Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Jasper NP- Walking on a Glacier


Sat Aug 28 – Fred and I hiked on a glacier! The Athabasca Glacier is one of the  8 glaciers in the Columbia Ice Field, the largest ice field in the Rockies, covering 202 square miles. Picture an ice field as a frozen lake lying on top of the mountains with the glaciers being frozen rivers which run down the sides of the mountains.


This is part of the ice field from a distance. 


Ice field – up closer.


This is a “hanging glacier” – one that has no part of the ice field above it.


This is Athabasca Glacier  In the fore of the picture is the parking lot and the path leading up to the toe of the glacier. We had made arrangements to do a guided  “ice walk” because it is not recommended that you walk on the glacier unaccompanied – people have fallen into crevasses (cracks in the glacier) and have been killed. So, Sat morning at 11 am we met our group and our guide and learned all about glaciers from an up close and personal view.


All around the toe of the glacier is gravel and rocks. These were pushed along by the glacier like a bull dozier, then left behind as the glacier recedes.


Glaciers are constantly changing - ice melts, forming run off and streams.


Chunks of snow and ice break off at the foot of the glacier.


This is a part of the moraine of the glacier. It is glacial ice covered in dirt and gravel. When some of the end collapses, the ice is exposed.


We never realized that under all that dirt on the sides of the glacier is ice.

DSC01810 (2)

On the ice walk We divided into two groups. This is the other group walking on the glacier. We were told to walk like “ducks in a row” following the guide, and we would be safe.


These rocks were lying on top of the glacier. They began their journey on the bottom, and were pushed up towards the top as they journeyed down the mountain.


We were amazed at how many streams flowed down the glacier. The melt water was a beautiful blue/green from the glacier “flour” or finely ground up rock particles.


This is a view looking up the glacier.


Our guide “Freon” (the one in the blue jacket) was from Iceland, and had been doing glacial guiding for 14 years. Here, he shows us a pole that scientists had placed in the ice to measure glacial movement. Freon had placed a marking tape on the pole in June of the last 2 years. This year, on the same date, he measured the drop and it was over 30 feet. Scientists believe that this glacier will be gone in the next 30 years.


This is a “mill well” – a hole in the glacier that can extend many, many feet down.


Hey! Don’t fall in!! We each got a chance to  view the mill well, but Freon held on,  taking no chances that anyone might slip and fall in.


The inside view of the mill well.


Water runs down the side of the well, like a water fall.


The well looked bottomless.


We had one last look up the glacier before heading down.

This was an experience of a lifetime!


  1. Very cool. The tours were all booked up on the day I was there so I didn't get to walk on the glacier. I'm glad that you guys were able to do it!!

  2. Just looking down the hole was scary! All very interesting. I love your posts and of course, Becky's.

  3. Fascinating and beautiful pictures. I never knew walking on a glacier could be so hazardous!