Glaciers and Climate Change Hikes

This past year, I spent about a third of my guiding days delivering interpretive hikes with the Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation in Yoho National Park. These are great hikes by-the-way – you get a chance to visit a world renowned UNESCO World Heritage site (or two of them, if you go on both hikes!). It was a great experience working for the Foundation – I was able to work with a group of top notch guides, fun and helpful volunteer guides and inspiring guests from all over the world. These hikes have a strong geology focus – to learn about the history of the earth, and the importance of the Burgess Shale fossils in our understanding of evolution. As we hike out to the fossil sites (only accessible with a guide), we stop along the way for lots of talks and to learn about the area (many people enjoy these hikes, not just science geeks, I promise!).

What was it like being an interpretive guide?

Over the summer, as I spent time with friends and family, I invariably have been asked by many people if I ‘liked’ guiding these trips. My conclusion at the end of the season? The experience far exceeded my expectations. I had thought that the content might get ‘routine’ or ‘boring’…..but it was anything but this! The guests constantly kept me on my toes, and inspired me to learn more throughout the season as I seemed to get ‘stumped’ on a question almost every hike. Every group is different, and although the ‘core’ content of each hike is similar – the tangents that we take on each hike are never the same twice. I learned so much from the people I spent time with on these hikes – everything from new ways to look at things or present material (based on the questions people ask), to a lengthy laundry list of books to read and places to visit suggested by these world travelling folks.

Inspiration for offering Science Hikes

Based on these hikes, and conversations throughout the summer, I feel like there is some desire for more hikes of this type. You know, ‘science hikes’, where we really delve into a topic that is a fundamental part of the world that we live in. Some of you may, or may not know that my background is as a geoscientist. My first ‘career’ was as an outdoor educator, where I worked with primarily school groups on week long forays into the wilderness to learn skills in a new setting. It was this work that inspired me to return to university, pursuing a BSc in Geography so that I could have a greater understanding of the world around me. I guess I had gotten tired of saying ‘I don’t know’ to all the questions both kids and adults had for me about… ‘why does that mountain have that shape’, or ‘how long has this glacier been here?’. After my undergraduate degree I decided to continue on into grad studies in mountain hydrology. My MSc morphed into a PhD, as my project grew larger and broader (hint: not a good recipe for a lickety-split doctorate!). Throughout all of this, my foundation has always just been a love of being outside and learning to understand what makes this planet tick. And I think a lot of other people feel the same way.

Glaciers and Climate Change

Now that I have returned back to my roots in adventure tourism (in amongst my work as a consulting geoscientist), all of the above has inspired me to start a new program of science hikes in 2017. I am beginning with offering a ‘Glaciers and Climate Change’ series, where we will cover content on the history of glaciers on earth, the present-day glaciation and what the research tells us about the future. All of this, while walking through beautiful landscapes where we can look, listen and feel these processes in real time. If most of you are like me, my attention span is pretty short while out hiking, so I like to deliver this info in nice little bunches, with plenty of hiking and contemplating time in between.

The Guided Trips

For this season, I will be offering hikes at two locations to accommodate different schedules and hiking abilities. Both of these hikes will be in locations that are, on their own, terrific hikes but that also have great views of glaciers and glaciated landscapes. We will not actually be hiking on the glaciers (if this is something you are interested in, contact us to arrange a glacier walk). Glaciers are beautiful and dynamic and surreal. They are also unpredictable and cold and windy and bumpy. So you will thank me for this decision to hike on a trail rather than ice when we aren’t turned back by weather, and when you are hiking in a t-shirt rather than shivering in a not-quite-warm-enough Goretex jacket. I have spent countless summer days working on glaciers in full long-underwear, Goretex and double down jackets….and still shivering. But I digress….

There will be several dates scheduled for each location (check here for the schedule). If you are interested in joining and don’t see a date that works for you, please contact us. We can arrange for an additional date if we have four people or more.

Wilcox Pass and the Columbia Icefields

One hike will begin up on the Icefields Parkway, in Jasper National Park, where we will hike up to Wilcox Pass, with tremendous views over to the Columbia Icefields and the Athabasca Glacier. This is a relatively short hike (8km, 330m of elevation gain), so it will be accessible to many people. There should be time after the hike for guests to visit the Icefields Centre, or to go visit the toe of the Athabasca Glacier for a day full of glacier-izing. This hike will be accessible from both Lake Louise (2 hour drive) and Jasper (1.5 hour drive). We’ll meet at the parking area at 9:30am, so as to not have a ‘too’ early of start if you are driving from elsewhere.

The ‘Iceline’ trail and the Daly and Yoho Glaciers

This hike will begin at Takkakaw Falls, in Yoho National Park. We will hike the Iceline Loop, via Celeste Lake, for a total distance of 17km and 710m of elevation gain. This is a fairly strenuous hike, with a lot of uphill in the first couple of hours, so good fitness and some hiking experience is required. The trip starts with great views of Takkakaw Falls, and then some up-close time to glaciers along the Iceline Trail and views over to the Daly and Yoho Glaciers (connected to the Waputik Icefield). We’ll descend to Celeste Lake and then down into the forested valley along the Yoho River with some flat trail leading us back to the parking lot where we began. This hike will be accessible from Banff (1 ¼ hour drive), Lake Louise (45 min drive) or Golden (1 hour drive). We’ll meet for these hikes at 8:30am.

These are two of my personal favourite hikes, and I am very excited to be opening up these new opportunities. I hope you want to join in 2017!

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