My final day in El Chalten was spent hiking the Cerro Torre route to Laguna and Glacier Torre. It was a relatively easy hike compared to my last two, to Laguna de Los Tres and Cagliero Glacier. This hike is roughly 11 miles in total with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain, which is mostly at the beginning of the hike, leaving the back half a flat, easy stroll through forests of Lenga.
The sun was behind the clouds most of the day, as were the spires. About halfway to the laguna, the glacier comes into view and at the lake, what looked like intentionally carved icebergs floated about. After the hike, I hopped on a bus for a 3 hour trip to El Calafate. I loved my time in El Chalten and wasn’t’ really ready to leave, but I had a date with a glacier that I didn’t want to miss.
My time in El Calafate was short and the only reason I was going was to day hike on the Perito Moreno Glacier. The Perito Moreno glacier is well known as one of the only glaciers continuing to expand its overall size due to accumulating mass at a greater rate than its loss. The glacier is also the third largest reserve of fresh water in the world.
The next morning a big ole bus came to pick me up at my hotel…this tour wasn’t going to be intimate! The tour was led by Hielo & Aventura and is the only way to gain access to hike on the glacier. The company offers several different options for experiencing the glacier and I chose the mac daddy of them all, the Big Ice option. This allows one to see the glacier from the park viewpoints, then by boat and finally via 3.5 hours of hiking on the glacier itself.
The bus ride is about an hour long and during that time the bi-lingual guide gives an abundance of history on the glacier and surrounding mountains. At the park viewpoint we had about 30 minutes to walk around the various levels and take in this massive land of ice from above. You could hear continuous mini ruptures breaking away from the glacier and I was fortunate to see a couple in action.
From the boat, you come close to the walls of the glacier, spanning over 200 feet out of the water. The sheer magnitude took my breath away. It’s a strange sort of beautiful and I was fortunate to see it under clear, super sunny skies. Once we reached the shore, it’s about a 2 mile hike over a rocky trail to the point at which we put crampons on and stepped onto the glacier. Before the hike, the group was first split by language and then again into groups of 10, with two guides for each group.
Once on the glacier, we hiked for roughly three hours. It was a surreal experience. Every shade of blue in the Crayola crayon box was on display. I trekked over mini lakes trapped under thick sheets of ice. Spires of sparkling ice floated up all around us and every turn revealed little streams, ice caves, and natural formations that no artist could replicate. We ate lunch next to a crevasse, because why not!
At one point, we had to cross a crevasse that was about three feet wide and who only knows how deep. This is where we got real technical ya’ll, jumping across while the guides grabbed at our arms. While likely not the safest approach, we all made it. It was definitely one of those moments you realize could be a total shit show ending in the loss of your life, or a fantastic memory to write about in your blog, thankfully this time it was the latter.
We peered into one huge crevasse and I asked the guide if they were allowed to rappel down them and he said yes, but why would I want to. I said because it looks like fun…he looked at me like I was crazy. I told him I wanted to camp on the glacier so I could wake up in the morning to the sun rising over the ice…he again looked at me like I was crazy.
I have no idea how far we hiked along the ice because you lose all time and space on a glacier. On the boat ride back, the guides broke out some Argentinian whiskey and ice they had chipped from the glacier. It was the perfect drink, and way, to end what felt like a badass day hiking on one of the larger glaciers in the southern hemisphere.
“I’ve accepted where I am in my life, I’m happy and I’m excited for the future. I’ve cried enough tears, and now it’s time to enjoy it.” Lindsey Vonn