We’ve spent the last few days on the shores of Lago Argentino in El Calafate, Argentina. This tourist town is the base for excursions to the nearby glaciers and Los Glaciares National Park. We took a day or two to explore the town and enjoy the views. El Calfate caters to tourists, so there are lots of souvenir shops and mountain outfitters. Of course, there are also many great restaurants to try. We made the most of our time in El Calafate, using it as a base for our ice-related excursions.
Our first big adventure was to see Perito Moreno Glacier, which is the reason most people come to El Calafate. We took the full day mini-trekking trip with Hielo y Aventura. Boy, this operation was efficient! First they picked us up in a comfortable bus and drove for about an hour and a half along the shores of beautiful Lago Argentino. Once arriving to the national park, we had about two hours to view the massive glacier from a network of strategically placed walkways. We could hear the ice shifting and occasionally watched large pieces of ice fall into the lake with a loud roar. Each calving is literally breathtaking!
Perito Moreno is part of the 97 square mile Southern Patagonian Ice Field, and is one of 48 glaciers fed by the system. This ice field is the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water. Perito Moreno is unusual in that it is stable, not advancing and not receding, while most glaciers worldwide are retreating. The face of the Perito Moreno Glacier is 5 kilometres (3 mi) wide, with an average height of 74m (240 ft) above the surface of the water of the lake. It has a total ice depth of 558 feet. That’s a lot of ice!
After a nice lunch we traveled by boat across the lake to the shore adjacent to the glacier. After a short hike we strapped on crampons and were led across the glacier.
To say this was an incredible adventure is an understatement. It took a few minutes to get used to walking with spikes strapped to your shoes, but once we got comfortable, we could see the wonder around us. The sparkling ice with various shades of blue reflecting from deep crevasses was spectacular. At one point we refilled our water bottles from a pool of blue ice and it was the most delicious water we’ve ever tasted. Our hour and half on the ice flew by. At the end of the glacial hike we were treated to a celebratory drink of whisky on freshly chopped glacial ice. The pictures just don’t do this adventure justice, but we hope you enjoy them!
Our day on the ice was supposed to be followed by a day in the ice…well, paddling around in it. As many of you know we love to kayak and the opportunity to kayak along one of the largest glaciers in the world was too good to pass up. We joined a group of 12 other adventurers and set out onto an arm of Lago Argentino to kayak among the icebergs around Upsala Glacier. Unfortunately, the winds were so strong that we were unable to kayak. With wind at over 30 knots and waves crashing over the large boat, it was just not safe to get into the water. Of course we were disappointed but the scenery was spectacular and the crew was professional and transparent about the situation. We received a refund and booked a river raft trip for the next week with the same company. Unfortunately we didn’t get any pictures, as we didn’t bring our cameras. We were to have an on-board photographer capture the adventure, but since we didn’t get to kayak, we’ve got no pictures of the journey. Oh well.
Next stop is El Calafate, the trekking and climbing capital of Argentina.