Two Glaciers before Noon

I want to tell you all about our only day at the IceField Center in Jasper National Park, but due to Reasons, I have about 15 minutes to write this sucker, so I’ll have to give highlights only.

What’s special about this exact location (the IceField Center along the IceFields Parkway) is that it’s a hydrological apex. The rain that falls on Snow Dome Mountain (and the ice melt) flow to three oceans: on the British Columbia side, two rivers feed into the Pacific Ocean, and on the Alberta side, two rivers run into the Atlantic and Arctic oceans. Of course, everyone who climbs Snow Dome pees on it.

Athabasca Glacier

From our campsite in the RV parking lot, we watched buses driving up and down at a 45-degree angle to take people to an oval right above the glacier’s toe (the very edger) where they wander around for a set time. This is the one of the few ways you’re allowed on the glacier.

We were parked right next to a guy whose company takes people to the glacier and drops them down via harnesses and ropes into a crevasse, where they explore and then get hoisted back up.

We did not do that! We walked to the toe, which, of course, is receding dramatically.

Signs along the walk up mark the receding edge of the glacier by year. At one point this glacier was where the road and our parking lot are now.

The weather system created by a glacier is called katabatic winds, which is officially the hardest word ever to remember.

And striations created by glacial movement are mesmerizing (to Tracy, at least, who loves to look at rocks). I just didn’t want to slip on them.

Saskatchewan Glacier

The same morning, after we walked out to Athabasca we drove to the trailhead and hiked up to a mountain top/edge/whatever that’s called when you walk along the top of a ridge of mountains–to see the incredible Saskatchewan Glacier. We could look down on its toe and the lake at its foot and much more.

The trail has an 1,109 foot elevation gain, and the steepest parts are in snow, ice, and slippery mud.

Snow even covers the trail in places, so you find yourself hiking on top of signs that say, “Do not hike here.”

The entire way up you’re treated to views of mountains with sheer rock faces created by glacial movement.

The goal: Saskatchewan Glacier, flowing from the right and ending at that blue lake.

Ice-blue glacial runoff flows through the valley, with really long waterfalls feeding it, as well.

Here’s a short video from the top:

Here’s the other side:

Hiking back down was very tricky; I’ve never been so grateful for my hiking poles. I almost bit it three times.

Once we got back to the truck, Tracy joked that he’d seen so much beauty in so short a time that he felt like he needed to go dump the trailer’s tanks just to balance out his senses.

I’d love to tell you about the people we passed (and whom we let pass us) on the way up and down. For me it’s always about the people as well as geology and ecology and simply amazing nature. Another time!

Quick Addition: Tracy’s Beauty Creek Hike to Stanley Falls

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