The Athabasca Glacier

When Adam and I travelled to Canada we visited the Columbian Icefield Centre along the Icefield Parkway. We were travelling from Banff to Jasper and identified this as a good place to stop for a rest and a cool experience. Our trip to Canada is the only time I’ve needed to pack both my bikini and my hat, scarf and gloves!

The Columbian Icefield is the largest icefield in the Canadian Rockies and spans 25km across the continental divide. The average elevation of the columbian icefields is 3,000 metres and the highest point is Mt Columbia. We visited the Athabasca Glacier, one of the most accessible areas, and it was epic.

I booked our Iconic Glacier Adventure tickets in advance online to benefit from a 20% discount (must be booked at least 48 hours in advance). We booked a combination deal which included the Glacier Skywalk (I’ll write about this in another blog soon) and proved cheaper than booking both experiences separately.

Unfortunately, on the morning we were due to visit the centre it was snowing hard and visibility was extremely poor. Looking up at the glacier it wasn’t clear where the snow met the sky and it was a proper white out!

We were a bit disappointed and worried that we were going to have a below average experience. However, after speaking to staff we found out we could change the date of our trip without any additional cost – yey! It turns out you can just turn up on the day and get tickets but then you wouldn’t benefit from the discount.

A couple of days later we returned to the centre amongst glorious sunshine and clear(ish) blue skies. After a short wait we boarded one of the ice explorer buses, one of only 20ish in the world costing millions of dollars each. These buses had huge great big tyres on them and windows on either side providing epic views all around.

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We enjoyed a slow and steep ascent along the moraine with some funny narration by our driver and eventually arrived on top of the Athabasca Glacier. We were also told some cool facts such as;

  • once, the Athabasca glacier flowed as far north as the town of Jasper
  • the Columbian icefields feed three oceans in the northern hemisphere; the Arctic, Pacific, and Atlantic which makes it unique
  • the glacier is as thick as the Eiffel tower is high…. whaaat????

When we reached the top of the glacier it was vast and the snow was shimmering in the sunlight, we didn’t see much ice due to the heavy snowfall days before.

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Adam spotted climbers at the top of a peak – it didn’t matter how hard I looked I just couldn’t see them!

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Thank goodness for camera zoom!

We had some time wandering on the glacier (in the safely marked zones of course) and then the guides dug a hole through the snow and ice so we could collect some glacial water to drink – ice cold!

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A walk on the Athabasca Glacier is a tourist trip for sure and its not cheap but I think its worth it 🙂

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