Friday, 15 August 2014

7 MINUTES TO HEAVEN IN JASPER, CANADA



The journey began — cold, rainy and dreary — giving no inkling of what was going to happen in the next seven minutes.

I was at the Jasper Tramway in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada; standing at the foot of a wall of a mountain, the Whistler Moutain, rising above me, covered in a green poncho of coniferous trees. I peered deeply to catch a glimpse of the Hoary Marmot squirrel when I was told that the mountain gets its name from the squirrel, with its famous whistling alert call, and which resides in the Alpines. But in vain.

I couldn’t see the tip of the top; it was gobbled up by gloomy grey clouds. But, I did see the red buggy-of-a-tramcar being spit out by the not-so-happy clouds and making its way towards the bunch of us gaping at it.



My heart sank a little. Should I even be doing this? But I have lived long enough to know that the answer to that question should always be a ‘Yes’, especially if you want to experience life in the raw; and all that it offers. Because at the end, it always adds up -in a nice way.

Jasper Tramway  is a guided aerial rope-way in the Canadian Rockies – the longest and highest ride in Canada. If the rain gods feel benevolent and put a leash on their minions (the grey clouds) then you will get a breathtaking view of the six mountain ranges of the Rockies, Alberta’s longest Athabasca River, glacial fed jewel-toned lakes and the scenic town of Jasper below.

On that cloudy morning I doubted the benevolence of any Gods, though Jack-the-6’2-Aussie tramway tour guide insisted that we "have a little faith". I did – he asked nicely, after all.

We got into the tramcar at 4279 ft above sea level. It chugged its way up, up and up. It would take us seven minutes to reach the Upper Station at 7472 ft.  Easy ride. But we could hardly see anything with the clouds cloaking everything in sight. And then….somewhere between the sixth and the seventh minute the tramcar broke through the blanket of clouds and emerged on the other side… OMG! Is heaven only a seven-minute ride away from earth?


The sun was a brilliant-over-sized diamond embedded in a blue-blue sky; I felt like I could touch it if I had the courage to reach out. And then the clouds…. whitest of white, pure, fluffy, cottony, playful and inviting….under my feet.


In the the Upper Station, which is 7500 feet above sea level, is the Treeline restaurant;  on a clear day you can see Mt.Robson, the tallest Canadian Rockies peak. Stepping out of the restaurant, you can walk along the boardwalks surrounding the station — covered in mist, with the feeling of fluffy white clouds accompanying you on the walk.


From the station, a 1.4 km trail takes you to the Whistler’s Summit. And from here you can have a magnificent view of the Columbia Icefield and Glacier lakes.  Enroute you can snoop around for Hoary Marmots, Ground squirrels, Moose and Pikas. Of course, I didn’t get to see any of these, since I was mesmerized on the trail, trying to hold the mist in my hands or to peak at the handsome Mt.Robson jutting out from a sea of white cotton-candy-cloudscape. Simply breathtaking!


The Tramway is closed during winter. And on summers it is usually crowded. I am told that the best time to visit during summer, to avoid waiting in the long line is early in the morning or late in the evening.


I tried to capture the short but once-in-a-lifetime journey in pictures…but as the old adage goes –photos can never do justice to life-changing moments. This was one, it taught me to stand still and be in the moment; soak in the moment because it is not every day you get to enjoy a slice of heaven.


The trip was made possible by the Canadian Tourism Commission. But the opinions expressed are my own.