Summer is a special time in the mountains. The glacial lakes undergo a very short seasonal transformation yielding jewel like water colours that can change daily. These lakes are covered in ice up to 8 months of the year!
Come see British Columbia from a different perspective. Embark on a helicopter flight through the spectacular Coast Mountains while enjoying magnificent views as you fly over endless mountains and valleys, waterfalls cascading over granite cliffs, turquoise rivers winding their way through lush temperate rain forests, and even the occasional herd of mountain goats or elk. Just when you think it can’t get any better, our glacial destination pops into view only minutes before we land. Take a moment to revel in the true beauty of British Columbia’s untouched wilderness as we set down beside a lake miles away from civilization. This is the experience of a lifetime. Choose from kayaking or paddle boarding and enjoy complete peace and serenity in one of Mother Nature’s best kept secrets.
JUNE MELTWATER KAYAKING
Every spring (late May/early June), alpine and glacial lakes begin to thaw along the shoreline, revealing vibrant blue water so extraordinary looking you have to see it to believe it. What better way to experience this than to kayak through these frigid crystal clear waters. The melt water follows the contours of the lakeshore, giving the illusion that it is a river, when in fact the water is perfectly still. These seasonal blue waters are not created by glacier ice, but by snow melting and pooling on top of the frozen lake ice. This is an annual occurrence and has nothing to do with melting glaciers or climate change. The process is short lived. With most lakes lasting about a week or two from optimum melt water conditions to ice break up. We have to chase the conditions, often rotating through up to 4 lakes during the month of June.
Melt Water Conditions Disclaimer!
Melt water channels and ponds are highly dependant on weather conditions daily and as a whole throughout the seasons. Total Winter snowfall, Spring precipitation and Spring temperatures play a crucial role in how the conditions will shape up prior to the arrival of Summer. Rain and wind melt snow faster than the sun. A drier than average Spring can result in lower melt water levels while a wetter Spring would result in higher water levels. The melting snow forms the water channels or ponds on top of the ice. These channels often do not encompass the entire lake due to spring avalanches that run out over the ice and compact into hard snow. Channels can vary in length from 100ft to 500ft long. These old avalanche debris paths take longer to melt than the surrounding snow. A snow bridge is often left behind, separating one melt channel from another. Multiple avalanche paths can create melt water ponds instead of channels. A typical melt water channel or pond is highly layered and can contain water 1-6ft feet deep on top of a layer of slush that’s 2-3ft thick sitting on top of a layer of ice that’s up to 6 feet thick that sits on top of a lake! Conditions can also change hourly during peak melting periods. For example, the melt water can freeze over during cooler temperatures. Snowfall in May/June is not uncommon. Snowfall accumulations create slush, which sits on top of the water creating very difficult paddling conditions. Conversely, hot temperatures may detach the bottom slush layer from the ice and float it to the surface, again resulting in challenging paddling conditions. The blue colour remains constant whether it’s slushy or not. Deeper water means darker blues, shallow water means lighter blues. Bottom line is, the quality of conditions are impossible to predict, and you as the client must be aware of that before you book. If that sounds like a gamble, consider booking in August when the ice and snow are gone and the lake is wide open for exploring!
JULY GLACIAL LAKE KAYAKING
Once the ice is off the lakes in late June, a new unique experience is revealed as we relocate to a beautiful glacial lake. Ever seen Moraine Lake in Banff National Park? It’s like that but smaller and without the tourists. Just you and 3 friends. These stunning turquoise lakes are often all that is left of the glacier that once covered the area. Much of the granite rock in the area has been smoothed and scoured by the glacier that was once here. Large boulders deposited by the glacier sit at the bottom of the lake. Wildflowers and young vegetation are present all along the shoreline and there are waterfalls cascading off the huge cliffs above the lake. It is for these reasons that we believe July is the best month!
AUGUST TO OCTOBER GLACIER LAKE KAYAKING
By late July, the ice begins to break up at the largest, high elevation lake we go to. Tucked in a U-shaped valley high in the mountains, sits an impressive glacier that has survived while most others at this elevation and latitude have disappeared forever. The first thing you might observe on our final approach is the lack of trees. That’s because this entire valley was still filled with ice in 1992. Since then the glacier has retreated 1km. Trees haven’t had a chance to take hold yet in this giant boulder garden. However, look closely and you will see an abundance of rare wild flowers and other alpine vegetation. Our landing spot couldn’t be more perfect. It’s a large sandy beach bisected by a spring fed stream surrounded by wild flowers, just steps away from the lake and your kayak. Without a sense of scale, the glacier at the west end of the lake looks small, almost blending in with the surrounding rock. It’s not until you paddle over to it do you truly understand how big it is. Look up in awe at the wall of ice towering above you. There’s another beach at the foot of the glacier, and we often get out here for a photo stop. From there we’ll go for a leisurely paddle across the lake to the east end where we will go for a short hike to a valley overlook at the top of a waterfall. Watch for mountain goats frolicking high above or getting a drink from the lake.
August is the hottest and driest month of the year and is often accompanied by wildfire smoke. This location is a perfect way to beat the heat and is often isolated from the surrounding smoky skies. It becomes a place of peace and refuge. By September, the skies clear up, the air is crisp and the alpine vegetation begins to change colour. These vibrant reds and oranges are what makes fall so special. Watch for bears filling up on wild blueberries.
Kayaking and paddle boarding are available until the ice returns in October, usually after the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend. Check out the photo gallery here.
See photos below for the seasonal variations.
Please note, the tour name “Glacier Lake Kayaking” applies to all heli kayak trips, regardless of the lake conditions and colour of water. The tour includes a 60 minute round trip sightseeing flight from our home base in rural Abbotsford, use of kayaks or paddle boards, 4 hours on location, trip photos, and a gourmet picnic lunch from Lepp Farm Market.!
Got questions? Have a look at our FAQ page or contact us here.