20 de Junio 2015
Hotel Cactus, La Paz, Bolivia
In Torres Del Paine we both experienced our first glacier. Now it was time to walk on our first glacier.
We left Chile after two rest days in Puerto Natales and hopped on the bus to El Calafate, Argentina. We hoped for no problems at the border since Ryan was entering in a later date than he told the Argentina consulate, but thankfully we flew through the immigration process. Americans, Canadians, and Australians must pay $160 reciprocity fee prior to crossing the border. This gives us ten years to enter the country. We are the only countries charged this because we charge Argentineans the same to travel in our countries. Not a big deal, I knew this in advance and just had to chalk it up as a traveling expense. After five hours on the bus we arrived in our first Argentinean town. El Calafate is known for one thing; Perito Moreno Glacier. Located in the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, this blue-hued glacier towers at 60m tall, 35km in length, and 5km in width. Its known for its jagged ice peaks that are non-stop crashing with thunderous sounds creating massive waves and bobbing icebergs. We had to see it for ourselves.
There are two options for this trip, a roundtrip bus ride to the balconies where one can witness its shear volume for a few hours or the chance to walk on glacier itself and understand its power. Although it costs about $100, we could not resist the latter. We booked for the following day and found out that our friend Yoann had done the same.
The bus picked us up around 8:30am when it was still dark and we had a quick 90min ride to the park. There we paid AR$260 [$27] to enter. The tour started with a boat ride across the lake that brings you up close to the monstrous ice formation.
After the boat ride we had a short hike to the resting cabins to meet our glacier guides. Split up between English and Spanish groups we were immediately told of the do and don’ts. “Always stay in a single file line, don’t stray from the group [you don’t want to fall down a bottomless crevasse], etc etc. We dropped off our bags and headed to meet Perito Moreno.
The dark indigo colors signify how deep the glacier continues and it honestly looks fake. Every shade of blue you could ever imagine. The guides helped us strap in to our crampons [a metal plate with spikes fixed to a boot that allow you to walk on ice], and taught us how to walk in them without stabbing ourselves. I loved it. We slowly made our way on to the glacier one by one. As we hiked we’d stop to learn about the grand prehistoric chunk of ice. We all know we’re destroying this Earth and global warming is real. Most glaciers are shrinking and wildlife are suffering. Perito Moreno is considered a ‘stable’ glacier meaning it advances up to 2m per day and consistently breaks off chunks of ice which is a blessing.
For two hours we learned about sink holes, deep, terrifying crevasses, and its history. The guides ran around exploring parts of the ice and whacking their large icepicks along the way. I was jealous. They warned us of the dangerous in the warm months when sink holes will form due to the sunlight and melt the water. Sometimes a sink hole will flood, freeze over, drain, and leave a thin layer of ice over the hole. If it snows over the hole it can be a death trap waiting to happen. It would be almost impossible to spot one, but the guides assure you through their training experience, you’re unlikely to fall through. Its ice, its unpredictable. An overhang or ridge next to a crevasse could suddenly break off and bam you fall to a dark pit with no chance of escaping. Back in Puerto Natales, Ryan and I caught up on a few Man vs. Wild episodes when Bear Grylls shows you how to survive one of these deathly descents. In some parts freezing water pours into the crevasse and once he climbs out he recommends quickly undressing to the nude, wringing out the wet clothes, and running around the ice [naked] to warm up your body. I don’t think I ever plan on hiking on a glacier alone, but thanks for the tips Bear.
We found the only thing that lives here, the Andiperla willinki [common name: Patagonian Dragon]. Barely 20mm long the insect survives on organic particles from the forest near the glacier and spends its entire life on the ice.
Sadly the tour finished, but the end included a surprise. The ‘original’ ice bar sat towards the bottom and the guides passed out short pours of scotch with glacier cubes and chocolate sweets. Not a fan of crappy scotch, I stuck to a delicious glass of glacier H2O and we cheered to a wonderful hike. We took off our crampons and headed back to the resting cabin to eat lunch.
We hopped back on the boat to the viewing platforms. Here you can wander the three-storied balconies to reach spectacular views of Perito Moreno. This is also where you get the opportunity to see ice chunks bigger than buildings fall from glacier producing enormous tidal waves. Only having an hour we quickly found the best spot to witness it. The hour flew by and we had only seen small bits fall down. But just before walking back to the bus, a crazy large piece broke off causing the sound of thunder and the water to reach surf-able heights. Ryan caught it on camera and I cheered loudly happy to experience the sight.
Click here to see Ryan’s video on his instagram: @ryandedom
In all it was one of the coolest [no pun intended] adventures of the trip. Those hues of blues will never leave my mind and I only hope you get the chance to experience one of the world’s most amazing natural structures in your lifetime.
Thanks world, thanks mother nature, I hope we can turn our destruction around and salvage what we have left of these magnificent ice formations.
love and light,
a big fan