Tuesday, 23 November 2010

... Patagonia: Make Mine A Double!

The valley glacier Glaciar Viedma flows into the western end of Lago Viedma, which it feeds with its melting ice. Viedma is one of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field outlet glaciers that has more than 20 square kilometres of area. That's a heck of a lot of ice!

A little after 8am I was enroute to Puerto Bahia Tunel to catch a boat that would take me ice trekking on the glacier for around 2.5 hours. The weather gods had been extremely generous quite possibly realizing that another day of torrential downpour would quite simply be cruel. The sun was shining and very few clouds were in the sky. Still, I looked more like a modern day Sir Ernest Shackleton and if not then I was certainly dressed for an Antarctic expedition.

The boat ride was relatively quick and painless. In fact the crossing itself wasn't bad at all although as usual there was the usual hurricane blowing. There was, however, one annoyance: a species known as Vegrandis penis amplus venit vir. Found commonly in areas such as this, the small penis large camera man is a pesky creature. Rude, arrogant and extremely confident they barge past other polite and patient photographers often knocking them flying in a bid to get their shot. You could hear a boatful of the same thought: "Hey buddy. You're not the only one here and there are 4 sides to this boat and plenty of opportunity to get your national geographic shot." You can imagine what it was like as we sailed by a huge iceberg. He was lucky he didn't get my elbow in his groin when he graciously sent myself & an elderly lady flying as he barged past us.

The glacier terminus is about 2 km wide at the point at which it enters the lake and ends in a cliff about 200 ft high.  As we disembarked the boat onto some rock just to the left you could hear the thunderous roar as a chunk of ice fell off the terminus and into the lake to float away.

The group was to be split into 3 for the trek across the awesome lunar landscapes of ice.  The guide tried to create a group that would consist of myself and the David Bailey-wannabe. Erm. Yeah but no. A simple "no" was all that was needed... albeit a little more aseertive than one might normally be. Once crampons were on it was time to start. The best way to walk "normally" is to walk like you've just got off a horse... that is until you are walking downhill where you walk with your feet forward and your back straight. Presumably to stop yourself from going arse-over-tit.

Glacial debris of soil & rock known as glacial moraines entwined with the white ice mass. Areas where the stress between the slower moving ice along the valley walls and the faster moving central glacial ice had cracked and formed crevasses. It was like walking on a frozen moon. There were even ice caves with most brilliant colours of blue. The guides were fantastic : extremely knowledgeable and safety conscious... then they whipped out two bottles of Baileys! Woo hoo! A bunch of plastic glasses were filled with ice from the one place ice was plentiful and then Baileys on glacial rocks was savoured. I suspect some people quite possibly trekked back at a rather slower more cautious pace.

If I hadn't walked enough in the last two days, there's a nice hike from the park ranger office up to a lookout point that gives you an awesome view of Fitz Roy.  Despite quite a bit of a climb it didn't take long. Well certainly not for this little Miss A-Type. And it was certainly worth it. I even shed a few layers along the way although promptly put it all back on at the top of course when re-exposed to the Patagonian winds.

A hearty veggie soup for dinner at La Cerveceria Brew Pub & Resto, who microbew their own pilsner & bock, was in order for this wannabe explorer before the 2.5 hours drive to El Calafate.

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