Canadian Rockies : Back in time to the Ice Ages – Columbia Icefield

After the short visit to the Athabasca Waterfall, we were on our way to the main attraction – the Columbia Ice-fields!

We were also on a highway 93 or Icefields Parkway, which some says is one of the most beautiful road in the world …

Despite being August, there were still glaciers on these mountains – we were in glacier county!  It was also time for lunch.  Lunch was a bento box and it was packed by the hotel we stayed at.  It consisted of a potato sandwich, an orange, a juice box .. and an egg (which reminds me , I need to throw the egg away .. now!!).  We ate it at the lookout overlooking Stutfield Icefield and some other visitors weren’t impressed because we were crowding and eating at an ideal photo spot.

After lunch, we head towards our first attraction: the Columbia Icefield!  There were many icefields along the way but none were as close as the Athabasca Glacier.  We also pass by the sky-walk …

As we inch closer to the icefield, we saw a large flat natural ice rink, this must be it. The Columbia Icefield is 1 of 17 glacial area on the Icefield Parkway and is the largest.  It is 1900-2800 meters above sea level.

We were taken to the parking lot of the Icefield Center, where our tour guide went to get our tickets while we took some pictures with an older snowmobile and a friendly Sasquatch.


Once we got our tickets ($65 CDN), we made our way to a Brewster bus (Icefield is run by the Brewster company).  (FYI: The company was created by the Brewsters Brothers, who started their guiding business when they were only 10 and 12 of age as guides for the guest at the Banff Springs Hotel).  We had a full 4 minutes tour to.. another parking lot.

The most expensive part of the $65 was probably the Ice Explorer!  It is a large bus with tires as tall as me and with extremely strong grips on the ice to prevent skidding.  One bus can cost between$1.2-1.3 million.

The one we visited was the Athabasca Glacier, which is 600 hectares large, despite a retreat of almost 1.6 km in the last hundred years.  It is listed as approximately 20,000 years old.  Due to the retreat, there are lots of rock, sand and gravel, which together is known as till, on the ground. Plants are far and in between but those that do exist are diminutive in size but are astoundingly estimated to be 700 years old!

We ram through the till and toward the glacier … Naturally, the higher elevation means the area is very cold so I brought a thicker jacket and pants for this activity alone.  I don’t know how some of the girls survived in super short shorts.

We were given about 15 minutes to walk around the glacier and take our photos.  There were some people who had brought with them empty water bottles in an attempt to bring real glacier water home (as oppose to tap water selling as glacier water).  Before coming here, I actually contemplated whether to pay money to walk on the ice for 15 minutes or so.  There were lots of mixed reviews, some even argued that this even caused the melting of the glacier to quicken!  I think once in a lifetime is good, although with the way it is melting, every year may have a different view.

At the edge is a red line and some red chairs.  It is ill-advised to go pass beyond the red line because the ice has hidden crevasses and it can open up when it melts or if the top layer breaks.

After 15 minutes, we were back in the car and going back to the tour bus, which brings us back to the center.  On the way, there are some mini waterfalls and shiny slush  Although I didn’t have any time to explore, the center has a Glacier Gallery as well as a cafe and a restaurant.  My tour book says the latter is overpriced.

Back in our own tour bus, we continue on the road to Peyto Lake and Lake Louise!

August 2016

** FYI: in case I didn’t mention, we were in Alberta now!


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