Our Icewalk Deluxe tour offers a full day of adventure and covers the entire length of the lower Athabasca Glacier. This six hour trip provides opportunity for venturing into the first of three icefalls and allows plenty of time for learning about the many nuances of the glacier environment.
The Athabasca Glacier is a total of about six kilometers long from top to bottom, or from head to terminus in official terminology. The bottom two thirds are at a relatively mellow pitch with a surface that varies from fairly smooth to a frozen, choppy wave-like pattern. As we hike higher, the slope becomes steeper until we reach very uneven terrain with large shelves and irregular terraces. This is the beginning of the icefalls which offer many opportunities for exploring their nooks and crannies.
The views and experiences on this upper portion of the glacier is what makes the Deluxe tour worth the extra time and energy over the shorter Ice Cubed version. We’ll walk near seracs that push upward and mill wells that allow water to drop into the depths of the ice. You’ll learn how to safely approach and view crevasses. From this vantage point there is a much better perspective of the upper icefalls where the glacier flows over steeper terrain. The complete trip covers around 8 kilometers (5 miles), and our moderate pace is broken by frequent stops for the guides to introduce concepts of active glaciation and describe features of the glacially carved landscape.
Our lead guide, Peter Lemieux, has been travelling the glacier daily during the summer months since 1980. All guides are members of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides or its equivalent, are trained in advanced First Aid, and carry two way radios in case of any emergency. They are an international group of professionals with a wealth of practical experience and training, who love to share their time on the glacier with you.
Our icewalks take place in Jasper National Park, which is the largest national park of the Canadian Rockies, and is connected to the northern boundary of Banff National Park. The Athabasca Glacier is one of the easiest glaciers to access in all North America due to its proximity to the scenic Icefields Parkway. Like all glaciers it is continually moving and travels downhill several centimeters each day. It is the largest of six glaciers that are part of the Columbia Icefield, however, it is shrinking by five meters every year and has receded more than 1.5 km (0.93 mi) in the past 125 years, losing over half of its volume.
The Icewalk Deluxe tour leaves promptly at 9:30 a.m. and meets in the parking lot nearest to the glacier at 9:00 a.m. Please allow adequate travel time to the meeting area, taking into account congestion on the parkway during peak vacation periods. Unguided travel on the glacier is not recommended if you miss the group departure time.
Before setting off we will help you get properly equipped for our hike. Although no technical skills are required there is basic equipment that can make the journey safer and more comfortable. We provide a simple, light crampon that will provide better traction and security for walking on the frozen surface. We also offer boots for no charge, and hats, gloves, and rain gear are available for protection from the weather. We have a brief conversation about physical fitness and skill level, and give an overview of the pacing and degree of exertion to expect, and then head up the glacier.
The Icewalk Deluxe tour operates daily (Except Tuesday & Wednesdays). The rest of the week we offer the shorter Ice Cubed tour. Group size varies but is no larger than 15 people, from ages seven and older. Due to the length of the outing and the moderate degree of physical exertion required, the tour is not appropriate for younger children, and we request that you not attempt to carry infants or toddlers in a backpack. There isn’t an option for early exit or departure, and other patrons will be expecting the full tour as advertised.
Adults ages 16+, $160 CDN
Children ages 10-16, $80 CDN
We will operate Icewalk tours from May 28 – October 8, 2017. However, due to snow and ice conditions, the Deluxe tour may not begin until late June or early July.