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Meet Chad

July 3, 2018

Originally from Medicine Hat, Chad currently lives in Lethbridge, Alberta. During the week, he works as a marketing coordinator, but on weekends, you will find him searching for unique and undiscovered vantage points of The Pass.
A keen interest in photography allows Chad to capture the spectacular views he finds while hiking, scrambling, and climbing. With several years studying art and graphic design under his belt, he is an expert at capturing the striking natural features of Crowsnest Pass and sharing them with his followers on social media.

Chad’s photography makes viewers feel like they are right next to him as he summits the most challenging peaks in The Pass. Here are his favourite places to shoot, his top tips on hiking with a canine sidekick, and what keeps him coming back to Crowsnest Pass.

Q: Are they any places in Crowsnest Pass that you always return to?

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 want to conquer in Crowsnest?

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 unique geological formations. Do you have any tips for photographers hoping to capture the magic of mountain scenery?

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 so many fantastic photos of your dog, Ghetto, enjoying The Pass! What should pet-owners keep in mind while in the mountains?

Firstly, some dogs fear scree (loose rock debris). They will not 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 will not know if natural water sources exist, so do not let your buddy go thirsty.

Lastly, be wildlife-aware. From squirrels to bears and everything in between, you are going to encounter wildlife. The interaction between your pet and wildlife can be unnerving or harmful to your dog, the animal, and yourself, so keep one eye on your dog and one on your surroundings at all times.

Q: One of the best parts of your photography is your willingness to share your adventures on social media and inspire people to get outside. What social media accounts inspire you?

I always like to say that I’m inspired by anyone who is “earning” their view. I do not 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 are not behind the lens, what do you like to do in Crowsnest Pass?

Rock climbing, ice climbing and bouldering. I do not 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 is the perfect place to go.

Quick-fire questions

Describe The Pass in three words.
Outdoor Adventure Playground.

Summer or winter?

What did you want to be when you grew up?
Professional athlete.

Favourite childhood book?
I do not have one – 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).

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

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