Ice Climbers Enjoying Wedgemount Lake.jpg

The Day I Lugged the Inspire Drone Up a Mountain

My head ached and sweat soaked my back from the load that I had been carrying for the past few hours. As I sat the pack down on the wooden platform I took a moment and did a full 360 pan of my surroundings. Aside from the pulsing in my head, all I could hear was the sound of a breeze making its way over the the nearby cliffs, down the glacier, and over the placid turquoise lake in front of me. Feeling like I had aged 30 years, I layed down on my back and soaked in the sun beaming down through the clear skies. Canada was proving even more beautiful than I anticipated.

This past October I took the opportunity to head up to Vancouver, BC to meet up with Daniel Ernst, a professional photographer and good friend of mine. Daniel was completing a photography assignment for Travel Canada, and I was aching to get some international footage. We based ourselves in Whistler and set out to hike the infamous Wedgemount Lake on our first day. Daniel was shooting on the Canon 5D Mark 4 while I was shooting on the Inspire 1 drone with the X5R camera.

My current pack for the Inspire is the InsPak X5. I love this pack but it’s definitely a clunker. What makes the InsPak great is how it efficiently fits the drone in landing mode, two controllers, two iPad Airs, six batteries, 16 props, and five ND filters. The shoulder straps lack in comfort but I still find it to be the best case for the inspire.

The hike to Wedgemount Lake is a grueling 14 kilometers round trip with an elevation gain of almost 1200 meters. Needless to say, it’s a tough hike and I wouldn’t recommend packing the Inspire and all that gear to the top. Having said that, I’m glad I did. Almost as soon as you leave the car park, the trail begins a series of steep switchbacks which continue for most of the hike. What started out as a slippery muddy trail, quickly became a slick icy death climb that took no prisoners. Eventually we climbed up out of the treeline and made the final push up a steep snow field.

The best way to experience a beautiful destination is with good weather and as few people as possible. As we crested the hill conditions couldn’t have been more perfect. In front of us lay a snow covered basin surrounded by tall cliffs and a steep glacier at the furthest point in. The best part, there was not another person in sight.

Wedgemount Glacier.jpg

Looking down at the glacier that feeds Wedgemount Lake. Photo by Shaun Wilkens. Taken on the Inspire 1 drone with the X5R camera.

We made our way to wooden platforms that had been constructed next to the lake. After soaking in the beauty and getting reenergized by the sun, we pulled out the jetboil and brewed some coffee. Before long a couple ice climbers were returned from the glacier and agreed to let us take a few shots of them with the drone.

It always make me nervous to fly in cold conditions since the batteries can lose voltage when they get below a certain temperature. Lost voltage often means shorter flight times and drones falling out of the sky. The batteries had dropped to about 10º C which is a few short of what DJI recommends for takeoff. DJI sells an accessory to heat your battery up to the optimum temperature but I usually choose the armpit method. This time, however, I chose to take off anyway and let the drone hover a few feet off the ground until it warmed itself up.

Launching the Inspire 1 at Wedgemount Lake.jpg

Launching the Inspire 1 at Wedgemount Lake. Photo By Daniel Ernst

View from the glacier over Wedgemount Lake.jpg

View from the glacier over Wedgemount Lake. Photo by Shaun Wilkens. Taken on the Inspire 1 drone with the X5R camera.

Seeing the alpine lake from above was a dream. We shot a few wide photos looking down at the lake and took a great point of interest video of the surrounding area. We were able to get a better look at the glacier on the other side and when we looked back at where we were standing, it became very clear how huge this basin is. After a few flights we packed up and started heading down. We both would have liked to stay longer but there was a serious storm forecasted and we didn't want to risk getting stuck up there. The descent proved even more difficult than the climb up. I took several falls onto the InsPak case and it held up like a champ. Five stars for ruggedness.

The rest of our week was filled with beautiful sights but Wedgemount was the highlight of our excursions. Canada was good to us and we made many friends along the way. I’m now a firm believer that the further north you go, the more beautiful this continent gets. I also learned that I may need to invest in a smaller drone, like the DJI Mavic Pro, for the next time I decide to set out on such a big hike.

Daniel Ernst enjoying the view at Wedgemount Lake

Daniel Ernst enjoying the view at Wedgemount Lake. Photo by Shaun Wilkens. Taken on the Inspire 1 drone with the X5R camera.