sunshine and glaciers
02.10.2008 19 °C
I arrived in Jasper in the pouring, pouring rain. I had to go inside the station to pay for my ticket (as the system in Vancouver had crashed, which meant that the rest of the train was trying to do the same thing) and then went outside to wait on the platform, in the pissing rain, for my luggage. While on the platform I met 2 other women who were also headed to the hostel, and in typical backpacker form we soon struck up a conversation. Kate (UK), Suzy (Aus) and I handed our bags in for storage at the station and headed off to buy supplies and explore the town - all 2 streets of it.
A visit to the pharmacy was also required, as I had stubbed my toe a few days previously and the long train ride had got it horribily infected. I was informed that, at a cost of $100-$500, antibiotics were required, as well as a visit to a doctor to prescribe them... I bought some epsom salts and spent the next few days soaking said toe, leading to many jokes in the hostel.
First day, a group of 4 of us (Kate, Suzy and Nige (UK)) headed up the Whistlers Tramway - to the top cable station at an elevation of 2277m. From there we walked (slid over the snow / hiked) up a further 300m or so in elevation to the summit - where we had the most astounding 360degree view over the Jasper Townsite and about 3 mountain ranges on all sides. The weather was spectacular, not a could in the sky, so we could even see the fabled Mount Robson - highest mountain in the Rockies - which is apparently obscured by clouds all but 19 days each year. Breathtaking. Also cold... We spent a wihle marvelling at the scenery and playing in the snow, before headed back down to the station to grab the obligitary hot chocolate. Heavenly!
Later that day we headed down to Jasper to explore and have coffee and cake in a great local bakery. Jasper is a really nice place - quiet and set in the most amazing valley. It is not as immediatly scenic as Banff (as the mountains are set a little further back) but walking around, you can appreciate why people choose to live there. Apparently the planning regulations are quite strict, and all alterations (no new houses are allowed to be built) have to be approved by the Jasper National Parks Board. All houses and shops are between 1 and 2 stories, which allows the amazing mountains to leer overhead.
The hostel is quite far away from the town (very inconveniently) but with 4 people, a taxi ride isn't too exorbitant. The following day we hired the taxi to take us out to Mount Edith Cavell and the Angel Glacier. This spectaular (aren't they all!) mountain is named after an English WWI nurse who was executed in Belgium by the Germans for helping Allied Soldiers escape. We walked up to the base of the mountain along a 'terminal moraine' (loose rocks that are crushed by a moving glacier and left in ridges once the glacier retreats) to the glacier lake below 3 glaciers on the mountain face.
It was breathtaking! Due to the rock flour (fine crushed up rock suspended in the water) the water was amazingly turquoise blue, and as it is autumn the glacier lying just above the lake periodically breaks up and drops huge icebergs into it! These huge chunks of blue and white ice were strewn across the lake shore; I even drunk some of the melting ice which in hindsight was probably not such a good idea... When I felt my dry hands after they were covered in a fine layer of grit - so I can only imagine what my insides thought of that!
The whole experience was amazing; I had walked on the Athabasca Glacier on my previous trip up to Jasper, but this was completely different. There were hardly any people around (amazingly) and the sound of cracking ice filled the silence. It is something that I will remember forever, and don't know when I'll get the chance to experience again.
After being escorted back to Jasper earlier than anticipated (following a misunderstanding with the taxi company) we decided to make the most of the astounding weather and do another short hike close to the town. We walked up to the Cottonwood Slough - which is a series of marshy lakes just to the north-west. The colours were amazing - yellow and rust trees against the brown and grey mountains, contrasting with the dark green evergreens and the deep blue cloudless sky. And all of this in a perfect mirrored reflection on the water, not to mention the perfect silence.
We kept an eye out for bears and elk, especially the elk as it is the rutting season and apparently they kill more people in the Rockies each year than all the other animals combined! I did spot a few spoor, as well as what I thought was bear scat, but no animals. Probably not such a bad thing
Later that day I was picked up by the Moose truck to complete the return leg of the Banff - Jasper trip, to spend the night at the Athabasca Falls HI wilderness hostel. I stayed up until the early hours of the morning next to the camp fire, watching shooting stars and keeping an eye out for the northern lights... The sky was crystal clear, and as the moon was not up the stars were endless.