She helped establish Canada’s first heli-skiing operation. These days, the adventuring “Gnargaret” Gmoser dyes her hair purple to leave a lasting impression.

Story by Ally Watson. Feature photo by Tony Hoare of Margaret during a month-long ski traverse from Jasper to Lake Louise in 2010.

Last summer, I was taking a midday nap next to a rushing creek in southern Alberta, along the 1,100-kilometre Great Divide Trail, when a chorus of laughter came into earshot. As the voices neared, I heard one woman proclaim, “Look at this hiker trash. I’m taking a picture.” I sat up abruptly to find a woman in her seventies, camera ready, standing above me. I recognized her instantly as Margaret Gmoser, who, with her late husband Hans Gmoser, co-founded CMH Heli Skiing—my winter employer.

Hans had a genial approach to life and is well known for his monumental role in early Canadian mountaineering and for commercializing what we know now as heli-skiing. Searching his name online yields countless results about his prominence and accolades, but what about Margaret? Her search results are sparse in comparison, yet she has a resumé that could compete with some of the region’s most decorated adventurers. No one seems to know her. “I’m more introverted,” she says. “I just like to quietly do my thing.”

Born in Regina and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Margaret joined the Alpine Club of Canada early in life as her father was a committed member. She started pursuing big adventures in the early 1960s with an Alberta youth-hostel group, and, in her teenage years, she met Chic Scott—a lifelong adventure partner of hers and notable Rockies’ ski pioneer. Margaret and Hans met in 1965 at Yoho National Park’s Stanley Mitchell Hut, where Hans was running a ski-touring camp. Their relationship flourished early on, and Margaret began cooking for Hans’s camps in Lake O’Hara and the Bugaboos before they were married in 1966.

Margaret has always sought adventure on her own, and marrying Hans landed her a perfect partner. She recently told me tales about bike touring in Japan, trekking the Himalaya, and ski traversing in South Georgia. She’s travelled in pursuit of adventure for most of her life, taking extensive trips by foot, bike, skis, and kayak. From navigating the fjords of the Shackleton Traverse to paddling coastal South America and Ellesmere Island, Margaret embodies an ethos that exploring the far reaches of our natural landscapes is integral to personal fulfillment. Some of her most committed adventure partners are family members. With the loss of Hans to a cycling accident in 2006 and one of her sons, Robson, to an avalanche in 2015, Margaret finds solace in the wilderness and feels at home in her tent.

With a multi-page list of outdoor accomplishments, Margaret will be adding another adventure this summer when she plans to hike long sections of the 4,270-kilometre Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches along the west coast of the United States from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. To leave a lasting impression on her peers, she will colour her hair purple and introduce herself by her new trail name: “Gnargaret.” “Last year, I didn’t meet anyone my age,” she says, referring to her previous trip on the Pacific Crest Trail. “I met a woman who was 70, and I was older than all the men. I thought, ‘This year I’m going to be 78, and I’m going to let them remember me!’” She laughs and winks.

Everywhere she goes, Margaret flows through natural landscapes with an uncomplicated youthfulness, making jokes that she will be bathing in creeks as the pension cheques come in. “I’m good at letting go,” she says. “I gave my bicycling gear away. I gave my ski gear away. But I am not ready to give my backpacking gear away!” With 60 years of prodigious trips and expeditions behind her, she is a reminder that despite pressure to make our accomplishments known, fulfillment comes from pursuing adventure on our own accord and for our own sake.