The Adventure

Shocking Glacial Recession - A Second Perspective

Posted by Topher Donahue on Thu, Aug 18, 2011

After the photos that I posted last week on The Adventure, showing four short years of dramatic glacial recession, Lyle Grisedale, a CMH Hiking Guide, sent me the following note and photo via email.  It seems well worth sharing:

“Hi Topher,
Just read you recent blog and thought you would be interested to see the attached photo. For the last 10 or more years Paul Lazarski has built a cairn at the toe of the Vowell Glacier in the Bugaboos at the end of our summer season. The recession is dramatic. We have the dates written on the survey tape attached to each cairn but are looking at making some kind of plaque to attach to the rock instead of the tape.

From the 2001 cairn (where this photo is taken) the glacier is clearly visible in the distance. We used to take hikers out for walks in the ice and could step onto the ice near this cairn, so you can get an idea of how much ice has melted in 10 years.

We have not put up a cairn the last two years as the toe is under an ice-cored moraine, the ice in the moraine is melting and there is considerable rockfall making it a bit of a dangerous place, especially on a hot sunny day.


glacier recession bugaboosThe tape marks the site of the toe of the Vowell Glacier, visible in the distance, in 2001.  The peak on the left is Bugaboo Spire.

The changing of Earth's climate, with its myriad symptoms and causes, is visible to the human eye in the mountains like few other environments on the planet.  Just about every skiers, hiker, climber, hunter, boater and others intimately in touch with the mountain world have similar stories to tell about the changes that are happening right now.

It just so happens that the Columbia Mountains in Western Canada, where CMH calls home, hold some of the most diverse inland glacial terrain on the planet.  Watching these changes occur while heli-hiking in these rugged mountains, be it as a guide, hiker, photographer, or helicopter pilot, is about as close as it gets to experiencing time travel beyond human scale.

Tags: weather, CMH Experts, Guides, photos