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We flew from Bariloche to El Calafate on the 6th January. El Calafate is in very southern Argentina, and is the gateway to the Los Glaciers National Park, which of course, is full of glaciers.
Now any town was going to look ugly after Bariloche, but El Calafate would have managed to look ugly even if we had come from Mt Isa. The town purely exists as a base for people to visit the glaciers, and apparently it is nearly shut down in winter.
We took an afternoon trip to the Perito Moreno glacier, as apparently there are less people there in the afternoon. The Perito Moreno glacier is unique as it is one of the few glaciers that is actually advancing, rather than retreating, in the world.
First glance of the glacier showed it to be very big, and we then got a boat up to the south face of the glacier, to get close and personal with it. On the deck of the boat it was very windy and very cold, but gave us a good chance to take some close photos and appreciate the size of the glacier. It has a height of about 60 metres from the lake, and massive.
We then went and spent some time on the viewing platforms opposite the glacier. From there we could see the huge chunks of ice falling off the face of it, and crashing to the water below, while it was advancing. The sound made when pieces came off was the best bit, really loud. Dave got a few áction´ shots of this, which was very impressive.
The next day we got a bus to El Chalten, a very small 3 hours to the north of El Calafate, and the base town for trips into the northern part of the Los Glaciers park, which has the Fitzroy massif and Torres peaks in it.
We did a guided walk in the park to Lake Torres, to then go walking on the glacier between the lake and the mountains behind. Getting to the glacier involved hauling ourselves across a parallel flying fox, to cross a river. Would have been easier for them to build a bridge, but probably not as much of a drawcard for the tourists.
Walking on the glacier was okay, I think Dave would have liked it to be a bit more dangerous, but I was fine with it. The guides pointed out various parts of the glacier, but my favourite aspect of walking on the glacier was being closer to the Torres peaks, one of the main features of the park. We were lucky to have a relatively clear day as well.
On the glacier, the guides rigged up some ice climbing, and anyone who wanted could have a go. Dave climbed the harder part of the wall, which was more vertical and harder ice (therefore more difficult to sink in the front of the crampons), and I wussed out as I was feeling lazy, and preserving what little upper body strength I have for crossing back over the river with the flying fox.
All in all, it was a fun day, and I would never have walked as far as we did (about 30 kms round trip, or so Dave overheard), to get close to the Torres, if we had not taken the tour. On the walk back to town, which the guides left us to do ourselves as the paths were so well marked, Dave got stuck being a guide to an Argentine tourist who walked at a snails pace due to a sore knee. I didn´t have the patience to walk that slow, and wanted to get back to a shower. Hence my day was maybe 12.5 hours, and Daves over 13.
The next day we did a much shorter walk to a viewpoint to see the Fitzroy peak, only about 3 hours return. We then returned that night to El Calafate, so as to catch a bus to Puerto Natales, in Chile, the following morning.
More photos can be seen here.