(My solo road trip of western Canada – Thursday 24th September)
I was so excited about seeing, touching, and experiencing a glacier which is said to have formed during the Great Glaciation (238,000 to 126,000 BC)…even tasting it! The Colombia Icefield is the largest ice field in the Rocky Mountains of North America and it is the most visited glacier too.
There are options to go without a tour guide but I was not going to travel on this without experts as I had read about people dying in certain areas on this glacier. I was also happy about the timing as the centre which accommodates these visits closes sometime in October. I read that some parts of the glacier were nearly 300m deep which was a fascinating fact and reassuring to an extent that I would not fall through!
You take a bus from the Colombia Interpretive Centre to where you take the mother of buses, the ‘snow coach’ as it is sometimes referred to and it was cool to be boarding one of only 23 of these in the world to transport us to the glacier. I booked on to the 10am tour which was the best thing I did as we were the first tour of the day and when we did get to the glacier we had the whole glacier to ourselves for about 20 minutes, after that it did get quite busy as by the time our snow coach was due to return there were already two other coaches parked up on the glacier with others on their way.
What a fantastic experience, a completely different environment and landscape to what I had seen so far on this trip and I knew that unless there was some crazy change in weather (which could definitely happen the more north I drove) this would be a unique experience. It was very cold, and at times the glacier wind was freezing and some people took refuge in the snow coach whose engine and heating was left on for that very reason. One of the best sights, other than the fact I could stand next to the thickness of the glacier we could see, was the independent glaciers hanging off two other mountains…that was an amazing sight and these can be seen clearly in the photo after the first video.
However, with every wonder and gift of the world there is always a sad reality. In the third photo down, I am stood in the car park with a bridge behind me and behind that in the distance is the beginning of the glacier, over a hundred years ago the glacier used to be where the car park is!! The depressing aspect of this stunning glacier is where it used to be just over a hundred years ago and how much it has now receded and continues to recede, so much so that our tour guide said that this particular glacier that you see has a lifespan of between 70-80 years before it completely disappears!