Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Canada
Reload this Page >

Relentless Beauty - Panecott's Trip to the Canadian Rockies

Notices

Relentless Beauty - Panecott's Trip to the Canadian Rockies

Old Oct 13th, 2014, 12:23 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 18,984
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Relentless Beauty - Panecott's Trip to the Canadian Rockies

Okay, I know the title sounds a bit pretentious, but for those of you who have been there, or are fortunate to live in or near the area, I think you'll agree that it's an apt description. I don't think I've ever seen such continuous, never-ending and yes, unrelenting, beauty anywhere. It was breathtaking.

First, thank you kgsneds and Myer and everyone else who gave advice and input in my planning. It was very useful and I had a wonderful time. I know this report is very long but I’ll break it up into sections so it’s not too forbidding. LOL. I like to give my impressions as well as facts, and they just seem to come to me as I type. So for anyone who cares to read, enjoy. And I hope there is some useful information here for people planning to visit the area.

My first stop was Lake Louise for 3 nights, which I reached via H'way 1A from Calgary Airport. The drive was pleasant with little traffic and lots of scenery. I had a lot of OMG moments coming upon emerald and sapphire lakes glistening in the afternoon sunlight, with the ever present mountains in the background -- something that would repeat itself throughout the trip. The only bad thing about that ride was that there were no shoulders on which to pull over and take pictures or just take in the views.

On the Bow Valley Parkway, almost at Lake Louise, I had my first wildlife sighting - a black bear feeding on a small hill alongside the road. I stopped for photos along with about 8 other cars and got one great shot of the bear who seemed to look right at me. After a few minutes a ranger came along and asked everyone to leave. I saw him put on a bright red and yellow vest and I guessed that he was going to try to steer the bear back into the woods. That was my only bear sighting of the trip.

With my leisurely driving and occasional stops, the drive from Calgary took about 4 hours, altho' I know it should take much less time. Paradise Lodge and Bungalows was a great place to stay. My cabin was spacious, comfortable, and nicely furnished with every convenience, including a big soaking tub (welcome after each day of hiking and touring) and a large deck in the back facing the mountains and the valley below. The kitchenette was stocked with complimentary granola bars and coffee/tea and freshly made coffee, cookies and snacks were also served every morning in the reception area. Just lovely!

On my first full day, Lake Louise was a big disappointment -- not in its undeniable beauty, but because of the crowds, throngs of tourists, bus groups and families mulling about, talking loudly, and taking pictures (unlike me ) It felt like Trevi Fountain, hot sun and all, so I decided to leave and try another time. I tend to get lost in the places I travel to and leave the outside world behind. It’s one of the reasons I love traveling alone. I’m not knocking traveling with friends, but as someone who had done both, I think solo travel has a lot of advantages.

I spent the rest of that day at Moraine Lake, Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake, where I hiked the trails along the lakes and up to the falls. The scenery was spectacular and the crowds were nonexistent so it was very enjoyable. The trails were easy and just populated enough so that I had no fear of bears. At Moraine Lake I saw a couple seated on a bench who appeared to be meditating - not a bad spot for it - and they remained that way for a long time. Fellow hikers were friendly and a few stopped to chat. It was like that throughout the trip -- I stuck to the well-trodden paths and didn't do any really strenuous or lengthy hikes and enjoyed the occasional company.

The next morning was drizzly and I left early to try to beat the crowds at Lake Louise. Happily, I beat the buses by about 10 minutes and headed for the trail around the lake. I met a couple on the trail who commented that it was a good day for sleeping, but I thought it a perfect day for a hike, with the very gentle rain falling -- what the Irish would call "a soft day". I went about a half mile past the end of the LL trail and headed back -- skipped the teahouse since I realized I had no money with me. About halfway to the end, it started to rain heavily and by the end of the hike, even with my trusty Land's End rain jacket, I was soaked enough to require a change of clothes. That was really the only bad weather I encountered, plus another half day in Banff.

I spent some time browsing in the shops and galleries in the village. A cashier in a gift shop asked me where I was from and said she’s always wanted to come to NY and stand in Times Square singing “New York, New York” until the cops came to arrest her. I assured her that no one would even notice her.

As the rain let up I decided to head back to Yoho, where I had missed the Natural Bridge the previous day. But construction delays on H'way 1 made me turn back after being stopped for almost a half hour. My little rented Mitsubishi Mirage was easy to handle and I just made a U turn right on the highway, where traffic was at a standstill, and headed back to the Village. I stopped into the lovely lobby of the Post Hotel and explored the area around the hotel. I had considered staying there and I almost wished I had, altho' I had no regrets at all about the Paradise. Maybe next time...

I had two dinners at the Station House Restaurant and one at the Outpost Pub in the Post Hotel. The Station House was my favorite restaurant of the trip. As its name implies it is housed in the former train station house, the oldest building in Lake Louise. Good food, charming atmosphere and friendly service. The Outpost Pub was more casual, but very comfortable, with food served at the bar, at tables and at seating areas around the fireplace. Very cozy. I spent my whole dinner chatting with a couple at the next table from London who were in town for a family wedding. I had a delicious chef's salad and some of the dishes I saw go by - ribs, burgers, etc., looked scrumptious. It's a good thing I didn't have any more nights at LL b/c I might have gone back to the Outpost for those ribs, which were gigantic.
panecott is offline  
Old Oct 13th, 2014, 12:37 PM
  #2  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 18,984
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I know you can't wait for Part II, so here it is.

On day 4, I headed up to Jasper on the spectacular Icefields Parkway – one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever taken. The rain from the previous day was clearing and scenery was dramatic as the sun crept through the clouds and rainbows suddenly appeared over the mountains.

I think I stopped every 50 feet for photo ops and lost count of how many rainbows I saw on this trip. The weather throughout was beautiful - warm and sunny, with only two half days of rain and an occasional shower, which never lasted long and always seemed to enhance the already incredible scenery. Every sun shower was followed by a rainbow.

I stopped at a few lakes along the way - Peyto Lake, Bow Lake, Waterfowls Lake and took photos, but put the hikes off for the way back. I did go to Sunwapta Falls, which was reached by a short hike through the woods. At the ice fields I took the short hike up to Athabasca Glacier, which was interesting with the signposts along the trail showing how the glacier had receded over the years, then headed to the Icefields Tourist Center to sign up for the tour, called “Glacier Adventure”.

That turned out to be the only disappointment of the trip. Whatever I was expecting, that wasn’t it! Just a bus ride to the giant ice vehicle parking lot, then a short ride up to the glacier where we exited the ice vehicle and walked around on our own for 15 minutes - well, about 5 minutes for me because it was freezing and slippery with biting moisture in the air. It was mighty coldupthere!

On the way back the windows were all fogged and you couldn’t see anything. The driver told us that earlier this summer a guided walking tour on the Athabasca Glacier found a body that had been in a crevasse for 19 years - someone who didn’t listen to the warnings and paid the price.

After I left the ice fields, the sun came out and the road seemed to empty of traffic, except for me. It was so peaceful and relaxing to practically have the road to myself. I noted a few places along the road that I put on my list for the way back.

Shortly before I arrived in Jasper in the early evening, two elk darted across the road about 20 feet in front of my car. They appeared out of nowhere and I was glad to be driving slowly, otherwise...., well, never mind about that! Later that evening as I was driving to dinner, a majestic bull elk was standing by himself just off the road. I’d forgotten my camera in the room so I just stood and watched him for a while -- beautiful in the fading light. Sometimes those images stay with us more than the photos.

I stayed at the Alpine Village, a lovely cabin community situated right on the river just outside of Jasper, in a small but spacious cabin - not as luxurious as Paradise, but very comfortable with a king size bed, two club chairs, a tiny kitchenette and a little porch in front. There were Adirondack chairs set up along the river for guests and they always seemed to be occupied , altho’ I did manage to snag one on my last evening after dinner.

Full day one in Jasper was spent at Maligne Lake, where I hiked the Mary Schaefer trail and later took a boat ride to Spirit Island. Maligne Lake was one of my favorite spots of the trip, so quiet and idyllic, with kayakers and a few people sitting or lying quietly at lakeside. I walked part of the hike along the lakeshore till I couldn’t go any farther, then picked up the trail in the woods. A few other hikers were on the trail but not many and the scenery was beautiful.

On the boat ride I sat outside in the back and took endless photos in the perfect afternoon light. I was joined outside by two Indian women who took even more pictures than I did. I ran into them about 3 or 4 times more in and around Jasper and it turned out that they were also heading to Canmore. We figured we’d run into one another in Canmore and agreed to have dinner together but we never saw one another there.

The ride to and from the lake was beautiful and I made some stops along the way, including Medicine Lake. Just before Medicine Lake I saw a photo op and pulled into a camping area to park the car so I could go take my pictures. But there was a really creepy guy with long hair and a long beard sitting on the back of a pickup truck drinking a can of beer and staring at me with a weird look in his eye - sort of like Charles Manson. So I decided to chuck the photo op and get the heck out of there! That was the only creepy moment of the trip.

I wanted to hike Maligne Canyon on the way back but didn’t get there until about 6:30 and since it was described as 1-2 hours, I put it off for another day. I did some laundry in town and had a late supper at Something Else, a friendly family style restaurant on Patricia St., with a varied menu, good food and decent prices. I had lamb souvlaki, with a Greek salad and a glass of Greek wine.

The next day I headed up to Mt. Robson, which was reached by another scenic drive - what else?! Along the way I stopped at Yellowhead Lake, Moose Lake and Overlander Falls. I met some people from Edmonton at the Falls who told me there was fresh snow on the top of the mountain but a lady at the Visitors Center said she didn’t think so.

There were lots of cars at the Berg Lake parking lot but few people on the trail. It was even less crowded there than at Maligne Lake and the hike afforded some beautiful views of the mountain top. Before doing the hike I had lunch at a picnic table by the river. It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon. On the way back I stopped at the boat launch at Yellowhead Lake and soaked my feet in the water. A gentle breeze was blowing and it was soothing and relaxing.

I had dinner that night at Fiddlers River (I think that was the name), a seafood restaurant on Connaught St, just across from the train station. I sat outside on the upstairs patio and with other diners, enjoyed watching the trains pull in and out. Dinner was a nice Arctic Char with a glass of Canadian beer, and very friendly service. The evening air was mild and the pleasant al fresco dining was something I didn’t expect to do in Jasper. Dessert was ice cream - maple walnut, what else? - from a shop downstairs.

On day three I headed to Mount Edith Cavell, which was reached by a scenic, winding road through the mountains, with more photo ops. Along the way I stopped at a hiking area with several trails. There was a warning sign about grizzlies and a ranger’s vehicle in the parking lot and I wondered if there was bear activity that day. The sign suggested going in groups of 4 and fortunately there was a trio of French speaking people there at the same time, so I tagged along with them – unofficially . We hiked for about a half hour, over a bridge, past a lake and up a hill, before heading back. I wondered if they thought it was strange that I had the exact same itinerary as they did. LOL.

I took the steep hike up to the Angel Falls glacier, with a few stops to rest along the way. A British couple I met at the bottom told me it was not to be missed - and they were right. When I arrived at the top my Indian friends were there and were snapping away at a little chipmunk-like critter. The views of the lake , the falls and the valley below were beautiful. Several large chunks of ice were floating in the lake.

Next stop was Athabasca Falls, which I reached from the scenic drive, with stops along the river at the “Convergence of the Waters”, and at a small bridge over the river, where the sun was glistening on the waters. Most of the flowing waters, rivers and brooks, that I passed throughout the trip were an incredible, almost translucent, light turquoise blue.

The color of my car, altho’ not turquoise, is called “Glacier Blue” and I look at it in a different light since coming home.

Athabasca Falls had paved walkways leading to it and was more crowded than the other waterfalls I saw. I much preferred those that were in their natural settings in the woods with few people around.

I met my Indian friends again at Athabasca Falls, after which they were heading, on my reco, to Sunwapta Falls. I headed back toward Jasper where I wanted to explore an area called the Valley of the Five Lakes that I’d passed along Route 93. But when I got there, it was after 5:30, rain was threatening and the hike was several km. long, so I put it off for the next day on my way back to Canmore (but I never got to do it).

I chose a Chinese Restaurant for dinner that night - the only one in Jasper. The food was surprisingly good and it was packed with Chinese people sitting at large round family style tables. I asked the waitress if there was a large Asian population in Jasper, but she didn’t understand. Later, when I was exploring an abandoned coal mine near Banff, I read about the many Chinese workers who had come to work the mines, so I guess many settled in the area.

More to come.
panecott is offline  
Old Oct 13th, 2014, 12:46 PM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 18,984
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Part III

I had originally planned to spend 5 days in Jasper, but shortened it to 4 and added one to Canmore. I think I would have been very happy with the extra day in Jasper because I never got to do the Maligne Canyon or the Valley of the Five Lakes and I loved the area and would not have been bored with the extra day. I’m what you’d call a leisurely traveler and enjoy lingering at places I like, or revisiting a place twice on the same trip. But I thoroughly enjoyed Canmore so it was not a major regret.

On the morning I left Jasper I came upon a load of stopped cars along the road, which usually means only one thing. In this case it was a herd of elk in the woods off the road. I was amazed and disturbed to see so many people go within a few feet of the elk, right up to the tree line, snapping away. Not only were they scaring the animals but they were blocking the view of those of us who kept our distance across the road.

The bull elk - I wondered if he was the same one I’d seen a few nights earlier - suddenly came into view and appeared to be agitated and about to charge, causing people to retreat. But one stupid man went within two feet of him and was snapping pictures right in his face. The bull gave a mock charge and the man dropped to the ground playing dead. He stayed like that for several minutes and the bull elk remained poised to charge. Eventually he retreated and the man got up and ran away back to the road.

Three rangers arrived a few minutes later and, like the ranger I’d seen with the bear, put on the vests and carried mop-like objects that they used to coax the elk back into the woods.

They didn’t ask people to leave but did ask everyone to return to their cars. I was wishing they’d arrived a few minutes sooner so they could have seen the fool who was taunting the elk, and given him a fine. I don’t really know if there are such penalties, but there should be. The incident disturbed me and I was driving away I realized I was more upset that the animals were needlessly frightened than by the fact that some fool nearly got himself hurt or killed due to his own ignorance and stupidity.

The drive to Canmore, my last stop, took most of the day along the beautiful Icefields Parkway. I made stops at Peyto Lake/Bow Summit and took the hike up to the summit. I reached the top at the same time as a busload of Japanese tourists who pretty much took over the area. They are certainly enthusiastic travelers/photographers and some of them had some rod-like gadgets, called Selfie Sticks, to hold their cameras while they took selfies against the scenic background. LOL! Fortunately I was in no hurry and waited till the area cleared to get the views and, yes, my own photos.

At Lake Louise I picked up the Bow Valley Parkway, hoping to see the bear again, but no luck, altho’ I did see some deer in the woods. And just before arrival in Canmore I saw a moose along the side of the road on Route 1. (Maybe it was an elk - I’ll have to check my pictures.)

I arrived in Canmore just before dark and checked into the Falcon Crest Lodge, which was easily reached right off Exit 91. I had a fully equipped suite - an apartment, really, complete with full kitchen, LR with large gas fireplace, large balcony with a grill, even a washer dryer in the bathroom. What a treat to go home with a suitcase full of clean clothes!

I had dinner at the Georgetown Pub, a cozy, friendly place close to the hotel, which is known for its delicious fish and chips.
panecott is offline  
Old Oct 13th, 2014, 01:05 PM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 18,984
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Final Installment:

The next day, which was drizzly in the morning, I spent on the scenic drive to Lake Minnewanka, with stops at Cascade Ponds, Johnson Lake, and Upper and Lower Bankhead. At the latter, I took the interesting, self guided tour of the abandoned coal mine, and then headed to Banff since it was raining steadily. I didn’t even exit the car but drove up and down Banff Ave. and a few side streets.

Two deer walked casually across Banff Av right in front of my car as I was stopped for a light. I grabbed my camera and took a few quick shots without even focusing and later realized the lens cap was still on!

I skipped the Tunnel Mountain Drive b/c it was raining and visibility was poor. On H’way 1 between Banff and Canmore, torrential rain was pouring, and cars and trucks passing me on the road kicked up more water from the road and I could barely see. Fortunately the harrowing ride only lasted a few minutes and the rain let up by the time I got back to Canmore.

I explored the town on foot, stopping in some shops and galleries and had a delicious burger at the Tavern 1830. Canmore was a charming little town with an old west feel and I was very happy to have chosen it over Banff.

The next day, which was bright and sunny, I headed to Kananaskis Country, an area which intrigued me when researching this trip. It was about 20 minutes south of Canmore.

For some reason I was expecting it to be very rugged back country, but it was more of the same spectacular scenery that is seen in the two National Parks, which was fine with me. I took the paved H’way 40 all the way to the Upper and Lower lakes, with several stops along the way, including a couple of Visitors’ Centers and Kananaskis Village, where I did some shopping.

Along the road I spotted some elk and later on, a herd of Rocky Mountain sheep, which I also saw on the way back. They blocked the road for a few minutes but I just followed them and took their pictures until they moved out of the way. There was a gravel road that led back to Canmore but I decided that the paved road was a better option. Dinner that night was at a Thai restaurant, Pagoda, on the Bow Parkway Trail at the edge of town. The food was great.

On my final day I stayed in Canmore, explored the town some more and did some hiking on the trails just outside of town. There was an occasional shower, which produced more rainbows over the mountains. My last hike of the day was the Bow River Trail, which passed over some old railroad bridges. At the second bridge I came upon a bridal party which was heading there for pictures, and I took a couple of my own. The bridal party happily smiled for my camera. As I continued on the trail back to town I could hear their happy laughter. Nice.

Although I wanted to have dinner in town I was tired and achy so I ate in the restaurant at my hotel, called Indochine, which served Vietnamese fusion cuisine. The food was extremely fresh and delicious. I later relaxed out on my balcony taking in my final view of the mountains against the dark sky, regretting that the trip was coming to an end.

I love pretty much all the trips I take and this one was no exception. The Canadian Rockies are truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. I didn’t see as much wildlife as I had hoped to, but I like to focus on the positive and there were plenty of positives on this trip so the wildlife was not a big issue. Getting from place to place was super easy and driving on the uncrowded roads was pleasant and relaxing.

The weather was mostly perfect - mild, comfortable, sunny days with lovely breezes. Sometimes while hiking, a strong wind would blow, causing the aspen leaves to flutter in the air and then to the ground like golden confetti. Most of the trees along the roads were still green, and the splashes of golden yellow color here and there were beautiful to see.

I loved that the Railroad traveled through all of the places I visited and that the trains were often visible along the side of the road. I loved that the Train Station was a focal point of Jasper’s town center, that the old Train Station was preserved at Lake Louise, and that there were RR crossings right through the center of Canmore. Sometimes late at night I could hear the sound of the trains going by. It gave it all such a frontier feeling, which I think is what national parks should be like. It’s fair to say that the Canadian Rockies not only have relentless beauty but also personality!
panecott is offline  
Old Oct 13th, 2014, 05:17 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 32,129
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Excellent writing thanks. Never heard of a guy doing that with an elk before. That really is crazy.
colduphere is offline  
Old Oct 14th, 2014, 07:21 AM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 18,984
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks, cold. I assume you noticed the plug I gave you. ;-)

I took a picture of that fool with the elk. If I ever sort through the nearly 4000 photos I took, I'll post it along with some others.
panecott is offline  
Old Oct 14th, 2014, 08:44 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 32,129
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Yes my name startled me. And then so did that elk story. We had some elk park outside our cabin in Jasper once. They are not up there with bears and cougars in terms of making us nervous, but they still can do a lot of damage:

http://www.jasper.travel/content/elk
colduphere is offline  
Old Oct 14th, 2014, 11:42 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 582
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Great to hear that your trip went so well, albeit with a couple of rainy spells.

Definitely a fool with the elk - and yes, that is illegal. And unfortunately way too common. People think regulations apply to everyone but them. Tourists go on their merry way and those of us that live here get to hear the stories of wildlife that are killed or have to be destroyed because of dumb humans.

You are supposed to remain a good distance from any wildlife, and approaching an animal like that would be considered harassment. (It's one thing when you slowly approach deer or sheep on the trail to get them to move off so you can pass along, but this was not that situation!!!) If the wardens (not rangers) had spotted him in the act, it would have a been a strict warning if not a nasty fine. I would certainly have mentioned something to the wardens...

As to Chinese populations in Jasper and Banff... no. You were seeing tourists, and the area gets a lot of Asian tourists. Certainly Chinese immigrants played an important role in building the railways, but they were heavily discriminated against and did not tend to permanently settle in the mountain areas. Plus, residence in Jasper and Banff are now limited to people who work in the parks. You will find the large Asian populations in the big cities, particularly Vancouver.


I agree that the glacier tour is underwhelming - I did it a couple of years ago and was not overly impressed. And now that I go climbing/skiing on the glaciers, I realize it was a waste of money. Not sure about the body story - I suspect it may be urban myth since I've not heard anything about it. But plausible, especially if it was from many years ago and moved by the action of the glacier.

There is actually quite rugged backcountry in Kananaskis - there is a huge area of contiguous provincial parks/wilderness and you can backpack for days into some areas. It's just that the areas reachable by car are a lot more touristy. I was there this past weekend and even in very chilly weather, the main trails had lots of folks.
kgsneds is offline  
Old Oct 14th, 2014, 04:11 PM
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 18,984
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for the comments and info, cold and kgs.

It's funny, I've never thought of elk as dangerous before, but that bull that was being taunted by the fool definitely was frightening when he started to charge.

Same with moose. I never realized how dangerous they can be until I went to Alaska and heard about them. I think I was more frightened of running into moose than a bear.

But it shouldn't be surprising really. Even humans can be dangerous if they're provoked, and sometimes even if they're not provoked.

kgs, I really hope that story about the frozen body was not made up to entertain the stupid tourists. How demeaning that would be -- especially since I fell for it. LOL.
panecott is offline  
Old Oct 15th, 2014, 08:39 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 582
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Elk can be very dangerous - especially in the spring when they are calving and in the fall when the males are rutting. The rutting season is just ending, so that guy was VERY lucky not have been severely hurt or killed. Elk are actually more of a hazard than bears, and Parks Canada has spent a lot of time & effort educating people about the risk. You see signs everywhere about calving and rutting. Unfortunately, you can't cure stupid...

Not real sure about the body story... As far as I know, there haven't been any tourist deaths on the Columbia Icefields in many years and I think those bodies were all recovered within a few days. So if a body was found, it would have almost certainly someone killed in crevasse fall during a trip further up the glacier. That does happen, though fortunately not too often - and since almost no-one travels alone on a glacier, the incidents are known. The action of the glacier can cause things to move long distances, so it is possible that a body did come to the surface. And it is possible that if one was found, it was not made public. That said, I seem to remember that they recently found a backpack and possibly a ski pole that someone had lost in a non-fatal crevasse fall many years ago. Perhaps that was what being referred to?
kgsneds is offline  
Old Oct 15th, 2014, 10:51 AM
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 18,984
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Interesting. She did mention that he was skiing, but she definitely said a body was found.

Maybe she just enhanced the story for the tourists?! Turned a ski pole and backpack into a body. That's really tacky.

I wonder if anyone else who took that tour heard the same story.
panecott is offline  
Old Oct 15th, 2014, 10:56 AM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 18,984
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hmmmm.... You got me curious enough to Google it, and it turns out to be true.

http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/body-fo...case-1.1943595

The article said he was climbing, but I'm sure she said he was skiing. Anyway, I guess I owe her an apology for calling her tacky.
panecott is offline  
Old Oct 16th, 2014, 10:41 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 582
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Ah yes - sorry, I had forgotten about the one. A good warning as to why you don't go on a glacier alone (or unroped). Back in 1995 you probably did have people taking more risks - these days there are a lot more courses and a lot more education. The internet has also made it a lot easier to get info on conditions to the general public in a timely manner. Plus the Athabasca Glacier is a lot riskier now - I haven't been on it, but from all accounts the crevasses are getting nastier every year.

In January, he would have been skiing - walking/climbing on the glacier at that time of year would be a slog with all the snow. That said, January is not a typical time of year to be doing much on the glacier - you tend to do ski traverses in March/April/May when the days are longer & weather is warmer, and ascents of Athabasca in the summer. You can certainly ski or try one of the alpine climbs in January/February or practice glacier skills, but it there are much better locales when the days are so short & cold.
kgsneds is offline  
Old Oct 16th, 2014, 12:08 PM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 18,984
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I really wonder why they even allow guided walks on the glacier. Really, how can anyone be so sure about where is safe and where is not safe when there are so many changes in the ice?

I must say, even on that stupid tour on the ice bus, I wondered how they could know for certain that the ice was stable and thick enough to hold those giant vehicles.

I can only imagine how cold it is in winter, b/c it was really freezing on the lovely September day that I was there. Even in the parking lot, the temp. seemed to be about 30 degrees lower than it was on the road.
panecott is offline  
Old Oct 16th, 2014, 03:08 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 582
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Going on to a glacier with experienced people and the right equipment is quite safe. You just have to learn how to read the glacier, assess the risks, and learn when/what safety measures to take. A good chunk of my mountaineering course was dedicated to learning about glacier morphology (i.e. where crevasses are likely to form), when to rope up, how to rope up and practicing crevasse rescue. And we practice crevasse rescue skills every year to keep them fresh.

Hundreds of people go up on the glaciers in Banff/Jasper/Yoho NP every year on courses, guided trips, club trips etc. and injuries are fairly rare. You rope up unless it's blue ice (bare ice) or skiing down well known areas. Just about everyone has been on a trip where someone has gone into or part way into a crevasse, but with the ropes it's rarely more serious that a brief scare and some bruises. Once, someone on my rope team went part way into a crevasse, and she wasn't even bruised.

Glaciers do change, but it's not like a new crevasse will pop up overnight. For those glacier tours, they use an area on the glacier that is as concave or flat as possible, so not prone to crevasses, and do regular checks in the area they use to check to make sure there are no crevasses.

They would do a thorough assessment at the beginning of every season. In the beginning and end of the season with snow around, it's trickier, but they've been doing the tours for years, and between Brewster's, Parks Canada, guided trips and other trips on the glacier, the location of crevasses are very well known. Parks Canada will do fly overs and take photos in summer and winter - they are posted online so we can all use them. Not many surprises, just progressive changes over the years.

In the summer, it's easy because there's no snow, so any crevasses are very visible. Where you're on uncovered glacial ice (blue ice), you generally don't need to be roped up because the crevasses are pretty obvious. I've been on glaciers un-roped without any issues in the summer.

The glacier isn't hollow - it's really thick and more than solid enough to support the buses. The big wheels on the glacier buggies also distribute weight to a wider area. If a driver noticed anything out of the ordinary, it would be reported ASAP and I suspect they also drive out each day before the tours to inspect the road.

That said, everyone knows that eventually they will no longer be able to do the tours because the glacier will recede too far.

It is cold in the winter, which is why you don't see that many trips in the coldest months. Ski touring is best in late February through May - it was just below freezing when I skied on the Wapta Icefields. Though it felt colder because it was snowing pretty much sideways the entire time. But you can go out in pretty cold weather - I've backcountry skied and ice climbed when it was below -30c. You just have to keep moving!
kgsneds is offline  
Old Oct 16th, 2014, 03:48 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 9,171
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Isn't it beautiful there? Making me want to go back. Love that you got to hike so much. My husband and a friend did a motorcycle trip there this year. They did not get to enjoy as much with all the crazy drivers in cars. That is nuts to do that to wildlife and living here in Fl people do it with gators. Those gators can turn on dime. We always respected the Moose and bear. Never saw many elk. Great report.
flpab is offline  
Old Oct 16th, 2014, 05:15 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 159
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Your repot made me want to go again! My DH and I were there about 10 years ago. Your trip sounded almost identical to ours. We even stayed at the same place just outside of Jasper.

We have been lucky enough to have traveled to Europe several times over the years, but the scenery
In the Canadian Rockies is the most awe-inspiring that I have ever seen.

Thanks for posting the report.

Tee
BamaTee is offline  
Old Oct 16th, 2014, 06:28 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 15,114
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Been to where you went many times but it was enlightening to read you detailed report.

You just should have kept driving another 200 miles as I had the coffee waiting for you !!

No doubt about it the Canadian Rockies are quite the sight.
Many Hollywood movies have been made in these areas.

Thank for posting a great report.
----------------

" I've backcountry skied and ice climbed when it was below -30c. You just have to keep moving!"

Yes but you watch out for those avalanches because every year someone gets it.
Percy is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2014, 06:58 AM
  #19  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 18,984
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you for the kind comments, everyone.

kgs, you are a wealth of information and obviously a lover of the outdoors. Are you a native of western Canada? I was talking to the man at the Bow Lake Visitors Center and told him how lucky he was to live there. He replied that he moved there after visiting the area and never looked back.

Aww, Percy! I wish I would have known! I bought some delicious buns in a bakery in Jasper that I had to eat all by myself!
panecott is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2014, 12:53 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 582
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Not even a native Canadian. Born in the US and moved elsewhere in Canada before ending up out west. But fell in love with the mountains in the last couple of years...
kgsneds is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

FODOR'S VIDEO