Trekking Across Perito Moreno

January 16, 2010 - 9:30 pm No Comments

Exhausted this morning, but the adrenaline of a glacier hike pushed me through the process of sitting up and putting pants on.

Our bus this morning took us to a small dock on Lago Argentino, where we got onto a small boat and went straight to Perito Moreno. A small spit of land sticks into the center of the glacier and separates it into a north face and a south face. Yesterday’s catamaran tour took us to the north face, but today we’d be doing a “mini-trek” along the south face.

Approaching Perito Moreno

Sun Over Icebergs

Docking at Perito Moreno

Cooney was our English-speaking guide. He was fluent but had a pretty strong accent and had this funny habit of finishing every phrase with “Yes?” almost as if he needed to make sure we understood what he was saying. “Today we go on top of the glacier, yes? If you have health problems, you talk to me, yes? Pregnant women cannot take this excursion, yes?”

Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier

Peligro - No Pasar

We took a short hike through the forest and were led to a shed at the base of the glacier. There, we strapped on some crampons. Very cool feeling walking around in those things. Cooney gave us a quick lesson on how to walk properly on the slippery ice, and we were off.

Atop Perito Moreno Glacier

Doug & Jeff on Perito Moreno

Doug on Perito Moreno

On the glacier, the sun was warm, the breeze was cool. The ice was crunchy beneath our crampons, almost the consistency of granola. Everything was melting, so the ice got a bit slushy in places and little streams of water flowed across the surface. Larger holes and cracks led to rushing torrents of water deeper in the glacier. The deeper the crack, the deeper the blue.

Blue Hole

Blue Crack

Jeff in the Crack

Melting, cracking ice makes some pretty amazing shapes. The rock dust is a natural occurrence, but I imagine that the scene would be really amazing if the formations were perfectly clean.

Ice Formations on Perito Moreno

Ice Formations on Perito Moreno

The water trickling across the glacier is pure. Although light sprinklings of rock dust make it look dirty, Cooney assured me that the water is safe to drink. So I bent down and had a sip of pure glacier water. Cold and delicious.

Jeff Drinks Glacial Water

The hike had lots of ups and downs, but when you consider how enormous Perito Moreno is, we really didn’t cover very much ground at all. We didn’t come anywhere near the unstable and dangerous front edge, which is too bad, because that would have been cool.

In our group was an Italian couple. The guy was the ultimate douchebag, with his designer jeans, designer sunglasses, and gelled-up hair. It’s funny how Italians never dress down for anything, even hikes across glaciers.

Before packing it in, we stopped at a little table that was set up with glasses. Cooney and the other guides used their picks to chop up some ice from the glacier and served whiskey to the group. Very cool. I just wish I liked whiskey.

Whiskey with Glacier Ice

The Edge of Perito Moreno

Climbing Perito Moreno

Perito Moreno Through the Trees

Perito Moreno Glacier

The box lunch packed by our hotel consisted of a vile ham and cheese pie, a mealy apple, and a bottle of water. But it was the only food around, so I did my best.

Our boat came to take us back to the bus, and then we were whisked off to the tourist-filled viewing platforms offering impressive views of the north face.

North Face of Perito Moreno

Standing in front of the glacier, you hear all kinds of sounds: cracks, pops, and rumbles. Everyone waits patiently for a chunk of ice to crack off and splash into the water, and every few minutes, it happens. It’s hard to photograph because you never know which part of the enormous glacier will rupture.

Calving on the North Face of Perito Moreno

What I find interesting is that, after inspecting older photos, the front edge of the glacier seems to have been in the same basic shape for the last decade, despite the constant calving. The little archway of ice between the north face and the south face has looked the same for years.

It was when I was leaving the platform that I tripped on a step and fell on my ass, rolling awkwardly to keep my camera and tripod from hitting the ground. For a fleeting moment, everyone turned away from the glacier, looked at me, and went silent. To the best of my knowledge, there is no photographic evidence of this event.

North Face of Perito Moreno

Just as we were heading back to the bus, we heard a deep rumble and turned around to see an enormous pillar of ice topple over and crash into the water. The booming sound it made was tremendous. Pretty amazing to watch.

Chunk of Ice Falling...






There is so much in this part of the country we just didn’t have time to see. I would have liked to get to picturesque Cerro Fitz Roy, I hear good things about Bariloche, and Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park looks amazing. We could have easily spent another week down here. Next time.

Before leaving El Calafate, we stopped at Borges y Alvarez and I had my first South American burger. A major disappointment. This country takes its pride in high-quality meat, and its steaks are amazing, but this burger was obviously sliced from a loaf.

A guy named Mario was our driver back to the airport. Very friendly guy. His English wasn’t so great, but we all bonded over our mutual appreciation of Boca Juniors futbol. He carried our luggage, walked us inside, joked around with his airport friends, and walked us all the way to the gate. One of the few guys who actually earned his tip.

Our Flight to Buenos Aires

Lago Argentino

We’re now on a flight back to Buenos Aires. Somehow, the Patagonia package that Gog purchased included Business Class seats on this flight. Sweet! I’ve never flown through the pink clouds of sunset before. Fact: they’re only pink on the outside.

Unfortunately, this vacation is winding down now, but we have a last hurrah in BA before we head home. We’ll be there tonight and then all day tomorrow. Warren has graciously offered to let us stay with him at the ridiculous luxury penthouse he has just rented for himself in the city center.

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