Athabasca Glacier


When we arrived at the Athabasca Glacier, there was a scouring bitter Arctic wind. I tied my pochade box on to the bumper, and in seconds it twisted itself loose. Admitting defeat, we took some reference photos and walked to the foot of the glacier. There are warning signs for pedestrians to stay off (although there are tours by gigantic snow-busses). I wouldn’t have trespassed in any case; in addition to my fear of falling into a crevasse, I could barely stand upright against the wind.

The Athabasca Glacier is one of the six principal ‘toes’ of the Columbia Icefield, one of the last great ice fields in North America. We saw it at its annual low point, where summer melt hasn’t been replaced with new snow. The path to the foot of the glacier is lined with signs showing the extent of the giant ice mass at different years. The long walk makes it clear that our climate is changing.

In 2016, my daughter Mary and I set off across Alaska and Canada on a Great White North Adventure, which you can read about starting here. We arrived in Anchorage at the beginning of September and got home in mid-October. In between, we visited every province but PEI (been there, done that), and Yukon Territory. In retrospect, it might have made more sense to do this during the summer, since Alaska and Canada threw a mess of strange weather at us.

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Athabasca Glacier is 14X18, oil on linen.

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