Glaciers!! and lots of wind!
01.12.2010 - 07.12.2010
What an amazing week. I arrived into El Calafate, Argentina and southern patagonia is WINDY!! I thought my cab was going to blow off the road on the way to town, but we made it. I quickly arrange to visit the famous Perito Moreno glacier the next day and hoped for better weather as it was snowing lightly, and windy, then rainy, then sunny in the 30 minutes before I booked the tour with the agency. They say that the weather here changes every 5 minutes and they are pretty much right! Southern patagonia is pretty much wide open light greenish pasture land as far as the eye can see for miles and miles until they butt up against the andes mountains. The landscape felt open, lonely, empty, windy and unlimited. It was truly beautiful.
El Calafate does not have much going on in its own right and is really an entry point for hikers and rock climbers to get over to the mountains and hike or view the glaciers. The Perito Moreno which is the most visited mainly because geography permited a road and hiking paths to access an ideal look out point. The glacier is AMAZING!! I do not think I can convey how huge and incredible this enourmous block of ice is. Pictures do not do it justice, but here are a couple anyway. This glacier is moving into Lake Argentina anywhere from 2 cm to 2 meters! a day! It is about 120 feet high and about a half mile wide. This glacier is continuing to get lots of snow on its upper sections and so it continues to grow and move into the lake (vs most other glaciers that are shrinking around the planet). To me the most amazing aspects were the deep blue of the ice cracks and the ice itself (due to less oxygen in the compressed ice) and the sounds of the ice moving. Typically you could hear a resonant boom before you saw ice fall off the face of the glacier into the lake. Other times it sounded like a gun shot as ice somewhere deep inside the glacier collapsed.
After viewing the glaciers from the walkways, hiking and sweating uphill over a mile in the sunny heat, my guides strapped on my crampons and we put back on all of our coats and cold weather gear to walk on the glacier. We hiked around for about 4 hours and let me tell you, crampons must be so named because they cramp up your feet! It was a jarring walk on the feet and joints after so long, but the views of the ice were awesome and so different from what you see on the face. Up on top of the glaciers you can see rivers and lakes of pristine melted ice. The deepest blues were found down long cracks that appeared limitless.
What a great day!
I spent the last 5 days over in Torres del Paine national park in chile. If I thought El Calafate was windy, it has nothing on most of my time hiking around Torres. While not constantly windy, it gusted wind that was anywhere from barely ruffling your hair to literally knocking you off your feet which required severe bracing into the wind or holding onto something big and heavy. Interestingly most of the time the wind was cold, but one day it was warm wind and we spent that day hiking in t shirts. But mostly it was a little chilly unless I was vigorously walking uphill and burning the muscles. I was constantly putting clothing layers on and off.
The views were amazing. The landscape here is so rugged and brutal that it is surprising that so many people were here hiking and so much wildlife is supported in the park (guanos, ostrich, sheep, horses, fox, hares, flamingos, tons of birds etc.). Here is a typical of shots. Some people never get to see this vew of the horns because they are usually misted-clouded over, but we were lucky with the weather. For me the actual Torres were a little less spectacular.
While in the park I "camped" at the cascada ecocamp, it is an enviromentally friendly permanent camp site in the park - google it if interested - which was amazing - even without having any heater in my tent/dome!
Soon I am off to my antarctic cruise!! More later!