Ice hiking in Patagonia

By Carolyn Tiernan

Courtesy of Carolyn Tiernan

For my Spring Break, I flew down to Argentinian Patagonia, to the towns of El Calafate and El Chalten.  Patagonia is the term for the entire southern region of Argentina and Chile, and the towns I visited are known for glaciers and hiking, respectively.  My Dad also came from the states to visit, so we had an epic father-daughter outdoorsy vacation.

The main tourist draw of El Calafate is the Perito Moreno glacier, which is just one of the glaciers in the southern Patagonia ice field.  The glacier however, is easily accessed and viewed from platforms on the coast of Lago Argentino across from it.  Many excursions are offered by tourist companies to visit the glacier, and my Dad and I decided to do the BIG ICE hike.

We were picked up bright and early at our hotel at 7AM and loaded onto a bus to drive into the Glaciers National Park.  It’s about an hour drive each way, so we got to see the sun rise over the lakes and impressive landscapes. We were also given a little time to look at the glacier from the observation platforms, taking a short boat ride to the other side of Lago Argentino where the base for the excursion was.  We had about an hour hike on steep gravel paths along the side of the glacier to the launch point.

Once we got there we were fitted for crampons and harnesses (you know, in case we fell into a crevice). At this point the wind picked up (we’re talking walking past the DuBois library strong) as well as a steady rain.  We spend the next 4 hours hiking along the surface of the glacier with our two guides.  We got to see hidden crevices and little rivers/lakes, and eat lunch on the glacier.  I even filled up my empty water bottle with fresh glacier water! We finished the day with the hour hike back to where we boarded the boat, and enjoyed a whisky on the rocks with fresh glacier ice! It was easily one of the most surreal and exhilarating experiences of my life. Despite the weather, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I’m glad I was able to share it with my Dad.

Carolyn Tiernan can be reached for comment at [email protected]