Sunday, 4 May 2014

Ice Ice Baby

El Calafate is as far South as we'll be going on this trip as roads/towns/hostels further towards the Antarctic are now closing until it gets warmer again. 

So with a despondent huff I put on every item of clothing I own (didn't bother with the beachwear but in retrospect shouldn't have been so optimistic. Every inch of fabric would've been appreciated) and headed to the Perito Merino National Park. 

The Perito Merino glacier is the 3rd biggest body of freshwater on the planet, it advances about 2m each day, is about 50m high above water and about 300m underneath.  Given that only the mountain tops are snow-covered it feels really odd to turn a corner in the Lakes and be presented with this: 

The cold coming off the glacier is teeth-hurtingly fierce. We spent 3 hours spellbound watching huge chunks of it come crashing off and floating away (before the walk barriers were built about 30 people were killed by boulders of flying ice as it's quite explosive when it falls). Because it's growing it constantly creaks and groans, and when a crack widens it sounds like thunder. Other than one type of insect nothing can live on the ice so it's a completely desolate environment.  

Frozen beyond the point of feeling we returned to our hostel and got ready for day 2 - climbing over the top of it. 

Ice-burka ands crampons on we spent 4 hours stamping our way up and down ice valleys,  watching the landscape turn from white to blue to so white 3 of us fell over as we lost all depth perception!  Such a weird thing to be able to make out ice-hills in the middle distance but not be able to see anything other than glaringly white white in front of you.  

The ice went from having recent melt on it which gives the crampons something to spike into, to solid smooth ice where we had to stamp each step to keep traction.  Bit challenging going down steep bits, and more so when we had to straddle a water filled ravine and stamp our way out of an ice cave but all good fun! 

Back on dry land, beer in hand, feet still not responding to human touch,  we agreed it had been an incredible thing to walk over a glacier, and to see bus-sized pieces of ice crashing off it but it's time to head north again and hopefully see the sun again. 

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