Flightseeing through the Saint Elias Mountains over Kluane National Park and Reserve towards North America’s tallest and largest mountain, Mt Logan, was the adventure of a lifetime. As we travelled down the Alaska Highway towards the dirt airfield that is home to Icefield Discovery, we couldn’t help but be excited – we were going to get to see the beautiful Kluane National Park and Reserve from the air, which really is one of the best ways to experience this breathtaking National Park.
The glacier flightseeing tour with Icefield Discovery over the park is such a special trip as many people never reach the south-west corner of the Yukon Territory to experience it. Icefield Discovery has been operating out of the region for over 30 years now initially supporting research needs to discover and understand the mountain region and beyond. Overtime Icefield Discovery branched out to include flights for climbers and flightseeing for tourism.
As we rolled in to the airfield we were met by Tom who would be our pilot and the individual who would be instrumental in providing us with one of the coolest experiences we have ever done! We quickly got all of our gear ready for our flight (GoPro, Osmo, two Nikon D610 cameras) and could not wait to take off! Tom took us over the flight plan – we would fly over the St. Elias Mountains passing many of the main peeks along the way including Mt. Steele, Vancouver, King George, Kennedy, Hubbard, Lucania, Pinnacle, Mt. St. Elias and lastly would land in front of Mt. Logan, North Americas largest peak, on the worlds largest non-polar icefield. Did you know that a glacier is only called a glacier when moving through a valley? Otherwise it is called an icefield!
Chris jumped in the front seat next to Tom and I got in the backseat behind them! I was happy to sit behind the two of them so I could take photos from both sides of the plane. Our bright yellow Helio Courier C-GXFB headed towards the end of the runway, spun around and we were off in the air!
As we took off we were immediately greeted with views of Kluane Lake and Williscoft Peak.
We began to climb up the Slims River Valley, something that now looks like a dried up river bed was once the place where the glacier’s meltwater drained into Kluane Lake. In 2016 this glacier receded turning the meltwater towards the Pacific ocean and drying up the Slims River.
Shortly after climbing through the Slims River Valley we entered into the Kaskawulsh Glacier which appeared to go on forever. This vast, temperate valley glacier in the heart of the St. Elias Mountain Range covers more than 39,000 square kilometres. The Kaskawulsh Glacier is a result of two converging outlet glaciers and has been measured as wide as 4 – 6.5km at its boardest point. The glacier has slowly been receding, which resulted in the meltwater changing from draining down the Slims River to towards the Pacific Ocean.
As we soar over the Kaskwulsh Glacier and head west towards Mt. Logan the snowy mountains that had been sitting in the distance finally came into full view! These beautiful snow covered mountains against the bright blue sky make for a stunning view!
We followed the glacier bends and turns and we were shortly in the heart of the snowy white St. Elias Mountain Range. The mountains appear to go on forever with peaks of various size everywhere, and then Mount Logan came into view! All 11 peaks of Canadas highest mountain, Mount Logan, were in view during our morning flightseeing tour.
Mount Logan is surrounded by other giants including Mount Kennedy and Mount Washington both standing at over 5000 metres tall. We really felt like we were on the top of the world, and we began our descent down onto the icefield. Tom began to lower the skis for landing – one that was much smoother than we initially expected for landing on a rough icefield!
Once we exited the plane, the complete silence other than the wind whistling through the mountains was like nothing else we had ever experienced. There was no one else on the icefield with us, and to our right was a white and orange tent used for overnight experiences offered through Icefield Discovery. We explored the area and enjoyed the warm sun beating down on the frozen icefield.
We spent about 30 minutes on the icefield which was the perfect amount of time to see everything within a close walk of the plane. Standing on ice that is over 700 metres thick, and seeing areas that no man has ever walked before is an experience you will not soon forget.
As we re-board the plane and have an incredibly smooth take off, we say goodbye to Mount Logan and head towards Icefield Discovery’s hangar. We take a similar route back, but this time Tom takes us much lower to the ground so we can get a different perspective of the Kaskawulsh Glacier and surrounding mountain range.
The ever changing Kaskawulsh Glacier has thousands of cracks, ridges and even pools of bright, turquoise blue pools. These turquoise pools are rich in oxygen making the water turn this colour.
After we re-enter the Slim River Valley we are almost back in Silver City at the Icefield Discovery airstrip. We fly over Kluane Lake.
As we land back on the dirt airstrip another group is waiting for Tom to take them on their own adventure of a lifetime. We could not thank Tom and the Icefield Discovery team enough for such an incredible adventure! Without a doubt this was the highlight of our road trip through the Yukon and should be a bucket list item for everyone travelling through the territory.
As we leave the plane we can see the excitement in the next group’s eyes – we turn to them and say “Have fun your going to love it!’ – How couldn’t they? It’s the ultimate ride of a lifetime.
Make sure to watch the video of our flightseeing trip below!