When the wife says vacation, I thought it would be sand and beaches. Boom! We landed in an icefield.
We started off with the breakfast of the champions then headed to what would be the most underdressed trip that I have ever taken: on the 10,000 year-old Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefield.
We took one of these Ice Explorers. The driver told us there are 11 of these monster buses in the entire world. 1 in the Antartica and 10 here at the Columbia Icefield. This ain’t your regular city bus. It is very slow, extremely uncomfortable, doesn’t have a lot of horsepower but has massive torque to climb even Mordor (for all you non-LOTR fans, Mordor terrain is bad).
Due to climate change and human activities, the Athabasca Glacier is receding. A big pool of glacier water is purposely dug out on the road so when the bus drives through it’ll wash off the dirt and sand on the wheels which will help keep the ice less dark so to melt slower.
Because the glacier sits between two mountain ranges, our Ice Explorer basically went through on the side of the mountain at a very steep angle.
At the base of the glacier the weather becomes completely different. The fast moving glacial wind mix with ice droplets makes standing outside extremely uncomfortable even for just a few minutes. My camera got covered with a thin layer of ice after just a couple of shots. Most of the pictures were taken with a water-proof cellphone.
Markers in the area clearly indicate not to proceed further. A mis-step over the danger area could end up a hundred feet under the icefield, like that poor squirrel in Ice Age.
See how we were so inappropriately dressed for this? There are people far over the boundary. They are geologists studying the icefield.
Collecting some glacial water… This is drinkable water in its purest form. One of the must-dos here. Unfortunately it was too cold to drink there, and when we got back to the hotel it was already warm and tasted like regular bottled water.
Even walking down deemed to be an adventure. It was quite a slope. All the rocks “washed” down due to the movement of the glacier. Stepping on those could be dangerous as they were very slippery.
From far away the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefield doesn’t look intimidating at all, but that “little bit” of distance in elevation makes a world of difference up there.
For this trip our package included the Glacier Adventure and the Glacier Skywalk. The Glacier Adventure, which is taking the Ice Explorer onto the icefield, is worth every penny. The Glacier Skywalk, however, which takes a regular bus to another location about 10 minutes away, isn’t worth the going in my opinion. We went to both, and not much wow to show for the Glacier Skywalk. Walking on a pre-historic-human icefield isn’t exactly how most people see as a vacation, but it’s one of those few experiences one has to try.