Columbia Icefield - 22nd September 2012

Snowcoach on the glacier
Icefields Parkway - Athabasca Glacier

Our drive from Lake Louise to Jasper took us on the 140mile long Highway 93, better known as the Icefields Parkway.

This amazing road makes what would be a long and fairly tedious drive into a jaw dropping experience full of "things to see";

  • Crowfoot Glacier
  • Bow Summit [altitude of 2,088 m (6,850 ft)] and Peyto Lake
  • Mistaya Canyon
  • Saskatchewan River Crossing
  • Parker Ridge - this ridge alone takes around 30 mins to drive past!!
  • Columbia Icefield (Athabasca Glacier)
  • Icefield Centre
  • Athabasca Falls
  • Sunwapta Pass and Sunwapta Falls

Warm in my PHD jacket, yes it was cold on the glacier!



We decided to stop around halfway at the Icefields Parkway centre for a trip onto the Athabasca glacier in one of the massive "Icefield Explorer" coaches.



These things are seriously impressive; 6-wheel drive, 15m long and weighing 25 tonnes the crawl along the glacier - transporting people from the visitor centre to the central point and back.

Looking up towards the glacial plain

The Athabasca glacier itself is massive and is one of the 6 "toes" of the 325km square Columbia Icefield; it's over 6km long and covers an area of around 6 square km - it's also receeding at around 3m per year and in the last 125 years has lost over half it's original volume - who said global warming is a myth eh?

The most impressive fact (in my opinion) is that the glacier depth is measured from 90m to over 300 meters - that means that the Eiffel Tower would fit comfortably under the ice in some places, that's a bit hard to comprehend when you're standing on it but it does make you heed the warnings about the deep crevices that have claimed many lives over the years.





Walking on the glacier

Ice cave on the glacier

The first motorised snowmobile!!
The glacier trip was actually more interesting that I had expected it to be, the guides were really informative and the views were amazing - it's expensive but well worth the cost if you happen to be passing that way!

One tip would be to get on one of the early busses - we were lucky and had the first bus out so the ice was desserted when we got there which was really nice and also made better by the fact that we had a clear, bright and almost windless day.  Needless to say it was still chuffing cold up there so wrap up!!
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