Thursday, December 6, 2007

Perito Moreno glacier and El Chalten

The Perito Moreno glacier is unusual in that it is one of the few glaciers in the world that is still advancing rather than receding. It is incredibly hard to comprehend the sheer size of it let alone describe it. Even when you are there it is hard to get perspective on it. The front wall of the glacier is about as high as a twenty storey building and the whole area of the glacier is about as big as Buenos Aires. This is just a small section of the whole Patagonia ice-sheet which is second in size only to Greenland. As the glacier advances large sections of the front wall crash down into the lake causing huge splashes and new icebergs. We only saw some small breaks when we were there but they seem so load and dramatic it must be incredible when there are huge falls.
We caught a boat out along the glacier but still kept to 300 metres from the wall otherwise the falling ice can be really dangerous.

From El Calafate we drove to El Chalten across the Argentinian steppes, huge plains of scrub where´s nothing much but sheep estancias (ranches). They need huge areas of land in proportion to the amount of sheep as the land is so infertile. Due to the strong winds and low moisture the plants are all very low to the ground. El Chalten, is a funny little town which seems like the last place on the Wild Frontier. Mostly just used a base for hikers heading to Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. In winter I think there are only 600 hardy souls left here.

Our first day we did about a 9-hour hike up to a view across Laguna de los Tres to Cerro Fitzroy. Serious climbers spend a number of days crossing the glaciers to summit the peak so we really just arriving at their first base camp. With the aid of a good support bandage, my knee was much better and managed to complete the trail. Again we were lucky with the weather in that we had a clear views of the peaks without any rain and only a light scattering of some snow flakes at the top!

(Connection doesn´t seem to be working too well at the moment so will have to finish this later. For now, there´s a giant piece of chocolate cake with my name on it. Just as well we´re getting some exercise in this place otherwise I´d be rolling home.)