My Rocky Mountaineer tour now continued by coach from Jasper to Lake Louise with a visit to the Columbia Icefield and many scenic stops along the way.
We were picked up from our various hotels by our coach driver and tour guide. The Brewster coaches were comfortable and equipped with a toilet at the back if required. The brand-new coaches had USB power sockets between the seats. On the coach was a mixture of Gold and Silver Leaf train passengers and the coach was just over half full.
The tour was to travel south down the Icefields Parkway, which is known as one of the world’s more scenic parkways, to stop at the Columbia Icefield before continuing to Lake Louise for 2 nights.
Once on board the coach, our driver informed us there had been a controlled avalanche blast the day before and, unfortunately, the avalanche had gone further than expected and had covered the Icefield Parkway between the Columbia Icefields and Lake Louise. We could still do the Columbia Icefields trip but the drive to Lake Louise would then detour east then south to loop around to get to Lake Louise from the south which would take an extra four hours. The other option was to head north from Jasper to Edmonton then east, then south and loop back around to Lake Louise, which would get us to Lake Louise around the same time, around 4:30 pm, but would mean us missing the Columbia Icefields. Thankfully the majority of the passengers agreed to arrive into Lake Louise late as doing the Columbia Icefields was more important.
We stopped at various scenic lookouts on our way to the Columbia Icefields.
Athabasca Falls was still partially covered with ice and again we saw how powerful melting glaciers are carving a path through rock.
The Columbia Icefield feeds 8 major glaciers and parts of the icefield is visible from the Icefields Parkway as are some of the glaciers. I visited the Athabasca Glacier and, like many other glaciers, it is receding each year as the glacier is melting due to less snow and higher temperatures year on year.
The snow coach journey to the Athabasca glacier, on s specially built, comfortable, big-wheeled vehicle, was a bit of a thrill with part of the track being a 30% grade, descent. The glacier itself was spectacular, freezing cold (due to the icy wind) and treacherous as the top layer of the glacier was melting and there were pools of water or slushy ice. Even though the area we could walk around on the glacier is checked each day and the safe area cordoned off, we had to be careful where we trod due to possible crevasses opening up as the glacier melted. It was a great feeling to experience being on a glacier and getting pictures of the close-by mountains and other glaciers above the Athabasca glacier.
As our itinerary had changed due to the avalanche, our driver said he would stop at his favourite lookout places as we would be missing part of the Icefields Parkway.
We even went beyond the detour turn so that we could see the Howse Pass which was an important traditional Aboriginal (First Nation) travel route. Howse Pass was used to helped extend the fur trade west.
I got to see the true rural farming area of Alberta. We had a quick toilet stop in a small town and the radio was put on. We were tuned into ‘Agriculture today’ and I couldn’t stop laughing at the top story which was a court case about whether a pig had been stolen or not and whether it was properly cared for when it wasn’t on the farm it belonged to! I didn’t hear the end as the static increased so the radio was turned off again.
We eventually arrived at Lake Louise at 8:30 pm having done an extra 400kms.
As it doesn’t get dark until after 9 pm I was able to get my first look at Lake Louise from my lake view room.