Ice Cold

Published: January 20th 2013EDIT THIS ENTRY

Keeping in the national park theme from the Torres del Paine we headed next to the Parque Nacional Los Glaciers. The town of El Calafate sits at the southern edge of the park and it’s here that we base ourselves in a hostel for a couple of days to explore.

Los Glaciers National Park is said to be home to some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Argentina, if not South America, well whoever said that isn’t wrong, its classic coffee-table book Patagonia, you’re surrounded by deep blue skies that go on forever, rising up from the horizon in every direction you look are magnificent mountains, incredible glaciers, glistening lakes and thick lush forests.

From El Calafate we headed out to the southern reaches of the park to explore the Perito Moreno Glacier, it’s a specular wall of ice over 60m tall and 5km wide, and one of only 3 Patagonian glaciers that are not retreating. We spent the day viewing the glacier, first walking on the shores of the lake that the glacier resides in, marvelling at the different ice sculptures the glacier had cast adrift and playing with some of the smaller chunks that had floated ashore. After viewing the glacier from afar we headed to the Penisula de Magallanes to get a closer look, a long series of catwalks and platforms on the cliffs overlooking the glacier give a great view from both the south and the north side. As you stand watching the glacier thunderous cracks and crashes can be heard - if you turn to look quick enough you’ll see great jagged ice peaks sheer off and crash land, setting forth small tidal waves and huge surfing icebergs.

Wanting to get closer still, we headed down to the port to board a 2 hour boat trip around the glacier. The boat sails close enough to the glacier to be totally dwarfed by its size but far enough away to be safe from the falling ice. Standing on the roof of the boat, you feel humbled by the size of the glacier, it’s majestic and definitely a view you’d never get tired of. After the temperamental weather of the last few weeks and despite being so close to so much ice the sunshine was back so as an added bonus we were finally experiencing the Patagonian summer we’d been expecting.

Leaving El Calafate behind the next day we drive 250ms to the north side of Los Glaciers National Park to the small chilled town of El Chalten. Set in a pretty river valley our campsite on the outskirts of town was ringed by the most amazing vistas, the extraordinary snow-capped towers of the Fitz Roy Range on one side and rivers, hills and mountains stretching into the distance on the other. The good weather continued on this side of the park and despite a ridiculously strong wind - making putting up the tents an interesting experience – a lovely afternoon was spent, strolling around town, visiting the trekking agency to book in some activities for the next day and generally soaking up the laid back, chilled out vibe that El Chalten had going on.

Early next morning we were up and out from some more encounters of the glacier kind, this time heading to Lago Viedma and its Glacier, and rather than just looking we would be trekking upon it. Heading across the lake on a small boat we pass giant icebergs of an amazing bubbly blue, as we near you can see where the volcanic rock has moved through the ice leaving black swirls in its wake, we round the corner and clamber off the boat onto some rocks at the edge of the glacier, here you can see where the ice has moved over the rocks, smoothing it to an almost shine, they’re an amazing mix of reds and yellows, smooth to the touch and where the sun has been baking them warm to sit on. Where the rocks meet the ice of the glacier we sit and apply crampons to our shoes, the metal teeth instantly giving us grip and a confidence to walk on the ice.

We spent 2 hours trekking over the glacier, posing for pictures in front of ice caves, clambering up and down steep slopes and looking into fissures and crevices in the ice. Our guides were amazing, leading a careful path through the ice, demonstrating ice climbing techniques, cutting steps into some of the steeper bits and generally making sure that we didn’t come to any harm, given that I can fall over on a flat surface when standing still I put the fact that I left the glacier injury free totally down to them rather than any expertise with ice trekking on my part……..The piece de la resistance of the day was a glass of baileys, poured over freshly cut glacier ice cubes.

Away from the ice and back at the campsite the sun was out, so after the last few weeks of trekking and being constantly on the go it was time for some down time, beers, tunes, a game of ball that soon degenerated into a water fight and a generally chilled out, lazy afternoon in the sunshine.

The following day we decied to explore the national park by a slighthly different method. Hiring bikes we discovered mountain bike tracks through glorious meadows and following the dirt roads to stunning waterfalls….

The Los Glaciers National Park is simply stunning, I’m sure that my time spent here hasn’t even touched the sides of what the place has to offer, it’s time to move on but I’ll be back again one day to explore this sparkling part of Patagonia again. But for now it’s time to head north, leaving Patagonia and on to Buenos Aries, it’s a few thousand kilometres away so we’ll be travelling slowly up country over the next 5 days or so - bush camping along the way, hopefully hanging out with some penguins and hitting a beach or two as well.

Additional photos below
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