In front of me I could only see white. Turning my head each way I could only see white. Looking behind me a huge red shape cut through the whiteness, a beacon in the great white unknown.
I tested my right foot on the white, crunch. I tested my left, crunch. I walked straight forward with my arms out – like a person walking on a tightrope – as the sound continued to follow my every step. I was walking on ice.
Below me was more than 300 metres worth of glacier, even taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris, frozen solid beneath my feet. The group, also testing the whiteness, had been warned that if we strayed from the path created for us we could fall through the deep layers of whiteness or into a crack in the ice.
One of the girls yelled, “It’s snowing!” The white stuff was given a name. We have nothing like this where I am from.
Everyone else seemed at ease in the whiteness so I bent down and touched it, quickly snatching my hand back; wetness soaked my glove and the harsh coldness stung at my skin.
Russell bent down and picked up some of the snow. Instead of bundling it up into a ball to throw he popped a piece in his mouth, wincing a little from the cold, but slowly eating it. Romy called out, “just don’t eat the yellow snow.” A chorus of giggles went up from the girls within earshot of the remark.
I had to taste the white snow.
Leaning out over the edge of the circle to where some fresh powder-looking snow was I grabbed a chunk. The coldness of it bit into my hand and my fingers turned pink as I compacted it into a small hard ball. I braced myself and took a bite of the white. It was like eating hard, cold fairy floss without the sugar rush but there was a sweetness as the ice dissolved on my warm tongue.
I bit into it again as I walked around the group - crunch, crunch, crunch. As the glacier melts during the summer, there are little streams where drink bottles can be filled with the sweet tasting glacier water.
I watched as Makoto carefully slid to his knees and filled his bottle, narrowly avoiding falling in as he leaned forward and then as Rishad managed to trip and almost fall into the tiny steam, instead settling for a shoe full of water; Despite how many times we’d experienced snow we all still had issues walking on ice.
Bundling back onto the monster “snow coach” we headed back off into the great white as our journey onto the Athabasca Glacier came to an end. One last snow ball was thrown at the office and soon we were on our way back into Jasper, but at least I could say that I had walked on the ice.
Would you go for a walk on a glacier?
When: This years season will run from April 19th until October 20th, 2013.
Columbia Icefield Discover Centre
How Much? Adults - CDN$49.95, Children (5-15) - CDN$24.90. Children under 5 ride for free when sharing a seat with an adult.
How to get there:
You can book transportation with your Columbia Icefield Experience ticket, otherwise the drive is around 1.5hours from Jasper or 3 from Banff.
Click here to book packages which include transportation to the Icefield.
- Tours take around 90-minutes.
- There is accommodation available onsite.
- The glacier is wheelchair accessible, just let staff know in advance.
Post Image: Maurice Li