Elevation: 2035 m
The Athabasca Glacier is one of eight major tributary glaciers which pour forth from the Columbia Icefield. The icefield is one of the largest accumulations of ice and snow south of the Arctic Circle, covering 325 square kilometers and ranging in depth from 100 to 360 meters. The icefield is located atop the hydrological apex of North America and its melt waters flow into 3 different oceans (Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic). As a result, it has the distinction of being the world’s only triple continental divide. Although the sheer volume of ice stored within the icefield is difficult to comprehend, it is rapidly shrinking as a consequence of climate change. In the past 125 years, the Athabasca Glacier has receded by over 1.5 km and has lost half of its volume.
August 2 2013
Although I have had the pleasure of seeing the Athabasca Glacier and the rest of the Columbia Icefield from many different peaks, it had been over 20 years since I experienced it the way that most do – from the comfort of a Brewster’s snowcoach. Planning to climb Sunwapta Peak for my birthday on Saturday, Brianne and I left Calgary on Friday afternoon so that we could get an early start. Arriving at the Columbia Icefields before check-in time at the Beauty Creek hostel, we decided to play the part of tourists and boarded one of Brewster’s famous snow coaches for a tour. Although the tour was expensive, it was beautiful, informative and worth every penny (all 10,000 of them for two of us). Thanks to Brianne for suggesting the tour and for coming up with the required pennies!
Brianne enjoying her first trip aboard the snow coach.
About to head down the second steepest road in North America onto the icy tongue of the Athabasca Glacier.
The steep road reminded me of some of the grades that I encountered on trains in the Swiss Alps. Note the tourist white-knuckling the seat in front of them in the photo!
Playing a game of chicken with an on-coming snow coach.
Our snow coach won.
Mount Andromeda is stunning from the viewing platform at the end of the snow coach road. Then again, Mount Andromeda is stunning from every angle!
My beautiful Goat is clearly at home on snow and ice.
Massive seracs on the dangerous headwall of the Athabasca Glacier.
Although the Andromeda Glacier used to connect to the Athabasca Glacier, it has since receded becoming a hanging glacier.
The toe of the Andromeda Glacier.
The snow coach tires seemed much larger the last time I was on this tour (when I was 10 years old).
Brianne decided to try some fresh glacier water. Brain freeze!
Riding in style aboard “Mount Castleguard”. Past conquest Nigel Peak across the valley beyond.
A romantic and icy afternoon.
Speaking of romantic, check out the candle-lit dinner (Hamburger Helper) that I treated Brianne to at the hostel later that night!
Testing our rain coats/drinking by the river at the Beauty Creek hostel before a big weekend on Sunwapta Peak and Tangle Ridge! Hopefully the weather improves!