06.08.10 Jasper - Banff

Readers who have travelled the route between Jasper and Banff by road will be aware of the spectacular nature of the wild mountain scenery that greets visitors to the area, the “first time” category of which includes your correspondent.

The team plus “WAGs” (a group expanded to include a husband and a daughter) packed up the buses and moved out of Jasper in good order this morning.

The first port of call for many was the Athabasca Falls which provided an opportunity for a “plunging tree trunk” kind of pooh-sticks game for the 50-something children on the team. Although the captain and others walked down below the falls to adjudicate, no pooh sticks were seen to emerge from the torrent, so a draw had to be declared, to the disappointment of the participants.

Just down the road, lies the famous Athabasca Glacier where a number of team members took the 4x4 bus onto the ice to experience biting cold in high summer. Those on the 1998 team to Canada were able to recount how much the glacier had receded during the intervening years. The team geography teacher was able inform the team that, above the glacier and invisible from the road, lies the Columbia Ice Field, which lies on a high plateau and occupies an area the size of the City of Vancouver and whose ice takes 150 years to travel from the centre of the ice field to the bottom of the Athabasca glacier. This was an advanced lesson in glaciation after the basic lesson that a glacier does not actually have cravats, as described yesterday by the team’s aspiring geography student.

Lack of education amongst team members was found not to be confined to the subject of geography, but to extend into the realm of zoology. Yesterday’s confusion concerned the difference between a moose and a mouse (the context being the ingredients for a Jasper gameburger). Today the main coach photographed, at close quarters, two white tailed deer at the roadside before asking his companions if the hapless quadrupeds were mountain goats. However, a number of team members have now seen – and correctly identified - one or more bears. And the captain was delighted to see potentillas growing wild around the Falls and did her best to install some botanical lore in her bus mates, with limited success.

Moving on, some much faster than others, the next viewpoint was the terrace of the Chateau Lake Louise, accompanied by an excellent lunch. This is a classic picture postcard view across the immaculate garden and the jade depths of Lake Louise to the glacier plunging down the steep rock in the distance.

Round about now the first rain of the tour drenched a wedding party as the bride and groom acted out their dream ceremony on the shore of Lake Louise, and deterred your correspondent and others from taking a high level walk around the lake. And so the buses headed for the shelter of the Caribou Lodge Hotel in Banff.

Here the team was greeted by David Luckman and Dominic Harvey (remember him?) both joining the team somewhat later than expected. The latter, fully living up to his reputation as a party animal of some renown, soon had the majority of the team rounded up for a magnificent dinner of bison steaks, venison and fine wines at a stylish restaurant in Banff, the pretext being his claim to have attained the age of 30 in recent days. This correspondent, mindful of his duties to an extensive readership, retired early to write about the day’s activities, so can only surmise how the later stages of the birthday celebrations will pan out as the night progresses.