|Athabasca Glacier as seen from Icefield Parkway|
Experiencing glaciers in other parts of the world changed the way I think about the world's climate woes. It hit me right in the face. There's beauty in glaciers for sure and there's a lesson to be learned from them at the same time. Seeing this rapid melting, this continuous retreat was an actual reminder of an increasingly warmer planet we live on.
It was about time my family see this live lesson as well.
|Brewster Ice Explorers on the glacier's lateral moraine|
|Driving on ancient ice - with fans (the world is truly getting warmer!)|
Except for the Ice Walk, all bus tours are operated by Brewster Travel Canada. Adults pay $49.95 while kids are $24.95 - really pretty stiff for a 90-minute escorted excursion into the ice which is only available between April and October. Luckily for us, my sister-in-law had Fil-Canadian friends working in Banff's hotel industry who gave us complimentary tickets. That generosity save us a good deal of money.
|Andromeda Glacier hangs precariously above visitors|
|Me & my family being pummeled by snow and wind|
Even though we got there mid-afternoon, the Icefield Centre was still crowded with visitors waiting for their turn to board the bus. We were first driven across the glacier's lateral moraine just next to where the glacier terminated before we transferred into an enormous Brewster Ice Explorer, a 2 million pimped-up bus capable of navigating Athabasca's rugged terrain.
The weather turned snowy. Our driver admitted it was the first snow of the season. Fresh snow was sticking to the ice as our bus slowly trundled on, following other buses already ahead of us. About 15 minutes later, we were mid-way up on a designated area of the glacier where all Ice Explorers parked side by side. After bombarding us with tidbits of glacier information and safety instructions, the driver allowed us to step outside.
|Brewster Ice Explorer: Canada's bus-on-steroids|
|Ice walkers exploring Athabasca's toe|
At only 6 kilometers long, Athabasca is not as long or as large as the other glaciers I've seen. Despite the howling winds, pellet-like snow and reduced visibility, I walked with my parents on the ice, making sure no one slides and falls. They were ecstatic at the thought of walking on ice 1,000 feet deep (but certainly not about falling into crevasses which lurk somewhere). There were marks in place to warn people not to venture further.
Like most glaciers in other parts of the planet, Athabasca is sadly retreating. It has done so in the last 125 years, losing more than 1.5 kilometers in length and more than half its volume of ice. The Earth may indeed be getting warmer but at the rate this wind chill was kicking up while we were there, our 30-minute foray was enough for my parents who made a dash for the Ice Explorer. Meanwhile, our female driver had 2 small fans to help her keep cool.