Athabasca Glacier Icewalk

In pretty much every glossy promotional publication about the Rockies, you are bound to see the big ads claiming that taking the Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure Ice Explorer Bus is THE thing to do in the Rockies. And from the looks of things, thousands of tourists jump aboard the huge world-renowned buses everyday to experience the Athabasca Glacier and would full-heartedly agree.

But what if there was a more intimate, relaxed way of getting to know the glacier?
Would you try it?
Well, if you know anything about me, you'll know that I'd jump on that opportunity in a heartbeat!

And yes, there is a way!

Athabasca Glacier IceWalks might not advertise like the big 55,000-pound gorilla in town but what they lack in marketing, they gain back even more with their eco-friendly, adventurous approach to providing guided, interpretive hikes onto the glacier.

IceWalks offers two walks: a shorter "Ice Cubed" hike or the extended "Icewalk Deluxe" version.

I went on the Deluxe version because who wouldn't pay an extra ten bucks for an extra couple of hours on a glacier?!?

The tour starts out at the parking lot closest to the glacier, where you'll find a station wagon with a little trailer emblazoned with the IceWalks logo. Our guide, Peter, was a very personable gentlemen who took the time to get to know each one of us as he quickly assessed our physical abilities, and provided the crampons, hats, gloves, and rain gear we need but might have forgotten to bring along for our trek up the Athabasca Glacier.

After hiking along the public trail to the edge of the glacier, it was time to jump over the rope and begin our unrestricted access hike on the glacier. I've been waiting a long time for this!

Hmm, not exactly what I was expected.  The glacier's surface was a bit sandy and not at all slippery.  Peter went on to explain how the surface's conditions changed on a daily basis depending on the weather conditions and time of year. It wasn't slippery today but yesterday was apparently a completely different story.

As we continued on our way, the snow and ice became cleaner, and George, a true snow dog, was frolicking in the snow like a little kid after the first snowfall of the season.  Peter soon took out his ice axe and chipped away to get to the clear, glacier ice, and handed each of us our very own chunk of the glacier as a souvenir. It was so clear. And tasty too!

Now the beauty of this personalized hands-on tour is the ability to have access to a much greater portion of the glacier than what you can get on the snocoach bus tour.  On top of that, you're not surrounded by so many lemmings and you're not stuck listening to the bustling bus engines during your short visit on the glacier.

On the walking tour, you can learn about the glacier's features and history while peering into the deep crevasses, jumping over streams of crystal clear glacier water, and even having lunch on a boulder slowly making its way down the glacier while enjoying the outdoors for the day, at a relaxed pace with a small, friendly group of like minded individuals. Peter even had a great chocolate-inspired explanation of the glacier's features and how they came to be.

This is all nice and dandy but the star feature of this trek of the entire length of the lower Athabasca Glacier is leaving the buses way behind and heading into the lowest of the three icefalls where you get to see the jagged ice formations and everything that comes with it.

You definitely don't get to see this on the bus tour!  

Sporting a big, silly grin, I enjoyed every moment of the hike.  The only downside is that I wanted it to be even longer!  Even with the flurries we experienced at times, five hours on the glacier just wasn't enough for me!

The glacier is constantly changing so I'll be definitely going back on another ice walk.

Maybe next time, I'll go later in the year to see how the glacier is affected by a warm summer.

And just maybe, I'll have better luck sneaking George home with me!

During our hike, Peter mentioned that in the winter, you can cross-country ski onto the Columbia Icefield up above the glacier, and spend a few nights up there in a tent or igloo!
Where do I sign up?!?

If you found this unbiased review helpful, please click on one of the interesting Google advertising links on this blog to help me out. Thanks.

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