Add to MY PASS

MEET CHAD

Visitors to The Pass who find themselves climbing the Seven Sisters Mountain on a weekend may spot Ghetto the dog, (half Shar-Pei, half American Eskimo) and his owner, photographer Chad Helfenbein.

Originally from Medicine Hat, Chad spends his weekends hiking and climbing to capture new and undiscovered vantage points. Today, he lives in Lethbridge and works as a Marketing Coordinator, campaigning for animal charities and practicing a vegan lifestyle. His first trip to The Pass was during the snowy winter months with his family as a small child, and he has since followed his passion for exploring the outdoors.

While his interests in hiking, scrambling and climbing are first and foremost, Chad combines his adventures with a passion for photography. Chad shares his experiences with his followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. His years spent studying Art and Graphic Design are evidenced by the expert composition of his photos of Crowsnest Pass’ natural features.

Chad offers his tips on the best places to shoot in Crowsnest Pass, hiking with a canine sidekick, and what keeps him coming back.

Q:

What do you remember about your first time visiting Crowsnest Pass?

A:

Definitely the mountains. And of course, Frank Slide. Having grown up in the Prairies, our choice of landscapes were either endless fields, rolling hills or the cavernous coulees. Favouring the latter of the three, I spent a lot of time in the coulees of Medicine Hat, so I saw the mountains immediately as an infinite playground. To this day, I still view them with that same sentiment.

Q:

Are they any spots in Crowsnest Pass that you always return to?

A:

Seven Sisters Mountain. I am obsessed with that mountain. Its structure is so awe-inspiring and unique from every angle and viewpoint. What remains even more alluring to me is the fact that there are no well-defined trails leading up to it, so the hikes and scrambles are pure exploration. From caves in the summer to frozen waterfalls in the winter, there’s much to discover.

Because there are so many features to Seven Sisters, both large-scale and nuanced, and most of which are not formally documented, it has become my personal goal to hike, scramble, climb and photograph as much of it as possible.

Q:

Are there any new places, or new activities, you’ve wanted to conquer in Crowsnest?

A:

Ice climbing in Crowsnest Pass is new to me in 2016. Coleman is home to Star Creek Falls, a fun little waterfall that is great for beginners or for experienced climbers to play around on. Located at a junction on the Crowsnest Community Trail, the short approach hike through the canyon is very scenic in the winter and is something I would recommend to hikers as well. Gold Creek Falls in Frank also offers a little set of falls to climb that vary in formation from year to year, giving you a second site in The Pass to keep you climbing in the winter.

Q:

Your photography shows off some of the best natural features of Crowsnest– open skies, breath-taking views, and many unique geological formations. Do you have any tips for photographers that are new to capturing this mountain scenery?

A:

Gain as much elevation as you possibly can, or that you feel comfortable with. At ground level you might see a lake. A few hundred meters up you will see that same lake, plus the surrounding mountains. Another few hundred meters up and you will see the lake, the surrounding mountains, and the peaks that rest behind those.

I fully understand that hiking up a mountain isn’t for everyone, but even if you can stand on top of a nearby rock you will improve and expand your view. And remember, see it with your eyes before you see it through your camera. Make the mental memory, then take a photo of it.

Q:

You have some really great photos of you your dog, Ghetto, enjoying the Pass! What should pet-owners keep in mind while in the mountains?

A:

Firstly, some dogs fear scree (loose rock debris). They won’t like that it slips when they try to climb up or they will freeze up when they start sliding on it on the way back down. Know your dog’s limits in terms of ability and comfort.

Secondly, be sure to bring a water supply for both you and your dog. Unless you are familiar with the trail you won’t know if natural water sources exist, so don’t let your buddy go thirsty.

Lastly, be wildlife-aware. From squirrels to bears and everything in between, you’re going to encounter wildlife. Interaction by your pet with some of these animals can be unnerving or harmful to them, your dog and yourself, so keep one eye on your dog and one on your surroundings at all times.

Q:

You share a lot of spectacular photos of Crowsnest Pass on social media. Are there any social media accounts/personas that inspire you?

A:

I always like to say that I’m inspired by anyone who is “earning” their view. I don’t care how many followers they have, the number of likes they have or even the quality of their photos. If I can look at a photograph and either think, “I remember how much effort it took to get there” or “I have no idea where this is, I need to go/find out,” then it gets my attention. That, and I’m also very partial to photographers from, and images of, Alberta.

Q:

When you’re not behind the lens, what do you like to do in Crowsnest Pass?

A:

Rock climbing, ice climbing and bouldering. I don’t think a lot people realize that there are bolted lead and top rope routes in Crowsnest Pass, but there are. And as far as bouldering goes, Frank Slide is an incredible spot for it, with countless bouldering problems. Not only that, you can pretty much boulder there year-round, and with Turtle Mountain in the background and all of your essential amenities nearby, it’s the perfect place to go.

Follow more of Chad’s work on Instagram @chadhelfenbein (and keep tabs on Ghetto’s latest adventures at @ghettothedog), on his Twitter page at @chadhelfenbein, or on Facebook at Chad Helfenbein Photography. For business inquiries, please email info@chadhelfenbein.com.

Quick-fire questions

Describe The Pass in three words. 
Outdoor Adventure Playground

Summer or winter? 
Winter

What did you want to be when you grew up?
Professional Athlete

Favourite childhood book?
I was too busy playing outside.

Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Early bird on weekends for hikes, night owl every other day.

What was the last song you listened to? 
Identikit by Radiohead

Favourite Crowsnest Pass memory? 
Traversing from Crowsnest Mountain across and down into Seven Sisters Mountain without any idea if it would actually work (it did).

Favourite edible treat from Crowsnest Pass?
Vegetarian Chipotle Wrap from The Rum Runner

Cat or dog person?
Dog (but I like cats too).

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