The Columbia Ice Fields
I had an amazing time in Canada- far better than I could have ever expected- but the biggest highlight was by far the Columbia Ice Fields. The Columbia Ice Fields are nestled in between two National Parks, the park in Jasper I mentioned in my last post, and a park in Banff. In the Canadian Rockies there are tons of different activities for adventurers- hiking, canoeing, but one activity we HAD to take advantage of was a tour of the Athabasca Glacier.
My boyfriend, my aunts, and I drove about two hours into the heart of the Canadian Rockies to get to the Columbia Ice Fields. Not that I could get used to the sight of these mammoth mountains, but the closer you get to the glacier the more snow peaks you see, bringing a new spectacular level of awe to the drive! The glacier is visible from the road, as it is one kilometer wide and six kilometers long!
The Ice Fields building looks like a little Aspen resort, and it hard to miss considering it’s the only building you will pass in your hours long journey through the mountains!
The tour company features a few different options for getting on the glacier. The basic tour was $50 per person, and lasts about an hour and a half, which is the tour we opted for, however you can also book private hiking tours that take you further out.
We hesitated about the money for a minute, but in truth, it is totally worth the $50.00, walking on a glacier is a once in a lifetime experience! I would have been SO bummed if we had missed this amazing opportunity. What’s the point of making money if you can’t spend it on experiences that enrich your life anyway?
The tour begins on a regular giant bus that takes you to a platform right next to the glacier, a ride that takes about 10 minutes. Regular greyhound buses are not equipped on ride on glaciers, so you have to change onto this crazy mega bus that has wheels that are about the size of me! These buses are gigantic, and can handle the insane death-defying drop it takes to get to the glacier!
In Canada it was slightly breezey, roughly high seventies low eighties everyday, and in the mountains it was only slightly chillier than that. On the glacier it was probably closer to low sixties- I was comfortable in a light jacket.
Once you get down onto the glacier, you are free to roam about on the glacier, inside the designated lines, for about a half of an hour. The place that is designated for tourists is 600 year old ice, and is very safe, however the ice beyond the cones is not necessarily safe, and as you would imagine on a glacier, there is a lot of thin ice or holes that you can fall right through. The amount of people that walk outside the cones is ridiculous. It amused me the most because the designated area we were to stay within was not ‘less glacier’ than the area outside the cones- you are still ON the glacier within the coned-in area. Why go beyond the cones? Because people are idiots. Our tour guide informed us they have had people fall in holes that walk beyond the cones and almost die, he lovingly referred to this as ‘natural selection.’
The glacier was incredible, the freshest air and water! All around the coned-area is a little bit of run off from areas where the glacier has melted, and you are free to drink this water. The water is the freshest, coldest, most delicious water I have ever tasted! We went back more than once for a drink!
What surprised me most about the glacier was the light teal blue color that shown through the ice, it looked almost like windex!
All in all, it was a pretty perfect day, and an experience I will never forget!