Access: From Jasper, head South, Hwy 93, 100 km
Trailhead: From Parking Lot
Distance: 12 — 14 km one way
Activities: Sights / Skiing / Camping
A trip like this does not come so often, so when a friend invited me on this trip to the top of the world (in my mind), I could not pass it up. The Snow Dome sits high in the Rockies, part of the Columbia Icefield covered in (you guess it) snow! An experience guide is a must for this trip and I was fortunate to tag along a guide training trip conducted by Doug Latimer , and when they said it was skiing, well I was tickled pink! The Snow Coaches can take you part way up this Athabasca Glacier, but not pass the huge ice falls and crevasses.
The ski up was quite a bit of a grunt and having a clear blue sky day was a bonus, making our trip safer to negotiate in the dangerous terrain. Gear (harness, skis, rope, tents, etc…) was rented and borrowed from friends and various sport shops from town. We set off early from Jasper around 07:30hrs and with all the shuttling of vehicles, (will get back to this later) we were at the toe of Athabasca Glacier by 11:00hrs. Around 15:00hrs, we were pass the two ice falls and having a break looking back at the tiny building in the distance we see the Icefield Centre.
Snow camping is quite different and was a first for three of us. Doug had surveyed the camp spot with a probe and taught us some tricks to set up a tent pad and shelter from the wind. Dinner was a welcome site from all the hard work. Bless with a beautiful sunset and a full moon to boot.
The second day was windy. We venture off to the Snow Dome, giving ourselves about 3 to 4 hours to reach the summit was the plan. With the near white out conditions and the grunt uphill we reach the top. Waiting for breaks in the clouds so we can snap off pictures and having lunch with the wind gusting was not so pleasant.
The third day, yet another different weather system, WHITEOUT, nowhere to reference and visibility less than a rope length. I was wondering how do we go out from here? The guide trainees had mark the co-ordinates of the camp site and with the map they plotted a bearing with the compass. This experience just gave me the understanding that, without proper guidance in this hostile environment, you can seriously put your life in jeopardy! With Doug taking the lead and a compass in hand, all of us rope up, we ventured off towards the Saskatchewan Glacier. A big day was ahead of us with about 30 kilometres to go, we got lucky with the clouds lifting about 2 hours into the Whiteout. Ah, the rest was cake with our car waiting for us (the shuttle of car) at Big Bend, we met some poor souls who were heading into the system that we left. Some parting shots.
Chantal, Doug, Terri, Eddie
Ski tour 1999