Dates: June 15 – September 30, 2019 (Dates may vary due to ice conditions.)
Duration/distance/elevation gain: 6 hours, about 8.5 km (5 miles) roundtrip, 330 m (1000 feet)
Price: Adults: $175.00 CDN, plus 5% GST.
Children: 7-16 years, $90.00, plus 5% GST.
Days: Departs daily except Tuesdays & Wednesdays. (9:30 a.m.) Arrive 20 minutes prior to the walk.
Our Icewalk Deluxe tour offers a full day of adventure and covers the entire length of the lower Athabasca Glacier. This five to six hour trip provides an opportunity to venture 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 about six kilometres 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 the upper portion of the glacier are what make the Deluxe tour worth the time and energy. We’ll walk near seracs that push upward and millwells 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. Our guides are an international team of professionals who have a wealth of practical experience and training in safe mountain travel. All are members of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides or its equivalent. Completing the ACMG courses means that the Icewalk tour guides are well qualified in glacier travel, crevasse rescue, the effects of changing weather conditions, and all other aspects of mountain and snowfield travel.
Most of our guides combine Glacier Icewalks in the summer with heli ski guiding or ski tour guiding in the winter months. This year around work in the mountains results in a very thorough knowledge base about how glaciers form, grow/shrink, and move, as well as making them experts on the mountain environment in general.
They are trained in advanced First Aid, and carry two-way radios in case of any emergency.
The Athabasca Glacier is one of the easiest glaciers to access in all of North America due to its proximity to the scenic Icefields Parkway. It is in continuous movement and travels forward several centimetres per day. It is the largest of six glaciers that comprise the Columbia Icefield. It is shrinking many meters every year and has receded more than 1.5 km(0.93mi) in the past 175 years, losing over half of its volume.
Our Icewalks take place in Jasper National Park, the largest national park of the Canadian Rockies. Along with spectacular mountain views, it is one of the best places to see wild birds and animals. Chances are good that you will spot bears, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, el and deer, plus many little critters such as marmots, pikas and Columbian ground squirrels.
The Icewalk Deluxe tour leaves promptly at 9:30 a.m. and meets in the parking lot nearest to the glacier at 9:10 a.m.
Please allow adequate travel time to the meeting area, taking into account congestion on the parkway during peak vacation periods of July, August and early September. 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 groups generally consist of 12 people, ages 10 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+, $175 CDN, plus 5% GST.
Children ages 10-16, $90 CDN, plus 5% GST
We will operate Icewalk tours from May 25 to September 30, 2019. However, due to snow and ice conditions, the Deluxe tour may not begin until late June or early July.