Trekking across Lyell Glacier

Push your comfort zones with a three-day hike at 2,600 m in the Rockies

The group is beginning to panic. We are traversing a precipice of loose shale at 2,600 m in the Rockies, 70 kilometres north of Golden, B.C., and each step is like walking on broken dinner plates, sending shards careening down the Lyell Glacier, a massive sea of white that stretches to the horizon.

Being roped up to a team is my only protection from falling like those rocks, and that’s if my partners hold me. Guide Larry Dolecki, a buff outdoors type who looks capable of handling any situation in the mountains, coaches us along, one by one, and quickly puts in extra anchors, just in case.

The reason I’m here on this tour is simple—to spend several days walking on glaciers, scaling peaks, sleeping in huts and experiencing the heart-thumping adventure and tranquility of the high mountains; a stunning world of rock, snow and ice.

259 Darryl Leniuk, author.

The route

The three-day loop includes a 2,100-m elevation gain; nights were spent in backcountry huts along the B.C.-Alberta border.   

The goal

To go beyond a normal hiking trail, under the watchful eye of a mountain guide, with  

Toughest moment

One crevasse contained meltwater raging under the glacier. I shuddered to think where I might wind up if I fell in—likely frozen and spit out the other end, a few decades later. I was very cautious crossing it, making sure my crampons had good purchase.  


A high-alpine traverse requires training and—if you’re camping and cooking each night—a lot of gear. This traverse combined the comfort of hiking with a light pack, staying in huts and safely getting into some spectacular alpine terrain. B.C.’s Whistler Alpine Guides Bureau offers a half-day guided glacier hike on the Whistler Glacier for those wanting a shorter experience. Yamnuska Mountain Adventures, based in Canmore, Alta., offers a range of climbing, mountaineering and backpacking programs.  


On Day 3, the weather was good so we took a shortcut over a rocky moraine above the Lyell Glacier and literally stumbled onto an ancient seabed on top of a mountain, 700 km from the ocean. This area was likely related to the 500-million-year-old Burgess Shale, one of the world’s premier fossil sites. We walked among petrified corals, tubeworms and seashells.         

Why do it?

To push your comfort zones and experience the breathtaking landscape of the Rocky Mountains.