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Gear review: Heli-hiking in the Cariboo Mountains with the new Nikon D850

Canadian Geographic’s creative director tests Nikon’s latest full-frame model on a heli-hiking experience with Canadian Mountain Holidays 

  • Published Oct 03, 2017
  • Updated Jun 02, 2023
  • 888 words
  • 4 minutes
hikers heli-hiking cariboo mountains canadian mountain holidays Expand Image

The experience began with a road trip north from Calgary along the Icefields Parkway before breaking west to Valemount, B.C., one and a half hours from Jasper. From there, a helicopter carried me and the other members of the group up to Canadian Mountain Holidays’ Cariboos Lodge, which is perched high in the Cariboos, a subrange of the Columbia Mountains within sight of the North Canoe glacier and other glaciers.

The helicopter returned several times over the course of this high-altitude stay to transport us and our team of expert guides to a variety of terrains, from glaciers to rocky mountain tops, waterfalls and other jaw-dropping views. At the end of each day we enjoyed the laid-back comfort and superb staff service of the cosy lodge. 

For the trip, Nikon Canada equipped me with the new D850, their latest full-frame camera body, as well as a selection of lenses: the AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR, AF-S Nikkor 80-400 f4.5/5.6G ED VR, and the AF-S 14-24 F2.8 G ED. 

Nikon D850 Expand Image

This was an ideal kit for a trip of this kind. It was neither small nor light, but adventure shoots like this call for powerful cameras and great flexibility.

The new D850 sensor resolution of almost 46 megapixels and extremely low ISO capability (64 ISO) provides excellent detail and dynamic range — ideal for zooming-in and editing in post-production.

Overall performance and the resulting image quality are brilliant, and the D850 boasts all of the features you would hope to see (and more) in Nikon’s newest pro-level DSLR.

In my opinion, this is one of the most innovative products Nikon has launched in the past few years. If you can give it a try, you won’t be disappointed. 

A few of the best new features:
  • 153 focus points — great for sports and wildlife shooters

  • Effective low-light capture with autofocus down to -4 EV

  • Up to 7 FPS at 45.7 MP

  • Nikon’s highest magnification optical viewfinder ever, 0.75x

  • 16:9 4K Ultra HD movie quality

  • In Live View mode, the D850 captures stills without producing sound or mechanical vibration — ideal when you don’t want to disturb your subject or be noticed

Check out a few more of my images, and the settings I used to capture them, below: 
early morning at Bow Lake, Alberta Expand Image
Early morning at Bow Lake, Alberta. Lens: 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8. Focal length: 14.0 mm. Exposure: 1/125 sec; f/22; ISO 1250. (Photo: Javier Frutos/Canadian Geographic)
Morning mist in the Cariboo mountains Expand Image
Morning mist in the Cariboos. Lens: 80.0-400.0 mm f/4.5-5.6. Focal length: 340.0 mm. Exposure: 1/6 sec; f/5.6; ISO 64. (Photo: Javier Frutos/Canadian Geographic)
Helicopter flying through snow in cariboo mountains Expand Image
The helicopter flies through a snowshower in the Cariboos. Lens: 24.0-120.0 mm f/4.0. Focal length: 24.0 mm. Exposure: 1/200 sec; f/8; ISO 180. (Photo: Javier Frutos/Canadian Geographic)
hiking in cariboos with glacier in background Expand Image
Hikers in the shadow of a glacier. Lens: 24.0-120.0 mm f/4.0. Focal length: 120.0 mm. Exposure: 1/200 sec; f/7.1; ISO 64. (Photo: Javier Frutos/Canadian Geographic)
helicopter landing at dawn Expand Image
First light in the Cariboos. Lens: 24.0-120.0 mm f/4.0. Focal length: 120.0 mm. Exposure: 1/400 sec; f/9; ISO 3200. (Photo: Javier Frutos/Canadian Geographic)
Expand Image
A high-ISO test shot during a bonfire night at the CMH Cariboos Lodge. Lens: 24.0-120.0 mm f/4.0. Focal length: 98.0 mm. Exposure: 1/1250 sec; f/5.0; ISO 25600. (Photo: Javier Frutos/Canadian Geographic)
Expand Image
The helicopter takes off after dropping the group off in the valley. Lens: 24.0-120.0 mm f/4.0. Focal length: 24.0 mm. Exposure: 1/100 sec; f/22; ISO 500. (Photo: Javier Frutos/Canadian Geographic)
Expand Image
The North Canoe Glacier, seen while heli-hiking. (Photo: Javier Frutos/Canadian Geographic)
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Guide John Mellis stands still as our helicopter ride arrives at the CMH Cariboos Lodge. (Photo: Javier Frutos/Canadian Geographic) 
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Starry night sky view of the North Canoe Glacier (right) and South Canoe Glacier (left) from my room at the Cariboos Lodge. (Photo: Javier Frutos/Canadian Geographic)
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Hiking at sunrise in B.C.’s Cariboo Mountains. (Photo: Javier Frutos/Canadian Geographic)

Travel with us

Heli-hiking in the Cariboos with Robin Esrock

Perfectly placed within Canada’s ‘high country’, CMH Cariboos offers all the comforts of a well-appointed lodge in the middle of absolutely nowhere. With your Can Geo Ambassador, Robin Esrock, you will fly to remote viewpoints for the ultimate adventure as well as a day of travel and writing instruction. 


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