Thursday, July 28, 2005 -- Angel Glacier and Mount Edith Cavell

This was our one full day around Jasper, and it dawned looking, well, wet.

But there's no controlling the weather, so you just decide what to do about it.  The clouds pretty much ruled out long-range scenic vistas, so we decided to go for some short-range ones and drove up to Angel Glacier.

There are a zillion pictures of Angel Glacier posted on the web.  You can of course find them with a Google Image Search on "Angel Glacier"

But most of those pictures focus on the Angel, as if that's the only thing to see.  Not so! 

There are actually two glaciers involved, three if you're generous.  Angel is a hanging glacier that forms in a cirque on the mountain above.  Down below, formed by snow falling off the mountain (and in truth, some ice falling off Angel), is the Cavell Glacier.  It sits in the bottom of the valley, tucked up against the cliffs, and calves directly into a small lake called  Cavell Pond.  A third small chunk of ice, Ghost Glacier, hangs on the side of the mountain off to the side.

The glaciers, the lake, and the cliffs are easily accessed by walking trail from a good parking lot equipped with, if memory serves, no fewer than 4 toilets with people lined up anyway.  Apparently this is a popular place.  It certainly was when we arrived -- in fact we were most greatful to the nice man who attracted our attention and pointed to a parking space.

In addition, there are several miles of well maintained trail with over 1500 feet elevation gain.  Doing one of those seemed like a good plan.  (It also worked out quite well, not to hold you in suspense).

Here's the overview, with the sign in the parking lot explaining how very much larger the glaciers were during the "Little Ice Age" a few hundred years ago.  In the background we have Angel Glacier (upper right), Cavell Glacier (center left), and oops, no lake -- that would be just below the Cavell Glacier if we could see through the rubble.

Here's a shot from the upper part of the loop trail that accesses the glaciers.  The lake is still just barely hidden behind the piles of rubble.

A bir farther along the trail, the lake comes into view.  If you click this one  and make it full size, you can pan along the lakeshore to see lots of people.  There are even some intrepid souls, or perhaps just  innocent  or stupid, exploring the caves at  image right.  That would be  where the ice of the glacier is completely covered by rocks that have fallen from the cliffs above.  The signs recommend against this, of course, but hey, it's their heads.

From a bit higher on the mountain, with some additional clouds starting to roll in, it was like this.

Heading up the trail...

An earlier display -- at Peyto Lake Viewpoint, I believe -- said that there were three kinds of heather in this area.  On this hike there were three very different forms, so maybe we got them all!

Approaching timberline, I shot this full-spherical panorama.  (As usual, press-and-drag to control the rotation.)  The three people were just some folks who were coming down as I was going up.  They seemed delighted when I asked permission to take their picture.  You can see that the weather is getting a bit dicey by this point.

Here is a shot of Angel Glacier from somewhat above treeline.  You can start to see how cracked the ice is, nearing the outer edge of the cirque that the glacier forms in.

Here's a closer telephoto view.  Click and make this full size, to study the cracks.

Shortly after shooting the above pictures, it started to rain and I put the camera away.  We still wanted to get to the top of the trail, so we kept heading up.  Then we started to hear thunder, but we kept heading up.  The thunder got closer, and we saw a bit of lightning, and after a while the top didn't seem quite important enough to mess around with, so we headed back down.  Cold wind with rain.  Quite pleasant if you're in the right frame of mind.  My kid tells me that some crazy guy up there was seen facing full into the wind with his arms raised in exultation and the rain running down his face, laughing like a maniac.  I would like to have seen that.  (Alas, there were no mirrors handy...).

Coming down, we heard an icefall.  I already had my camera out and ready, so I was able to get several shots.  The fall looks little here, and I'm sure it is, in comparison to the big ones, but from the sound of this thing I would not be surprised if a ton of ice were involved.  (Let's see, that's only about 35 cubic feet - so 4x4x2 feet, trivial - unless you get hit by it.  To see a couple of pictures of a larger fall, look at this web page.  It's in Dutch, but the BabelFish translation describes the fall as a "small snow avalanche".)

Here's another overview shot, approaching the bottom as the sun came back out.

There were still lots of people visiting the lake then.

Many of them were getting personally involved with the ice.  This little girl was by far the cutest of the lot!

Then we drove back to Jasper to spend the night. 

From our hotel room, we were treated to the very strange site  of mist rising from bare patches of  ground across the valley.  All I can figure is that those patches got a bit warm during the day, so that when they got rained on they kicked the water back up as evaporation, and temperature/humidity conditions were just right to turn it back into mist.  Probably happens often at some places, but I don't recall having noticed it anywhere else.


This page last modified August 13, 2005.