Jasper in Winter – Feb 21
For someone who endures 6 months of the year in winter conditions, I have almost no winter photographs. I decided that it’s time to change that deficiency so a trip to Jasper was in order.
The last week in February and first week in March are usually the best time to visit the mountains according to many photographers who have done this trip before.
Weather forecast for the 4 days were highs of about -2C and lows of -13C, so pretty nice.
Clear Sky forecasts were also very good with no moon so another chance for me to try some astrophotography in a designated Dark Sky Preserve. Woo Hoo.
So what route should I take? I always wanted to take photos of the famous ice bubbles at Lake Abraham on the David Thomson highway. There are hundreds of ice bubble photos on the internet and they look cool. The David Thomson highway is probably my favorite mountain drive so although it adds an additional 174 km to the direct Jasper route, it hopefully would be worth it.
Since I would be walking on ice it was recommended that you use crampons but who needs any stinky crampon for a little ice so I did not purchase any. BIG MISTAKE. Everywhere I went on this trip there was ice where crampons would have made photo taking a much easier experience. Added crampons to my shopping list. I did pick up a nice merino wool pant base layer. When did long johns become so expensive?
Abraham lake lies in a rain shadow so it experiences little precipitation and it is windy. This means that the lake remains relatively snow free and permits viewing of the ice bubbles. One of the popular spots for ice bubbles is Preacher Point which is about 146 km west of Rocky Mountain house. Here are couple of photos along the way.
Windy Point is given that name for a reason! No matter what time of year I visit that spot, there are usually hurricane force winds present and this trip did not disappoint in that area.
While taking photos of the mountain goats, there were a couple of different tourists who asked me where they could find some ice bubbles. Don’t these people do any research. Since they were 3 good looking girls, I gave them directions.
There were 2 other “bubble” hunters at Preacher Point when I arrived. They had ice crampons which made it easy to walk down the sheet of ice to the river surface whereas I gracefully slide down the path. Walking on the frozen river was no problem. I had already lowered my expectations for ice bubble viewing as the week prior there were extremely warm conditions (> 12C). These conditions will melt the ice surface and when it freezes overnight it leaves a film on the ice surface which obscures visibility. That is exactly what happened so my ice bubble pictures suck. The best time to take these pictures are in Jan/Feb during a cold snap. Next year. Can’t you see the ice bubbles in the picture? Look harder or do a google search for better pictures.
Couple of pictures around Parker Ridge pullout which is just after the area of highway known as the Big Bend.
I believe this is a raven. There were a couple of them hanging around Parker Ridge. Not sure what they eat but they are pretty big. They were not scared of humans at all as they hopped right over to my car.
Next up was Athabasca glacier. The visitor center is closed in winter but there was one other vehicle in the parking lot braving the cold. I almost pulled out the snowshoes to walk on the virgin snow.
I have never been to Tangle Falls but as you can see, it is frozen solid. It is located right off the highway and I understand quite popular with tourists in the summer time. There was a group of 4 ice climbers traversing the falls. They are surprising fast going up and down the falls. You need real ice crampons to do this climb. I could not even walk up to the bottom ledge as the path up was a sheer sheet of ice.
Arrived safely at Maligne Lodge in Jasper. The winter rates are much more reasonable compared to summer. The town is deserted. Many of the restaurants are closed for the season. I assume most of the people visiting are skiing at Marmot basin. So far a good start to the trip.