Wednesday, December 03, 2014
GCA VIII: Frozen
So far, we spent our time in Banff National Park. But that's not the only park there. Neighbouring it are Jasper and Yoho National Park. KH decided that Lake Louise would be our base for easy access to all the sights that we wanted to see. Our itinerary brought us out to the Athabasca Glacier at Jasper, just 130 km away. We started out early to avoid the crowds and packed lunch because the food options there were limited and expensive (its in the middle of no where with zero cellphone reception). Arrived at the Ice Fields Centre at about 10:00am and thankfully the crowds weren't there yet.
Bought our tickets and lined up for the glacier tour. A bus brought us closer to the glacier, a depot where all Ice Explorers were located. Those huge Ice Explorers were specially designed to handle the terrain (could handle super steep inclines) and inflict minimal damage on the glacier (huge rubber tyres). Our driver was an Austrian dirty blonde called Jiske (don't mind jizzing on him). He guided us onto the giant tongue of ice, giving bits and pieces of interesting facts along the way. The glacier was not completely white, it was speckled with dust and pollution that actually would increase its melting rate. When we got out, I immediately wanted to jump back into the Ice Explorer. Felt like I was a popsicle! Just a few minutes of windchill and I couldn't feel my face, my fingers turned numb and my ears ached! Couldn't properly operate my camera and water droplets kept getting on the lens. I opted for my phone instead. All around was ice and at the edges, uncannily blue water flowed. KH filled a bottle of glacial water to drink. Better than Evian I suppose? We were given twenty minutes on the glacier, but nearly everyone in our party wanted to leave after fifteen.
Back at the Ice Fields Centre, we took another bus to the Glacier Skywalk, a glass-bottomed bridge suspended over a glacier-formed valley. Not visually-impressive, but it is a sort of impressive engineering feat. Don't waste your money there. Had a quick lunch at the cafe (outside food!) and made our way back to our base in Banff National Park. Along the way, we were rewarded by great views. At one point, we saw a girl do an ALS Ice Bucket challenge in the mountain chill using ball-shrinking (thank goodness she didn't have any freezing glacier water.
Stopped at Parker Ridge for some hiking, but the weather had gotten a little inclement. Pulled out our ponchos and roughed it (I dunno what possessed me). It was wet, cold and windy. Halfway through, I was already feeling miserable. Finally understood why the gweilo were so fond of their outdoor gear and did not mind paying a premium for light, durable, wind-proof and waterproof clothes. After numerous switchbacks (sometimes we cheated and just went straight up), we reached the summit but were not rewarded with a good view as it was obscured by clouds and mist. Bah. Obviously we didn't spend long in the dreary weather and made our way down (the rain started coming down as light snow!). Felt a sense of accomplishment doing that trail in such conditions. Something that I would not usually agree to. Dried off as much as possible and tried not to drag mud into the car (my jeans were splattered nearly up to the knees).
On our way back, we made a short stop at The Crossing Resort, an inn at the base of Mt. Wilson. It had an excellent view of several of the nearby mountain peaks. Also had our BBQ chicken dinner there at the diner. For some reason we had a hankering for chicken. Not very visible on the menu for some reason. When the waiter brought me my meal he exclaimed, "Here you go milord, the best roast chicken in the West!". Well, he lied. Continued our journey and arrived back at Lake Louise Inn positively exhausted. Hung our wet clothes to dry and tried to wash as much mud out as possible. No sex that night! Hahaha. That goes that show that one shouldn't be too outdoor-sy!
P.S.: Look what we found at the souvenir shop!