Seven Minutes To Heaven

Whistler Mountain, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Whistler Mountain. Pic: Sudha Pillai

It was a cold and rainy morning, which gave no inkling of what was going to happen in the next seven minutes. I was far away from home, bouncing on my feet to chase the chill creeping into my bones while waiting for my turn to board the Jasper Tramway in Jasper National Park, Canada.

Rising high before me was the Whistler mountain, covered in a green poncho of coniferous trees. The mountain was named after the whistling alert call of the Hoary Marmot squirrel that resides in the Alpines.

Jasper Tramway is a guided aerial rope-way in the Canadian Rockies – the longest and highest ride in Canada. On a clear day, it offers an eye-popping view of the six mountain ranges of the Rockies, Alberta’s longest river the Athabasca River, glacial fed jewel-toned lakes and the scenic town of Jasper below. However, on that cloudy morning, I doubted the benevolence of the rain gods, though Jack-the-6’2”-Aussie tramway tour guide insisted that we “have a little faith”. I did – he asked nicely, after all.

When I got into the tramcar at 4279 ft above sea level, I was clueless about what was going to happen next.

Whistler Mountain, Jasper National Park, Alberta

View from the tramcar. Pic: Sudha Pillai

The tramcar, chugged its way up, up and up. “It would take us seven minutes to reach the Upper Station at 7472 ft,” Jack said.  Smooth ride. But one could hardly see anything with the clouds cloaking and choking everything in sight. And then….somewhere between the sixth and the seventh minute the tram car 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. Spread before I was a breath-taking cloudscape. Stepping out of the tramcar at the Upper Station, the first thing you notice is the silence that engulfs you like a cosy blanket; you can hear your breath. The beauteous snow-white cloudscape at your feet gives you goosebumps. The blues are bluer, and the whites, whiter. And the sky seems so close that you are tempted to stand on tippy toes just to see whether your head will bump into it. It is only here that I realised that the clouds have a fragrance – they smell like the ocean.

At the Upper Station. Pic: Sudha Pillai

Inside the Upper Station is the Treeline restaurant, overlooking the majestic Mt.Robson, the tallest Canadian Rockies peak. The Station is surrounded by boardwalks which allow you to saunter around. From the station, a 1.4 km trail leads to the Whistler’s Summit. From here you can see the magnificent Columbia Icefield and Glacier lakes.

After spending time, sipping coffee and watching the incomprehensible brilliance of nature, and wondering whether heaven would be as beautiful as this, it was time to go. It took me all of seven minutes to return to ‘earth’.

Whistler Mountain, Jasper National Park, Alberta

It’s a beautiful world. Pic: Sudha Pillai

 PS: The Tramway is closed during winter.

This was published in Deccan Chronicle (Kochi edition) on 29 September 2017 
2017-10-10T14:09:05+00:00 Explore, Sunny Escapes, Travel|0 Comments

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