Hello, Nivea here.
Glacial discovery, human interactions and personal challenge. I believe that traveling in such a vast pristine environment can hardly leave anyone cold in front of such beauty. Just back from the Columbia Icefield, the starting point of our adventure, I am still processing all these incredible images and related feelings.
We hiked up the Columbia Glacier with heavy packs to establish our camp near the Trench. Spectacular setting with Castleguard, Andromeda, Snow Dome and Bryce surrounding us. The richest moment of the day was around 5 am, when we experienced the awakening of the sky from dark grey to purple to bubble gum pink. Simply breathtaking!!
This is Columbia Lake, headwaters of the mighty Athabasca, one of the longest undammed rivers in North America. According to scientists and glaciologists we’ve spoken to, between 1% and 50% of this water (depending on flows and drought circumstances) will end up in the oilsands area, where it is available almost free of charge to oil companies who will poison it and leave it in toxic tailings ponds.
This is Mount Columbia, the tallest mountain in Alberta. The waters that flow from its glacial ice only make it to Revelstoke before being dammed.
Ascending Mt Snow Dome (3480 m) was one of our objectives and we were successful on our second try. David falling into a crevasse on the first attempt was a good reminder of Nature’s own rules. Walking on a glacier in a whiteout generally calls for trouble. Luckily, no one was hurt. I remember sharing my thoughts after the event with regards to pushing ahead despite signs that things aren’t looking good. I made an analogy between pursuing the summit without visibility and having Industries continue business as usual regardless of the signs nature sends us. I believe we have a tendency to want to control and modify our environment without fully understanding the impacts it might have on natural resources. Nature is powerful and will usually regain its equilibrium if we give it a chance. Important changes in precipitation and temperature that we are experiencing in Alberta, most noticeably in alpine environments where they cause changes in crevasse size and location, are examples of change occurring. I want to understand how this change will affect us, Western Canadians. Our lives depend upon natural resources such as the water stored in these glaciers.
While on the glacier, there is no place to hide and sharing a tent with two members of the team for seven days can be a challenge. Regardless of a couple of days lost to bad weather, we were busy enough with filming to keep us focused. The big challenge was yet to come: hike out the glacier and exit by following the Athabasca river. So we went with our heavy packs through glaciers, moraines, cliffs, impressive waterfalls and all these remnants of the previous extent of the Columbia glacier. It is impressive to realize how thick the ice was, how far the toe reached and how powerful it must have been to carry all these erratic rocks sometimes the size of a school bus. I noticed an old moraine way up high above our heads while hiking. It is definitively hard to visualize the mass of ice this glacier once was.
From Columbia Lake our long journey along the Athabasca River began. We hiked three days in glacial till (mostly clays) trying not to lose our boots and crossing the river over and over again all the way to Sunwapta Falls.
We embarked on this glacial adventure with specific goals. Not only did we get the shots we needed, but I also came out with a stronger conviction that our environment is rapidly changing and that our adventure will expose facts we cannot ignore.