Thursday, 13 December 2012

Trekking on a Glacier

El Calafate – Day Two
Our first look at Perito Moreno Glacier
15 km long and 8 km wide

I had set my alarm to wake up early, as I had booked an excursion to go glacier hiking at Perito Moreno National Park. I needn't have bothered as the rooster next door began crowing at 3 am and didn’t stop.  After a quick breakfast, the big tour bus pulled up out front and I hopped on.  We drove through town picking up tourists at other hostals, and then wound our way up into the hills picking up more people as we went.  Then it was about a one hour drive through the steppes to the park.  We stopped at a scenic lookout to take photos of our first look at the glacier and drove on to the visitor centre where we had two and a half hours to hike on the trails and eat our lunch.

One of my millions of
glacier photos
As we were walking on the trails, there were constant sounds coming from the glacier that sounded like shotgun blasts in the distance.  All at once there was a louder sound, like thunder when lightning strikes nearby.  I turned to look at the glacier and there was a crack that was so loud it was like the sound of a jet plane taking off as two huge sections of the glacier separated and fell into the water.  The visible part of the glacier is about the height of a 23 story building, and the pieces that fell were each about 10 stories tall. They were huge and watching them crash into the water was breathtaking!!!!!

 Now you are probably wondering ‘where are the pictures of the ice falling?’  I have none.  I had been standing and looking at the glacier and then had begun walking up one of the trails when I heard the first really loud noise.  As I turned and started to walk back to the glacier, I saw the ice falling to the water below.  I could have tried to grab the camera around my neck and take a photo, but it was happening so quickly that I decided to just enjoy the moment rather than trying to capture it in a photo.  It wasn’t until afterwards that we realized that icebergs that size calving like that happen very rarely – we was fortunate to be there at the right time.

After lunch, we all boarded the bus to the boat dock and took the boat to the base of the glacier.  We met our guides and broke into two groups – those wanting an English tour and those wanting a Spanish tour. The English group was much larger, and we took off hiking down the beach in our two mismatched groups as our guides gave us some basic background information on how the glacier formed, etc.  As we neared the glacier, our guide informed us that the groups would have to be redistributed as the English group was too big, and that the other group would get a bilingual tour. I volunteered to join the bilingual group but our guide Louis said no, he needed me in the English group since I was alone in order to balance out the numbers.  So the bilingual group ended up being a mixed group of middle aged couples, two Korean guys in their late twenties, a Spanish family with a teenaged daughter, and others.  The English group was a group of second year American university students in their early twenties all travelling together, and me. 

As we walked toward the huts where we would get our crampons, I overheard this conversation:
Female student 1: I’m thinking of training for a marathon this spring.  I really need to get back in shape.
Female student 2:  Really?  I was thinking of doing the ‘try a tri’.  You want to do that with me?
Other students were comparing which routes they take when they go for a run. 

Awesome -  my group consists of uberathletes who think that entering a triathlon is a good way to get in shape for summer and 50 year old, asthmatic, out of shape me. 

If you look carefully, those little specks are hikers on the mountain.
In front are the little huts for putting on crampons

Crampons - so awkward!
The crampons were far more awkward than I thought they would be. This must be what it feels like for adults who have never skated the first time they put on ice skates.  After a short orientation on how to walk in them – feet far apart; uphill like a penguin; downhill like a monkey; always smile – we set off on our trek up the glacier.  The pace was very reasonable and we had many stops along the way to take photos and drink glacier water.  Several times we went off-roading when Louis would leave the well worn path of other groups and take us on a little side trip to see something cool like a really deep crevice.

View from the summit

Hiking through a crevice

After hiking for about an hour and a half we arrived at our final rest stop.  Louis chipped the glacier into small chunks and scooped them into a bowl, then dumped them into glasses for whiskey on the rocks, Patagonian style!




  1. OMG - what else can I say!!!!! Way cool!
    Joanne Cranston

  2. the best way to drink whiskey EVER. I don't know how many 22 year olds are extremely jealous of their mothers adventures but I definitely am.
    That's really awesome that you got to watch it crack and fall into the water as well. once in a lifetime!

  3. Whiskey on the rocks Patagonia Style - BRILLIANT!!!


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