Athabasca Glacier

As I was planning our trip I was told about the Glacier Icefield Parkway. I looked into it and decided that we would stop here and go up onto the Athabasca Glacier. I thought I had told Kim that we would be doing that, but apparently I hadn’t. She was most excited when we got there and told her we were going up on the glacier.

Athabasca Glacier

Old school glacier bus

As we arrived there were all these buses lined up outside and we thought we would have a massive wait to go up. We entered the building and there were very few people there compared to the cars and buses outside. We lined up to purchase tickets and overheard that the next bus was nearly full and would only be taking three more people. We were in that three.

Kim on the bus

We thought that the bus must be chock-a-block full with people, but there was hardly anyone on there so we were able to spread out a bit. This was a good thing because I hate buses. There never seems to be enough leg room on a bus, but with very few people on the bus I had plenty of leg room.

The buses we saw outside were used to shuttle the tourists up the hill to the transfer station. That is why there were so many buses, but not many people. The tourist season was coming to an end, plus it was getting late in the day.

We took a regular bus up to a staging area then we transferred onto a huge bus that took us out onto the glacier. There was a steep dirt road leading down towards the glacier edge and Kim said to me “we aren’t going down that, are we?”. To which I replied “Yep, we are!”. It is the steepest road in Canada and we have gone down and up it. Our driver was from asia, doing his retirement job. He was a fantastic guide and very funny. The bus had huge tires which gripped on the ice and drove us up it.

Standing on the Athabasca Glacier

Our Shadows on the Ice

As Bear Grylls would say, “I’m surrounded by ice”.

Kim on Ice (It could be a musical)

I was worried about slipping over and breaking my camera

Once out on the glacier we got off the bus and walked around. It isn’t easy to walk around and I was forever worried that I would slip and fall over. Kim was in her element and loved every second of it. We drank some melted glacier water which was so pure and so cold. It is believed that it makes you 10 years younger. I don’t know about that but it was good. There were two other visible glaciers to the left of Athabasca, they are called Andromeda and AA (AA literally means next to Andromeda and Athabasca). Beyond what was visible of the glacier lies a huge mass of glacier ice. We obviously didn’t see that but what we did see was amazing.

Andromeda Glacier

Our bus also carried a film crew who were doing some segment on the Glacier. Unlike the rest of us they were allowed to go beyond the barricaded area and out onto the virgin ice. After we got on the bus the presenter was still mucking around doing some sound bites on his own. He had the camera set up on a tripod and would run and slide down in front of the lens. If I did that I would be on my ass in no time.

Getting a sound bite

Cool selfie on the bus

Once we got back to the Icefield Parkway building we were pumped after being on a glacier. We did our usual thing and went into the shop. Kim talked me into getting a jacket which I wasn’t going to get, but it is one of my favourite bits of clothing from the entire trip. It was a very good store for such an “in the middle of nowhere” place.

From the Icefield Parkway we headed onto Jasper and our accommodation for the next few days.


7 thoughts on “Athabasca Glacier

  1. artscottnet

    awesome shots, thanks for all the description, was like a little virtual mini-trip for me, exciting, glad you had a good time

  2. Rosemarie

    I am so glad you posted this. When I was about 9 years old back in the 1950’s we took a ride on the Athabasca Glacier. I haven’t seen it since then. I know everything seems bigger when you are young, but I think this glacier has really shrunk since then. Just my two cents.

  3. Colin Butterworth Post author

    Thanks Rosemarie! If I recall correctly the glacier has receded quite a bit in the last 50 years, so it was definitely bigger when you were there. There were markers pointed out to us of the glaciers leading edge over time, but I wasn’t able to get a good photo of them. At one time the glacier reached all the way to the road (and beyond it).

  4. markshimazuphotography

    Colin, thanks for sharing your photos. I particularly like the photo of your wife inside the bus. Something about the colors, perspective and composition makes this one stand out for me. I am sure she was pleased with that shot. Also, that is one serious school bus in the second photo.

  5. Colin Butterworth Post author

    Thanks for your comments Mark, I appreciate them!
    My wife was paid a complement later in our trip by being called “very photogenic”. I’m biased, but I like taking photos of her, and she had plenty of photos taken of her on our trip. She certainly lit up when she was around large amounts of ice.
    That bus is pretty cool. I hate buses, but I actually wanted to get on that bus.

  6. fgassette

    Thank you for visiting my blog today. I appreciate the time you took to stop by. May your day be filled with joy and peace.

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