980’s, she escaped communist Czechoslovakia on foot and fled to Switzerland, while pregnant…

Tania will be giving lessons on how to be an absolute bad-ass once she normalizes back to the warmth of civilization.  

“Nothing like completing 98.6% of a 2300km ski traverse of the Coast Range, and being dealt 50cm and strong winds. ” – Coast Mountain Epic


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