Earlier in the week we were expecting our return journey on Saturday July 4 to consist of breakfast, a stop for fuel in the townsite of Jasper and the three plus hour drive back to Edmonton.
Whilst at Sunwapta Rocky Mountain Lodge, we learnt a section of the Snaring River just east of Jasper had flooded and was causing four plus hour delays in both directions. I prayed that it wouldn’t clear in time for our return journey and we’d be forced to stay longer in the mountains!
Over omelettes on Saturday morning we discussed the possibilities between driving back two hours to Saskatchewan Crossing then heading out to Rocky Mountain House through the David Thompson Corridor (Highway 11) this would be a 6 1/2 hour trip. Or try our luck by heading north to Jasper and risk being delayed by the road closure. If the road closure was minimal the return trip would be less than 4 hours. Decisions, decisions…
After breakkie (thats Australian for breakfast) we packed the truck then dropped off our cabin keys and said goodbye to the front desk agent Dani who had been a wealth of knowledge about the area as well as future destinations.
Turning left, we headed north on Highway 93 towards Jasper to test our fate and add petrol (that’s British for gas) into the Tacoma!
Seventeen kilometers north we pulled over at a lookout called Ghosts and Glaciers.
The river known as the Athabasca River is glacial runoff water from the Columbia Ice Fields some 55 kilometers to the south.
From here we drove the next fifteen minutes until reaching the turnoff for Athabasca Falls and the backcountry Highway 93A. We opted for the scenic route. And a little side adventure to Mount Edith Cavell.
Standing in the parking lot you could not hear a single individual only a small pitter patter of rain bouncing off the vehicles and pavement around us.
The wife ducked away down the parking lot to listen to a nearby creek as I downed on every extra long sleeve shirt because the rainy windy chill in the air was making my lips turn a pale shade of blue at 6,585 feet!
Temperatures were slowly continuing to creep under 10C [50F] degrees.
As we climbed the first set of rugged stairs to the plaques announcing where we stood, whom the area was named after and a bit about the mountain range and its glaciers.
We skipped passed saying “lets read up on our way back down the hill as I want to keep going to stay warm.”
Up, up, up the steep paved trail we went. The further from the parking lot the louder the nearby creek got. Soon enough we crossed a small wooden bridge and paused to listen, smell and catch our breath.
After a solid climb of 75m we made it to the look out just in time to hear crackling sounds somewhere high above us inside the glaciers belly and watched its snow and ice come crashing down the face into an non-melted pond.
“WOW! That was some sound!” said the wife. “Yup, don’t want to be under that when it comes tumbling down,” I replied pointing to the far wall observing the snow rushing over a cliff face like a beautiful misting waterfall.
Another 100m and we were close enough to snap a photo of Angel Glacier as the clouds had lifted and cleared just enough to see this beautiful 25 foot glacier hanging onto a crevice point. We gazed in awe and wonder mesmerized by its beauty.
Continuing up the hill but not up the path to the meadows as that area was deemed unsafe by Parks Canada rangers and marked accordingly.
Thus we went deeper up the valley until we reached a lookout to observe people going beyond a large yellow sign
WARNING FALLIN ICE and AVALANCHE DANGER
Standing in front of the sign the mountain crackled with vengeance and the snow above began to fall. This occurred every five minutes for the next half hour.
We sat, stood, and stretched before the glaciers and their glory. Then the LOUDEST crack shook the valley and I said, “lets skedaddle I don’t want to be here when those poor saps down there,” I pointed at the lake below where you could see people standing with their red and blue umbrellas watching the snow and ice drifting off the mountain, “get caught in the summer avalanche!”
We moved down valley, back through the long winding trail which lead over the bridge to the peaceful song of water churning over rocks.
Back in the lot we fired up the Tacoma, withdrew our mildly warm beverages and awaited the heated seats and heater to warm the interior of the cab as the crackling up the valley began once again amongst the screams and shouts of people we could no longer hear.