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The Silk Route - World Travel: Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina
americas asia & far east africa & middle east europe

Argentina: El Calafate & Perito Moreno Glacier
November 2013

El Calafate Laguna Nimez Nature Reserve Ice Trekking on the Perito Moreno Glacier
Parque Nacional los Glaciares Calafate Mountain Park
Perito Moreno Glacier

 

Mainly for the Perito Moreno, the most stunning glacier - and we went trekking on it!

El Calafate

sheep farm
A sheep farm in Argentina, just across the border from Chile; behind is Paine Grande in Torres del Paine.

We were driven from Torres del Paine to cross the border from Chile to Argentina and changed vehicles to an Argentinian driver. He wasn't nearly so good or accommodating as the drivers we'd had at Tottes del Paine and went extremely fast with no chance to stop if we wanted to take photographs. There were a number of us being taken to El Calafate and we all complained - especially when we came over a rise to a great view of Lake Argentino!

Patagonia Queen
Hotel Patagonia Queen

Amazingly we could see the mountains of Torres del Paine, albeit in the distance, as we travelled north in Argentina towards El Calafate and our hotel, the Patagonia Queen

mountains
Peaks of Torres del Paine behind a lower Argentinian mountain range; from the road to El Calafate.
El Calafate
Beer tasting at Cerveceria Artesanal Chopen.

El Calafate sits on the southern shore of Hago Argentino and has a long, wide main street with shops, banks and a decent number of places to eat.

El Calafate
El Calafate

We had a good meal at Casimiro Bigua, lamb and steak both excellent and a fabulous chocolate pudding.

We found Pura Vida Resto Bar to be a bit over-rated - lovely home-baked bread but the lamb stew pie was not great quality meat though an enormous portion.

Cerveceria Artesanal Chopen is a low-key place, the food unpretentious and very acceptable. They serve tasting glasses of three different beers, with a dish of peanuts, so that you can try before ordering, a nice touch.

One afternoon we took a very windy walk along the lakeside and saw quite a few flamingoes.

El Calafate

Laguna Nimez Nature Reserve

Laguna Nimez nature reserve

 

The hotel was within easy reach of the Laguna Nimez nature reserve where we spent a pleasant hour or so bird-spotting.

Laguna Nimez nature reserve
Laguna Nimez nature reserve
Laguna Nimez nature reserve
Laguna Nimez nature reserve
Red-gartered Coot
Laguna Nimez nature reserve
Laguna Nimez nature reserve
Laguna Nimez nature reserve
Black-faced Ibis
Laguna Nimez nature reserve
Laguna Nimez nature reserve

Laguna Nimez nature reserve



Laguna Nimez nature reserve
Laguna Nimez nature reserve
Laguna Nimez nature reserve
Laguna Nimez nature reserve

Ice Trekking on the Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier
From the road approaching the Perito Moreno Glacier.

 

 

Most people come to El Calafate to see the Perito Moreno glacier and we were no exception.

The day after our arrival we were collected from our hotel at 7 a.m. and taken, along with a number of others, into the Perito Moreno park.

Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

We boarded a boat which took us along the face of this enormous glacier, dropping us off at the far side. Nothing prepares you for the sight of this spectacular glacier rising high and long out of the lake - truly awe-inspiring.

Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

The Perito Moreno is some 30km long and one of the few glaciers that is still advancing. The leading edge rises over 70m from the surface of Lago Argentino. It is travelling roughly east, the centre of the leading edge almost abutting the easterly shore of the lake at Peninsula Magallanes, sometimes cutting off a southerly section of the lake.

It was this southerly section, the Brazo Rico, that we had crossed, close to the glacier, to get to the starting point for our trek. Beautiful pinnacles of blue ice stretch across the front face of the glacier, rising high above us.

Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

We made our way to a series of wooden shelters where we were fitted with crampons; we were all given help to ensure they were securely fastened.

Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

We were a group of about eighteen with two very good guides who led us onto the ice.

Perito Moreno Glacier

 

Perito Moreno Glacier


Perito Moreno Glacier

They gave us instructions on how to climb (v-shaped feet position, wide apart, stamp in the crampons, lean forward) and descend (feet wide apart, dig in the crampons, lean back - trust your crampons) and we set off.

We all soon got the hang of it which was just as well as quite soon we were climbing some reasonably steep slopes.

Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

The surface of the glacier is not at all smooth and looks quite dirty in places. However, this is more than made up for by the brilliant blue gashes of crevasses, some filled with water.

Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

We climbed higher until we were right on top of the glacier then followed our guides as they found the best route. The glacier is changing all the time so, although in general the guides know where they want to go, getting there requires constantly assessing the condition of the ice.

The beautiful icescape is very varied: soft peaks, sharp pinnacles, blue water-filled crevasses, some with water bubbling from deep below the surface. Fortunately we made frequent short stops while the guides checked the route, so that we could safely gaze around us.

Perito Moreno Glacier

The weather on the glacier was perfect - not a breath of wind and quite warm.

Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
A sheet of glacier ice for the whisky!
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

We were on the glacier for about two hours and had a wonderful time, really one of the best experiences we've had.

Perito Moreno Glacier

Towards the end one of the guides hacked some ice from the surface of a pool and led us to the glacier "bar" where we were served Scotch and glacier ice - fantastic!

Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

We then climbed down off the glacier to get back to the huts and remove our crampons.

Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

We'd all brought packed lunches. Most people stayed in a large shelter but we climbed a rocky ridge facing the glacier to have ours. It was cold up there but has to be one of the greatest ever lunchtime views!

Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
It was cold on this ridge but the view was unbeatable!
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

 

After lunch we got back on the boat for a closer look at this southern section of the glacier.

 

Perito Moreno Glacier

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The dull red cast is due to the camera.
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

Parque Nacional los Glaciares

Perito Moreno Glacier
The Perito Moreno Glacier stretching back into the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. This is the central area of the advancing glacier at the rupture zone in the Canal Témpanos.
Perito Moreno Glacier
The north arm of the Perito Moreno Glacier on Lago Argentino.
Perito Moreno Glacier
Looking down the Canal Témpanos to the south arm of the glacier on Brazo Rico where we were this morning.

We then went on to the panoramic viewpoints in the Parque Nacional los Glaciares. A series of walkways stretch along the lake side of the Peninsula Magallanes providing fantastic views of the glacier, particularly the central rupture zone and the north arm.

Perito Moreno Glacier

Between the main body of water of Lake Argentino and the Brazo Rico is a narrow stretch called the Canal Témpanos where the glacier approaches the shore of the peninsula.

Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

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The dull red cast is due to the camera.
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

All the time we could hear gun shot cracks and rumbling as the glacier moved and ice fell off the front face now and again into the lake.

Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

Returning on the coach we had a final view of the glacier from the road. The mountains behind were still bathed in sunlight, the glacier a huge sheet of blue-toned ice sweeping down to the lake.

Calafate Mountain Park

Calafate Mountain

 

On our final day our flight out wasn't until late afternoon so we'd booked a trip up the mountain. The chair lift to the top was scary, very windy, in Switzerland it would never have operated. We were swinging quite significantly from side to side which is not good. It had been quite calm at the bottom and our guide said she had never been on it in such windy conditions. I think we were all relieved to get off at the top. One guy went off to descend on a mountain bike, four on a quad bike tour and just us and the guide in a huge, heavy-duty 4x4 truck.

Calafate Mountain

There were fantastic views across Lago Argentino to the Andes. It was an extremely clear day and we could see Mount Fitz Roy well over a hundred km away to the north west and peaks of Torres del Paine to the south west.

Icebergs were visible floating down from the Upsala glacier which is north of the Perito Moreno. There were quite a few way down the lake at Bocas del Diablo, the narrowest part of the lake at Upsala.

Calafate Mountain

The landscape on top of the mountain is fascinating, huge boulders and exposed rocks formed billions of years ago.

Calafate Mountain

The wind was so strong that the driver didn't think it advisable to open the doors to get out to take photos at the more exposed spots. It was too windy to walk far even when we did get out at a more sheltered point.

Calafate Mountain
Calafate Mountain

 

It's a very bleak and rocky landscape with little variety, though our guide was very nice and explained a lot about the geological formations.

At a cafe in a dip in the landscape we met up with the quad bikers - they looked frozen - and had hot chocolate, small jam-filled sponge cakes and very sweet shortbread sandwiched with a sweet filling.



Calafate Mountain


Calafate Mountain
Calafate Mountain

The wind had increased with gusts upto 90 km/hr so the chair lift had been stopped and the 4x4 took us back down. It was a very winding, rutted and steep descent - upto 60° in places.

Calafate Mountain
Calafate Mountain

Going down on the 4x4 meant we could stop on the way to see some very weird geological formations: large iron balls embedded in the rock and looking exactly like sombreros, they are called Mexican hats by the locals.

Calafate Mountain