The Viedma Glacier in El Chalten

Today we actually walk on a glacier itself. Our choice for this activity is the Viedma glacier at El Chalten. This glacier is the 2nd largest in South America at over 900 sq km in surface area and 150 to 200 m deep.

First off after being dropped on the bank by the boat is a 30 minute walk to the glacier along a landscape of very smooth colourful boulders of reds, oranges, pinks and browns. We are told that only 22 years ago that landscape was covered in ice, that is how fast this glacier is shrinking and adding to rising sea levels. Once at the glacier we attach crampons to our shoes, large spikes that sink into the slippery ice and provide grip as we walk at angles of 45 deg and more. We are taught to waddle like ducks with bent knees and thump our feet so that the spikes get deep and grip.

The Glacier

What followed was an hour and a half of walking on a totally alien and unique landscape, both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. Around spiky and over smooth ice, through ice tunnels where it was raining on you and the surface was a fascinating translucent smooth deep blue, and stepping over crevasses where you could not see the bottom. There were even lakes, caves and waterfalls. This is definitely one of the coolest things to do (pun intended).

At the highest point on our journey the tour guides used a pick axe and plastic cups and we drank Bailey’s cooled by vintage 500 year old ice, nothing tasted better or cooler. Special mention to the guides who were excellent, and seemingly everywhere as they virtually ran around the ice watching us all. I especially worried about Elizabeth as she has a habit of watching the scenery more than her feet, but at one point when she seemed off balance a guide came from nowhere lending a hand. Even though at times I was scared silly, this activity was amazing and goes down in my top three of things I have done, the other 2 being scuba diving at the barrier reef and flying an aerobatic plane.

 

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