11.2.1 Perito Moreno Glacier

samfloy~15 February 2013 /Latin America/Travels

Colonia Francisco Perito Moreno, Santa Cruz, Argentina
Friday, February 15, 2013

Part of the National Park of Glaciers in southern Argentina, Perito Moreno is a titanic glacier refusing to shrink, despite the rise in global temperature. For the day, we not only viewed it from afar, but spent around four hours walking on the surface, seeing all sorts of nooks and crannies carved and formed into the monumental slab of ice.

I’ll begin with some Fun Facts as a bit of background, and then go ahead and explain the details of the day.

Fun Fact #1: Perito Moreno is 1 of the 3 major glaciers within the National Park

Fun Fact #2: the icefield is the third largest fresh water reserve in the world after Antarctica and Greenland

Fun Fact #3: it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981

Fun Fact #4: the length of PM is over 30km

Fun Fact #5: the largest glacier in the Park has a greater surface area than the capital city, Buenos Aires

Fun Fact #6: PM is expanding (or at least not shrinking) as its area is 70% ice accumulation, and 30% melting, #mathematics

Fun Fact #7: this means the glacier moves forward every day, roughly 2cm. From the pictures you’ll see rocks on the glacier, these tumbled down from the surrounding mountains and have been on the surface for over 100 years

Fun Fact #8: the lakes the glacier sits on have their greyish colour from the sediment also brought down from the mountains

Now that I’ve transferred the extent of my glacial knowledge to you, I’ll give a run down of how February 15th 2013 panned out.

The bus journey from minivan, to bus, to National Park went smoothly, and began at 7am. Our guide told us a few Fun Facts on the scenic route in. We were given time to walk around to the Look Outs and get a good view of the glacier. Despite being an overcast day, it was still possible to see the glacier receding far back into the valley.

A couple of years ago, a big piece of the glacier broke off in Hollywood fashion (it was caught on camera) and even now there were creaks and crashes as clumps came off the outer edge. Similar to the avalanches of 12.1.1, it sounded a bit like thunder.

This was the first proper DPP opportunity, and cameras duly did the rounds. It was then a quick ferry across to nearer the glacier.

The group was split off into Spanish and English speakers and we layered up before making an hour’s hike to the ‘base camp’ and final preparations. The main bits of kit were sunglasses, a harness, and crampons.

Firstly, the sunglasses. The guy at the hostel said they were necessary, however I didn’t have any with me. He kindly offered me his, so amongst the action-ready, ergonomic glasses of the group, this unSerious Adventurer was sporting a pair of aviators (see photos/ outtakes)

Secondly, the crampons. These were metal outer shoes to facilitate grip on the ice. They reminded me a bit of the old-fashioned bear traps from cartoons only with the spikes facing down.

These were fixed on, and then we took our first steps. Across the white landscape there was lots of blue where caves had been made, rivers were flowing, or simply holes had formed in the ice.

As with the glacier in Torres del Paine, the spectrum of blues was stunning. At one point we observed one of the epic ‘drain holes’, where water crashed down to the base of the glacier. To be on the safe side, we were led up one by one and held secure as we peered down (see photo)

All the water was drinkable meaning we were always refreshed. Walking past a small lagoon/ lake I enquired whether it would be possbile for a quick dip (similar to 9.5.1) but Diego, our guide, said it might be a bit nippy. And besides, I’d forgotten my trunks..

Lunch was had at a spot protected by the breeze, then we continued our hike across the ice dunes to good vantage point across the front part of PM. Diego advised that this was probably the best DPP spot so the camera exchange began again.

Mine ended up in the hands of a burly Austrian who insisted (voluntarily or not) on pulling funny faces. This resulted in a few more snaps in the Outtakes folder (see photos) with the ice desert as a backdrop.

On the walk back we took in the last of the sensation of having ice under foot and crunched back to the edge. Upon taking off the crampons and stepping once more on dry land, my chunky boots in comparison felt like slippers and I glided back to the base camp where we were given cake.

This was not the end of the treats though, as on the final boat back to the bus, we were all given a whisky with a chunk of ice in it from the glacier. It was almost fizzy with the bubbles it held within it, and was probably the first time the “scotch” part has been less interesting than the bit “on the rocks”.

With the sky cleared, the bus back allowed some pleasant views of the sun setting over the glacier. It was then an hour’s journey back in El Calafate where we got dropped by the supermarket. For some reason I found myself looking for the Fox’s Mints..

The Glacier
Perito Moreno
Glacier cave
Whisky on the rocks

Walking on PM

End of day
Looking down drain hole
“Not allowed to swim there”
From afar
PM when raining
Walk back
Outtake #1
Outtake #2
Outtake #3
Outtake #4
Outtake #5