Drinking Incredible Water on Athabasca Glacier

Other than climbing on Exit Glacier in Alaska, I have not actually been on a glacier — so when I found out that not only can I access Athabasca Glacier in the Rocky Mountains of Canada and stand on it but also drink the water fresh off of the glacier, I could not resist.

Drinking Incredible Water on Athabasca Glacier

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

I paid for the tickets in advance to save money. If you pay for the tickets at least 48 hours in advance, you can save ten percent off of the cost of the experience — and you do not have to wait in line at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre to purchase tickets.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The special line for pre-purchased tickets was empty; and the Glacier Adventure experience is operated by Brewster Travel Canada.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Once the time for the tour to which I was assigned arrived, I boarded the bus to take passengers to the special vehicles which climb onto the glacier.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The bus was equipped with overhead storage compartments — similar to those aboard an airplane. The monitors aboard the bus were never used.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

We were then taken across Icefields Parkway to a depot where we waited on a platform to board one of these all-terrain ice explorers.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

These all-terrain ice explorers cost greater than a million dollars each; and their top speed is 18 kilometers per hour.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

This Columbia Icefield bumper has apparently seen better days — which is to be expected.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

There were plenty of windows and skylights aboard one of these vehicles; so there really was no bad seat in which to sit.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Our driver was originally from Québec and poked fun at her own accent.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The cheetah on the blue paper was for identification purposes so that we knew which bus to board when we were finished on the glacier.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

She was also our guide and explained some facts and figures pertaining to both the glacier and the vehicle as we started down the steep descent prior to climbing the glacier.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Other all-terrain ice explorer vehicles ply the makeshift “road” on the glacier itself.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Our final destination is located in the center of the photograph; and the stop sign designated the place where all-terrain ice explorer vehicles must stop if another one was in the process of ascending the steep incline. This procedure is for safety reasons.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The all-terrain ice explorer vehicle stopped to allow the other one to climb up the hill.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

It is a slow process. Remember that the top speed of these vehicles is 18 kilometers per hour — as though they were stuck in first gear.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Yellow grading vehicles which are used to maintain the “road” rest on the moraine as the other all-terrain ice explorer vehicle slowly grinds its way up the hill.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

At the bottom of the hill, the all-terrain ice explorer vehicles go through a “tire wash” of sorts — comprised of melted glacier water — to keep the tires of the vehicles as clean as possible prior to climbing on the glacier.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Once the all-terrain ice explorer vehicle rests at the designated spot on the glacier, the passengers are given approximately 30 minutes on the ice…

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

…and are treated to close views of Athabasca Glacier itself.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Although most people wore jackets and heavier clothing, I wore a shirt with short sleeves, as the temperature was just right for me.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Viewing the glacier while on the ice is significantly better than viewing it from afar, as I enjoyed the panoramic view which completely surrounded me.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The idea of standing on the tongue of the glacier — which moves over thousands of years — simply amazed me.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The photograph shown above is an even closer view of Athabasca Glacier.

Drinking Glacier Water

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

There are channels of water flowing from the glacier — but here is a tip if you find yourself on the glacier…

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

…the channel from right to left has most likely had other people dipping their bottles into it already…

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

…so if you want to drink water which very likely has not been touched by humans over thousands of years, place your bottle in the channel coming directly from the glacier itself. Plenty of water is available; so you can bring as many empty bottles as you can carry.

The water was amazingly delicious; incredibly cold; and crisp and refreshing. I could not drink enough of it — and yes, I was rather thirsty when I approached the glacier. This water completely satisfied my thirst. I wished that I could build a pipe from here directly to where I am based.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Pieces of the glacier ice abound if you want to pick one up.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

An excellent view of just how steep is the moraine hill is viewed while on the ice.

Play Time For Me

I rarely effect effects to affect my photographs; but as I did with a photograph of the town of Banff in this article, I wanted to try something known as the Tilt-Shift effect — and the following photograph allowed me to experiment with this effect.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

This is the same photograph of the hill — but with the tilt-shift effect affecting it, the all-terrain ice explorer vehicle now looks like a toy.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The Remaining Time on Athabasca Glacier

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

When put into perspective, how small and insignificant we all are when compared to the glaciers and mountains is truly remarkable.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Notice how in this series of photographs — which were taken in chronological order — one all-terrain ice explorer vehicle waits at the top of one hill while another all-terrain ice explorer vehicle climbs its steep grade.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

On this table is a display of equipment which is used on the glacier ice. There were also portable displays which give some information pertaining to the glacier itself.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Signs delineate the border of the area which visitors are allowed to access while on the glacier, as venturing past them is extremely dangerous due to deep millwells — which are a network of tunnels in the glacier formed from large holes as a result of water from melting ice — and crevasses. The red chair on the right is part of the Red Chair program, of which you can read more details in this article.

Meanwhile, Snow Dome — which is the mountain that you see in the photograph above — is rather unique in that its peak is only one of two apexes in North America that is considered a triple continental divide of sorts, as water flows to either the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean or Arctic Ocean.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

I even enjoyed just looking at the ice on which I was standing…

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

…but the time has come to leave the glacier.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

We boarded the all-terrain ice explorer vehicle — and yes, it is the correct vehicle, as indicated by the blue sheet of paper with the silhouette of the cheetah on it.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Other glaciers were in view as well — such as Andromeda Glacier.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

We passed other all-terrain ice explorer vehicles on the way out.

Athabasca Glacier

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Summary

The meeting spot for the tour of Andromeda Glacier — as well as where to purchase tickets in person — is located at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre on Icefields Parkway.

The daily operating hours for 2017 are as follows:
May 27 to September 3 9:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening
September 4 to October 1 10:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the afternoon
October 2 to October 15 10:00 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon

Tours depart every 15 to 30 minutes — weather permitting.

The prices for the Glacier Adventure — which are in Canadian dollars — include access to the Glacier Skywalk on the edge of a cliff with a glass floor, which I intend to cover in a future article. The Glacier Skywalk can be done separately without being on the glacier for a lower cost; but the Glacier Adventure cannot be separated from the Glacier Skywalk.

2017 RATES ADVANCED RATE REGULAR RATE
Adults ages 16 and older $85.00 $94.00
Child ages 6 through 15 $43.00 $47.00
Infant 5 years of age and younger Free Free

The $85.00 translated to $51.42 in United States dollars. It was not a bad deal at all. I certainly recommend the experience.

All photographs ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

16 thoughts on “Drinking Incredible Water on Athabasca Glacier”

  1. ti says:

    thanks for the great posts! i’m heading to the area in a week, and am hoping you’ll accelerate posting so i can take advantage of the rest of your tips 😉

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Please tell me more about what specifically you are looking for, ti, so that you can get the most out of the articles…

      1. ti says:

        nothing in particular. i’ve already plotted out my trip, but have enjoyed reading your posts to pick up random tidbits to incorporate into my plans. (for example, i had overlooked field, and hadn’t realized that it is so close to lake louise.)

        1. Brian Cohen says:

          Okay, ti — I have already posted an article about Natural Bridge, which is not far from Field…

          http://thegate.boardingarea.com/natural-bridge-in-yoho-national-park-is-a-scenic-and-easy-visit/

          …and a list of links to articles which I have written pertaining to my experiences in the Rocky Mountains in Canada is found at the end of this article:

          http://thegate.boardingarea.com/did-hawaii-become-part-of-canada-save-35-percent-on-accommodations-and-dining-with-starwood/

          Meanwhile, I will try to step up the pace, as there is more…

          1. ti says:

            thanks! i’ve read all of your past posts and am eagerly awaiting your upcoming ones!

  2. Brian says:

    Did you notice the ice worms?

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I did not see any ice worms, Brian — not even in the bottles of water from which I drank.

      In fact, I even kept a little water left over to try it at room temperature. It was still delicious and there was some sediment — but no moving beings like worms…

      1. Brain says:

        I’ve wandered all over Alaska glaciers and I’ve won a lot of bets from people thinking this was a joke, but check it out………”Ice worms (also written as ice-worms or iceworms) are enchytraeid annelids of the genus Mesenchytraeus. The most well-known members of the genus are found in glacial ice. They include the only annelid worms known to spend their entire lives in glacial ice.”

        1. Brian Cohen says:

          I did check out that information; and you are correct, Brian

          …but I still saw no ice worms — thankfully…

  3. Matt says:

    Thanks Brian! We had a great time in Alberta but decided to pass on this experience – maybe next time.
    Small correction: $85 CAD = $67.57 USD, not $51.42. I don’t think USD has ever reached 1.65 CAD, although it got close around 15 years ago.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      You are correct, Matt.

      I only looked at one part of my credit card statement; and I thought that number was too low…

      …but $67.57 is still a good deal for this experience.

      Thank you for the correction.

  4. Benni says:

    The irony with Columbia Icefield Parkway is pretty strong. On the way to the glacier there are signs every few steps to show the masses how much the glacier has molten in the last few decades and how bad people are for being that ignorant. And at the same time they don’t know better than to drive up the glacier in a vehicle that approximately pollutes the environment as much as a cruise ship…
    Other than that it’s pretty nice there, that’s true

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I agree that that is ironic, Benni.

  5. My impression of glacier water, from viewing rivers originating from glaciers, is that it is filthy with sediment. True? And you drank it anyway?

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      There was some sediment in the water, Gary Steiger — but as is atypical for me, I did not care. The water was that refreshing and delicious.

      By the way, seeing you posting here is my distinct pleasure. I consider you to be one of the pioneers of weblogs for deals:

      http://www.freefrequentflyermiles.com/index.htm

      Correct me if I am wrong; but did you not start that site in 1998?

  6. Something like that. It was before the word blog existed.

    Thanks for your support.

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