July 19, 2024

It’s surreal – and a lit bit disorienting – to hike into the middle of a vast glacier.  Yes, you have a mountain as reference along one horizon, but turn around and as far as the eye can see there is nothing but ice. I’ve always been a fan of the narratives of the polar explorers and though today we only hiked for little more than six hours, I came away with a much grander appreciation of their individual perseverance and fortitude.

A short boat ride from Bajo las Sombras across Lago Argentina brought us face to face with the towering ice walls of  Perito Moreno Glacier.  At roughly 3 miles wide and 100-feet high (plus, don’t forget what’s below the waterline: another 300-feet of ice) it’s not the largest glacier in town.  It is, however, the only one to which you can virtually drive up and jump aboard.

A guide awaited us as we landed on the opposite side of Moreno’s north face.  After checking gear, we picked up our crampons, got fitted for harnesses, and hiked up the lateral moraine towards the center of the glacier.  After about an hour, we finally stepped away from terra firma and out onto the surprisingly hard ice.  I don’t know why it was such a surprise; it is, after all, ice.  But perhaps it’s because when viewed at a distance the glacier – despite its girth – looks ethereal.  I half-expected the terrain to have the texture (and taste) of gelato.  Turn the sound up on this video and you’ll hear that nothing could be further than the truth.

The ice sounds like it is alive.  Occasionally there is a deep low rumble, as if the ground were about to start shifting beneath your feet.  Or a high-pitched thunder, as though someone fired off a rifle round in the near distance.  It’s the pressure of the all that ice seeking release.  I couldn’t imagine being out here in the dark or all alone. There are huge moulins, crevasses, and caves that shimmer a milky blue in the sunlight.   (The ice is not actually blue but a trick of the eye, functioning like a prism as it’s hit by the light)  There are unexpected rivers, lakes, and waterfalls, too.  The absence of life doesn’t mean the glaciers aren’t alive by any means.

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