So, what’s it like to cycle on one of the world’s most beautiful roads? The Icefield Parkway, 230 kilometer of pure pleasure or just hard work? Parallelling the Continental Divide, highway 93 goes straight through the Rockies with views of glaciers, turquois mountain lakes, white topped peaks and fast flowing rivers… that is… when the weather isn’t working against you!
Back in 2010 we cycled the Icefield Parkway for the first time, but due to heavy rainfall I think we missed out on a lot. For some reason the ride is now more majestic, more mindblowing. We leave Banff for Lake Louise with dark and threatening clouds in the sky and follow the Bow Valley Parkway away from the busy highway. The weather has changed dramatically and we are now facing cold temperatures for the first time since South America and it needs getting used to again.
With Paul & Jan we put up a tarp at Lake Louise Campsite and cook ourselves another delicious meal, hiding from the rain. In the afternoon Paul & Jan visit Lake Louise, since they are heading South tomorrow and their journey with us ends here. We decide to stay another day and hopefully we can visit both Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. The next morning the weather isn’t much better and after saying goodbye to our Canadian friends, we sip espresso at the local cafe and wait for the rain and clouds to disappear. At around noon we give it a go! On our previous visit we cycled up to the two lakes, so we’ve seen and enjoyed them before. This time we take the park shuttle up and judging by the dark sky, it’s not worth it to keep on going for Lake Moraine. Too bad, but I’m sure we’ll be back here once more!
While raindrops tick away on our Gore-tex jackets and pants, we follow the Icefield Parkway North and since we are in no hurry we stop early and camp at Mosquito Lake. We make a campfire to warm up as little clouds leave our mouths into the cold air. Temperature is really falling and in the morning our bikes and tent are covered in ice.
It’s just a few hunderd meters up to reach Bow Pass and a short hike leads us to Peyto Lake. Starting this morning with a blue sky, now the snow is nearing. We can see it coming from the mountains and reaching the lake. As we are just about to freewheel down, the snow reaches us and blinded by it the downhill is a cold and scary experience! Lucky for us the highway has a wide shoulder, but that doesn’t keep us warm! Wow, it’s soooo cold! Frozen we reach Waterfowls campground and quickly we cycle to the shelter house where Elmar cooks us a broccoli soup as we hang out our clothes to dry.
It’s still early and we decide to continue just as we hear loud sirens speeding down the road. At Saskatchewan Crossing we find out what happened as we see a long line of cars waiting for a road block: a fatal accident and the road is closed for four to eight hours. No campsite here, so we check in to the only motel and enjoy a beautiful sunset from inside our warm rooms.
It’s hard to leave the warmth of our comfortable room, but Sunwapta Pass and the Colombia Icefield are waiting for us. Even in this cold weather, snow and rain and clouds hanging low it’s a cycle adventure from highlight to highlight. Mirroring lakes and impressive icefields are on the menu today and that is one good reason to keep going. As we close in on the Sunwapta Pass I remember the huge bend in the road where the climb steepens. I follow Elmar up and the higher we get, the more snow surrounds us.
After the pass we are no longer alone; the visitor centre at the Colombian Icefield is packed with people! Not feeling comfortable in the crowds we quickly continue after eating a rather overpriced burger. Jonas Creek Campgrounds is our destination, but when we reach it our legs still feel good and we ride further to Honeymoon Lake Campground (sounds so much more romantic than Jonas, doesn’t it?) where we manage to find the last camp spot available!
Pure pleasure it is!
A short ride on the 93A brings us to Jasper, finishing our ride on the Icefield Parkway; indeed a 230 kilometer ride of pure pleasure and one to return to once more.. someday.