Mountains/Glaciers/Rivers., Jasper National Park
At the base of the north face of Mt. Cavell the glaciers and snow pack converge. Little by little the glaciers are retreating and in their wake, during the summer months, a pond of snowmelt is left behind. From this vantage point you can just see the terminus of the glacier (the dirty aqua blue ice formation in the center of the photo). Below the glacier is an incredible pond.....but we will get to that in a minute.
I'm afraid photography cannot give due credit to Angel Glacier. It really doesn't look all that big or imposing on a 4 by 6 inch photograph. This is one of those natural phenomena that must be seen in person to truly appreciate the magnitude of the structure. The north face of Mt. Edith Cavell is 4920 feet and it appears that Angel Glacier stretches up at least a third of that face. So that would give it dimesnions something in the order of a 2000 foot wingspan, 1500 foot body and an ice thickness of over 130 feet. In fact there is a tunnel at the base of the glacier that extends 120 feet into the glacier.
Not exactly a secret why this ice formation is called Angel Glacier.
Angel Glacier is a cirque galcier which means that the glacier resides in a basin or ampitheater. Usually that results in a round shaped glacier. In this case, however, the cirque is not a rounded hole in the ground but an oblong incision into the mountain that provides for the wide stretching arms and the downward flowing body.
This babbling brook is only a half mile or so from the glacier that provides the meltwater. This entire valley was covered by a glacier only a few hundred years ago. At this spot along the banks of the stream, the trees are already reaching significant heights. But further up the slopes the retreating glacier has left a wasteland.
Just another ho-hum massif under the sunny Alberta skies. I like this photo because it clearly shows the timber line. The peaks in this part of Canada are not all that high, but due to the far north latitude the timber lines are at 6000-7000 feet. That leaves the summits bare, rocky and often covered with snow and ice. This mountain isn't any higher than the mountains that surround Tucson, Arizona, but it sure looks different.
The most dramatic peak in Jasper. Mt. Edith Cavell rises to a height of 11,031 feet--small potatos when measured against Denali or the massive peaks at Wrangell/St. Elias--but a mountain should not always be judged by the altitude at its zenith. Mt. Edith Cavell dominates its surroundings like no other peak in Jasper and the strata of snow and ice leading to the summit is specatacular. We were lucky that the weather broke for a two hour window in which we could view the summit under a brilliant blue sky.
Mt Athabasca on the left and Mt. Andromeda on the right as seen from the north. Mt Athabasca alone has three major glaciers on its flanks. In some places the glacial ice is 100 meters thick. That's a lot of ice. The glaciers are retreating, but they will still be around for the remainder of our lifetimes.
The mountain to the left of the glacier that has a layer of ice and snow that looks like a cap is Snow Dome. It is not particularly remarkable except for one astounding fact--it is known as the hydrographic apex of the North American continent. In simpler terms, the ice and snow melt from this peak flows into three different oceans. Water that falls northward finds its way to the Mackenzie River and ultimately the Arctic Ocean; water that falls eastward is carried to the Hudson Bay (and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean) by the North Saskatchewan River; and finally, water that heads west ultinately arrives in the Pacific Ocean via the Columbia River.
Nothing but barren gravel is left in the wake of a retreating glacier. Can you spot the Icefields Center at the base of the mountain. It is a four story interpretative center that is dwarfed by the immensity of Jasper. The Icefields Center is probably about a mile or so away and the spot where it stands was covered by a thick layer of ice within the past one hundred and twenty years. Eventually the scrubland will give way to meadows, brush and trees, but it takes more than a human lifespan for large plant life to take hold.
The melting glacial ice creates pools at the base of the retreating glacier. These water molecules that comprise this small lake have just recently returned to liquid form after being intensely packed ice for thousands and thousands of years.
Our guide book told us that it was a splendid little walk from the first parking lot at Athabasca Glacier to the glacier itself. Unfortunately the guide book was maybe two years old and things change rapidly along the path of a retreating glacier. There were wide streams that frustrated our ascent (we were only wearing sneakers). We had to go back to the car and drive to the closer parking lot--which meant hordes of people. This path would be ok for anyone wearing waterproof hiking boots.
Mount Athabasca is one of the prominent peaks in the Columbia Icefields area. Only a few hundred years ago all the terrain seen in this photo was covered by a gigantic plate of ice. The glaciers have retreated up the slopes, but the vegetation remains sparse. Only a few hardy trees and a tundra-like ground cover including a few select wildflowers can take hold in this harsh climate.
This is the biggest tourist attraction in Jasper National Park. By "Snocoach" or on foot, you must spend some time here to touch the ice and to admire this natural wonder.
Columbia Icefield is on the border of Jasper and Banff National Parks and easily accessible from Highway #93. What you see in photo, is actually Athabasca Glacier, one of the many glaciers spill out of Columbia Icefield. Imagine Columbia Icefield as a bucket of water, Athabasca Glacier is just a drop. That's how massive the icefield is.
The photo was taken from the Icefield Centre on the other side of highway. In the Centre you'll find interpretive displays and galleries revealing the stories and history of the Icefield. This is also where you purchase snocoach tickets.
The photo was taken at the Whistlers. I was lucky to be there on a sunny day and I could see all the surrounding mountains and lakes. In the photo you can see Canadian Rockies' highest peak, Mount Robson (3954 m/12973 feet), which was about 80 km away. The lake at the lower right-hand side of the photo is Dorothy Lake.
Once the snocoach takes you up to the Athabasca Glacier, look to your left and you'll see this hanging glacier (your Snocoach driver/narrator will remind you). It's relatively small compared with Athabasca Glacier, but it's unique in that it's actually from a source other than Columbia Icefield.
Too bad I don't remember the name of this hanging glacier. If any of you remember please email me. Thanks. According to the snocoach driver/narrator, it could fall anytime and cause a small avalanche. But I think he was just trying to be dramatic.