Perito Moreno Hike
After being told that the temperature atop Perito Moreno was -4 degrees Fahrenheit, I wore as much clothes as I can comfortably walk in. Waking up at the wee hours of the morning was extremely easy when I knew I’d be hiking across one of the world’s most famous glaciers.
An hour and half bus ride and a half hour boat ride across Argentino Lake all led up to a mountain hike through a forest. We arrived at a cabin where we left our lunch-filled backpacks and I was loaned a pair of hiking boots. I wore water proof, leather boots in the hopes of keeping my toes nice and warm, but was told they wouldn’t work well with the crampons I was about to wear.
We hiked again to a rocky shore where we received a quick geography lesson: First of all, Perito Moreno gets its name from Francisco Moreno, an Argentine explorer who helped defend the territory during the Argentine/Chile border disputes. “Perito” means “expert.”
The mountains that Perito Moreno descends from are right on the Argentine/Chilean border. On the Chilean side, the base of the mountains are very close to the Pacific Ocean, which means these mountains are constantly receiving a heavy dose of humid wind and when this wind makes it to the summit of the mountain, the precipitation comes down as snow. This snow falls at the top of Perito Moreno at a rate of about one inch per day.
All this fallen snow creates a tremendous amount of weight on the glacier and gravity pushes it down the mountain at a rate of about six feet a day.
Perito Moreno was created by 400 years of this process: snow falls at the top of the mountain, it compresses and becomes ice and slides the entire mass father down the mountain towards the Peninsula de Magallanes.
The conditions of where the glacier is created must be absolutely perfect to keep it in constant motion. Whether the glacier moves forward or stays put all depends on the amount of mass it loses.
Perito Moreno’s latest trend has been to reach the Peninsula de Magallanes about every four years and create a damn in Argentino Lake. The south side of the lake then begins to rise, creating more friction against the glacier, the water will eventually erode the ice and create a magnificent tunnel. Once this tunnel is created and water starts rushing through, it’ll take about four to six days for the damn to fully collapse and once again, there will be a gap between the peninsula and Perito Moreno.
Now, back to the adventure.
After the lesson we hiked up a steep and rocky hill to come face-to-face with the base of the glacier.
We walked in a straight line, trying to step in the exact same places where the previous persons’ crampons already broke apart the hard ice.
There are craters all over the surface of the glacier that were created by melting water. Standing on top of the giant sheet of ice, all you hear is the wind and the water running through those craters. It’s a constant waterfall sound as the glacier has thousands of inner waterfalls and rivers.
We reached a stream of water where I couldn’t resist and had a drink from the massive water fountain. I took my glove off and reached into the icy water, cupping probably the purest water I’ve ever tasted.
As it turns out, glacier water has no minerals and although it serves for hydration, it doesn’t provide our bodies with the nutrients it needs.
Our hike lasted an hour and as we turned a corner upon our descent, we spotted a table.
A couple of alfajores, a bowl filled with glacier ice, a few glasses and a bottle of whiskey awaited us. I’m not a whiskey drinker so I grabbed my glass with glacier ice and stuck it under a nearby waterfall. With my pristine glass of water and several others with whiskey, we cheered to a magical and unforgettable adventure.
We climbed off the glacier and took our crampons off. Then hiked back to the cabin to sit beside a fire and have lunch. Our hike then continued as we walked back to boat, then onto the bus and drove to the Peninsula de Magallanes to walk along the coast facing the glacier and view it from all angles.
I passed out on the bus ride back to El Calafate. Could you blame me? It was an eight-hour hike through all sorts of terrain, including the famous and majestic Perito Moreno!
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