Historical Postcard: Rappelling Above Athabasca Glacier

This 1960s era postcard of the Athabasca Glacier comes from my collection of Jasper National Park stuff. But this is no ordinary souvenir postcard.

There is a story to it that should be told.

This postcard reveals a different Jasper National Park era and a time when so-called “Mountain Men” (and women) still wandered the area.

The front of the postcard reads “Athabaska Glacier, Alberta, Canada – Photo: Bruno Engler”.

It turns out that Bruno Engler (1915-2001) was an accomplished, award-winning photographer who had come to Canada in 1939 and then spent 60 years photographing and enjoying the delights of the Canadian Rockies. The Town of Banff (just south of Jasper National Park) considers Bruno Engler as a local legend and has a web page about him here. Bruno is described as “ski instructor and coach, climber, mountain guide, actor, cameraman, photographer, as well as one of the Canadian Rockies’ great story-tellers and enduring characters.” He was a Mountain Man.

Bruno Engler received the inaugural Summit of Excellence Award in 1986 “representing the highest of honours from his peers in the mountain community for his contributions to Canadian Rockies culture and for his enthusiasm and dedication to photography, guiding, and skiing.”

Bruno’s unique abilities are why photos like these are so unique. I imagine Bruno hanging in the air alongside the pictured adventurer while trying to frame the perfect shot.

The back of the postcard reads “Rappeling High Over the Athabaska Glacier: The great ice tongue of this glacier issues from the Columbia Icefield in three great icefalls. On the right is Dome Glacier which is formed by ice that tumbles over the cliff to be reconstituted as a solid ice mass below. This is on the Icefield Highway, in the south end of Jasper Nation Park, Alberta, Canada.” The red stamp depicting a big horn sheep reads “From the Roof of the Canadian Rockies.”

The postcard photo reveals a time when fashions were different. Look close. The man rappelling wears checkered knee socks. He hangs from a mountain with only a rope holding him in the air.

Down below is the Icefield Center building. I looked really close at the postcard and could only count about 20 cars at the visitor center on this beautiful blue sky day. The parking lot has since been expanded and on a typical summer day is full of cars, RVs and a handful of tour buses.

The biggest difference in this photo from the 1960s in contrast with 2008 is the Athabasca Glacier itself. The photo shows the Athabasca Glacier protruding much further from the Columbia Icefield than it protrudes today. The glacier has been receding each year as summer melting exceeds the rate of winter snow accumulation. What will be of the Athabasca Glacier in 100 years from now? Will it still exist?

Interesting postcard.  One can imagine a 1960s Jasper National Park traveler purchased it while inside the Icefield Center gift shop.  Then it sat in storage for many years until I acquired it.  And now, here it is on Jasper National Park Journal for the whole world to see.

Be Sociable, Share!

1 comment to Historical Postcard: Rappelling Above Athabasca Glacier

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>