A snowy mountain landscape in Banff National Park

Hidden Gems in the Canadian Rockies: A Winter Expedition to the Saskatchewan Glacier

"This view was unlike anything I had ever seen - a vast open landscape surrounded by mountains, almost as if they were greeting us with open arms, saying, 'come explore'."

For his second Passenger Journal entry, Creator's Crew member Darius Haberstock tells the story of a hike through the Canadian Rockies to the epic landscape of the Saskatchewan Glacier in Banff National Park. 

Written by Darius Haberstock

Deep within Banff National Park lies the Saskatchewan Glacier - a thirteen-kilometre-long piece of ice that hosts some of the most impressive views in the Canadian Rockies.

"So, let me get this straight - we walk through the snow, into the woods, cross a river, and then hike for 5 miles, right?"

Saskatchewan Glacier in Banff National Park

"That's correct," my friend reassures me while tying his winter boots. An uneasy yet excited grin forms across my face as the realization of this epic and undeniably challenging adventure begins to set in. This adventure has been on my bucket list for the past few years.

Not only do you get a chance to visit one of the largest outflow glaciers in the Canadian Rockies, but you also have the rare chance of stepping inside a mammoth-sized ice cave near the toe of the glacier.

It was a cold but sunny day in the Canadian Rockies as the group slowly filed into the parking lot just after 8am, most of us running on little sleep from the night before.

A group of friends park up in the snow

With the crisp, cool, -30 degree Celsius winds whipping our rosy cheeks and runny noses, we tightened up our snowshoes, zipped up our jackets, and triple-checked our vehicles to confirm no camera lenses, warm weather gear, or, worst-case scenario, delicious snacks were left behind and headed out into the mostly unknown in search of something magical.

Ascending into the forest, we followed the snow-blown path until a break in the treeline greeted us with a jaw-dropping view of Mount Athabasca and the Saskatchewan Glacier. This view was unlike anything I had ever seen - a vast open landscape surrounded by mountains, almost as if they were greeting us with open arms, saying, "Come explore."

A snowy mountain landscape in Banff National Park

While the summer hosts a long winding river through this epic mountainscape, the winter months are much different as a bridge of ice and snow covers the rugged landscape. With the glacier seemingly only a short distance away, our pace picked up until we realized there were still a few miles separating us from our final destination. 

Nevertheless, the stoke was high, and we were excited about what would come. About 3 miles into the mountain pass, we began to notice large chunks of vibrant blue ice bursting from the snow - our first proper view of the Saskatchewan Glacier. These 30ft high, wind-blown ice sculptures invited us in, and we felt more at peace with our expansive surroundings with every step.

Three people walking on a glacier in Banff

A quick pitstop for lunch offered us the time to reflect and appreciate our surroundings even more as we sat on top of a snowdrift on the side of a mountain, enjoying the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I made at 3am that morning. 

As we sat there watching the snow swirling off nearby mountains, we reminisced on the adventure that was and memories from the past. Zipping up our bags and reattaching our gear, we set foot out into the unknown again.

Another mile into our adventure, the glacier became more prominent as the snow beneath our feet transformed into fluorescent blue slabs of ice. We could feel it in our frozen toes - we were close to the mouth of the cave. 

A man standing in the entrance of the Saskatchewan Glacier cave in Banff
A man holding a camera looks up at the roof of an ice cave

Upon reaching the entrance of the cave, a breathtaking scene unfolded. A natural wonder sculpted by the slow but powerful forces of nature, the entrance revealed a cathedral of ice, with walls shimmering in hues of blue and white. 

A photographer's paradise, we had to take a moment to pick our jaws up off the crystalized ice before further exploring this frozen wonderland. We could not have asked for a better day as we watched the sunlight filter through the ice, casting a calming glow on everything around us.

While marvelling at the astonishing landscape, I couldn't help but think of how lucky we are to explore this beautiful planet and how I wish for future adventure-seekers to experience and appreciate this magical place. 

Exploring the Saskatchewan Glacier is an adventure unlike any other. The combination of uninterrupted silence, breathtaking scenery, and heart-pounding adventure creates an experience that stays with you long after the footprints in the snow disappear. 

A closeup of Darius Haberstock wearing a jacket and cap in the wilderness

Written by Darius Haberstock

With an ever-growing passion for adventure and the great outdoors, Darius Haberstock focuses on capturing moments of freedom and bliss through his work. Raw emotion, storytelling and mindfulness are the core building blocks of his creativity, and he carries these traits into his everyday life.  

As a resident of the Canadian Pacific Northwest, Darius has a deep love for hiking, backcountry camping and finding new off-the-beaten-path adventures that stoke his soul. Keep up with his adventures on Instagram @deeehabs

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