Life on the Edge: The Glacier Skywalk
After stepping out onto Athabasca Glacier in Banff National Park in the Rocky Mountains of Canada — and drinking some of the best water which I have ever tasted — the time had arrived to be transferred to the Glacier Skywalk.
Life on the Edge: The Glacier Skywalk
We boarded a shuttle bus for a direct transfer from Athabasca Glacier to the Glacier Skywalk. A maximum of 56 passengers can be accommodated on each shuttle bus.
The bus filled up quickly for the short ride northwest of approximately six kilometers. Shuttle buses leave every 15 minutes.
Once we arrived, the driver of the bus — who imparted some useful information and facts along the way — thanked all of the departing passengers and was prepared to help any passenger who needed assistance.
A bus packed full of passengers initially crowds the entrance to the Glacier Skywalk, which is seen in the distance.
In the foreground is a viewpoint with information. The Glacier Skywalk is beyond this viewpoint.
A handset was given to any visitor who wanted one at no extra cost. I took one — but I never used it. Visitors can choose from multiple languages. These handsets are returned at the exit, where they are immediately cleaned and sanitized for the incoming visitors.
The Glacier Skywalk can be entered at either its northwest entrance — which is shown in the photograph above — or from its southeast entrance, which is a short walk away.
These solid cables are what hold the Glacier Skywalk in its place. I wonder how much those bolts cost in the hardware store…?!?
This photograph illustrates the proportion in size of the solid giant cables and bolts as compared to human beings.
This view of the southeast entrance to the Glacier Skywalk shows how it is anchored into the side of the mountain — and on the other side of the fence in the background is Icefields Parkway, on which a white car heads downhill and southeast towards Lake Louise.
The car seen in the background beyond the entrances to the Glacier Skywalk is heading northwest on Icefields Parkway towards Jasper.
Visitors are fascinated enough by the view through the glass floor to take photographs.
This identification advertisement — which is on the glass floor itself — gives a good view of what the Glacier Skywalk looks like from below.
You can see the ground below through the glass floor of the Glacier Skywalk…
…including the Sunwapta River, which wends its way through the hilly terrain of the valley.
You can also view the woods and the river in the valley below, depending on where you are standing on the Glacier Skywalk.
This interesting view of the shadow of Glacier Skywalk on the steep face of the mountain below illustrates how high it is suspended above the valley.
The Glacier Skywalk is 280 meters — or 918 feet — over the Sunwapta Valley.
Visitors are rewarded with a breathtaking view towards the southeast of the Sunwapta Valley with Mount Athabasca on the left and Mount Andromeda on the right…
…as well as views of Mount Alberta on left and Mount Woolley towards the northwest.
The anchors and cables hold the Glacier Skywalk stable…
…and visitors feel virtually no shaking as a result.
Visitors can stay as long as they like on the Glacier Skywalk during the operating hours of the day they visit.
Mount Athabasca towers over the southeastern end of the Sunwapta Valley.
Icefields Parkway and the Sunwapta River wind their ways through the Sunwapta Valley.
A closer view of the Sunwapta Valley features the the Sunwapta River and Icefields Parkway…
…which at times had moderate amounts of traffic.
Icefields Parkway hugs the side of Wilcox Peak, which is on the left.
The Sunwapta River is a major tributary of the Athabasca River whose source is Sunwapta Lake near the Athabasca Glacier and flows northwest into Jasper National Park.
Translated from the Stoney language, Sunwapta means turbulent river.
The Sunwapta Valley continues northwest towards Jasper National Park with Mount Alberta, Mount Cromwell, Mount Englehard and Mount Woolley amongst the key peaks in the mountain range. The entrance to Glacier Skywalk is just beyond the right side of the photograph above.
A closer view of the Sunwapta Valley facing northwest shows the Sunwapta River; and on the lower right side of the photograph above is Icefields Parkway.
Snow Dome 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.
A thick layer of ice covers the top of the mountain at Snow Dome.
Look closely down into the Sunwapta Valley to see such features as trickling waterfalls cascading over rock…
…or flowing off the side of a cliff, with pieces of glacier nearby.
Multiple waterfalls flow into the Sunwapta River below…
…which has carved its way through solid rock and the Sunwapta Valley itself over the years.
Mount Englehard is one of the mountains when viewed northwest of the Glacier Skywalk.
Mount Kitchener dominates the view off to the southwest.
The view to the south features Mount Athabasca, Mount Andromeda and Mount Kitchener from left to right.
A presentation at this amphitheater occurs every 30 minutes…
…with this view from the seats of the amphitheater.
Crowds of people pour in from another bus and will pass by — or stop at — six interpretive stations spaced apart which highlight the unique environmental aspects of a glacial valley.
I thought that the rock wall on the side of the walkway was cool enough for a photograph.
That solar power must really be strong — powerful enough to disintegrate the iPad and rust the area onto which it was once affixed?
The length of the entire trail is 800 meters.
Crowds of people admire the incredible views of Mount Athabasca and the Sunwapta Valley.
The Glacier Skywalk is dwarfed by Mount Athabasca — which looms in the distance on the left — with Mount Andromeda on the right.
Time to leave the Glacier Skywalk and head back on the shuttle bus to the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre.
The meeting spot for the tour of Glacier Skywalk — as well as where to purchase tickets in person — is located at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre on Icefields Parkway. Ensure that you use the facilities, as none are available at the Glacier Skywalk. People with disabilities can access the Glacier Skywalk, as the materials used in construction, the open lookouts, the glass railings and smooth grades of the walkway are designed to accommodate strollers, walkers, wheelchairs and any other mobility aids. Due to safety and allergy concerns, pets are not allowed on the Glacier Skywalk.
|September 4 to October 1||10:00 in the morning to 5:30 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 Skywalk — which are in Canadian dollars — include access to on the edge of a cliff with a glass floor and 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||$29.00||$32.00|
|Child ages 6 through 15||$15.00||$16.00|
|Infant 5 years of age and younger||Free||Free|
The $29.00 currently converts to $23.39 in United States dollars at the time this article was written. I certainly recommend the experience; but doing what I did — bundling it with the Glacier Adventure — is a better value, in my opinion.
All photographs ©2017 by Brian Cohen.