Mini-Trekking on Glaciar Perito Merino
El Calafate Travel Blog› entry 17 of 20 › view all entries
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
Perito Merino Glacier is truly one of the fascinating sites of Patagonia. One of the few "stable" glaciers on the planet, Perito Merino Glacier dwarfs even those that I had seen earlier on this journey. And to experience walking on and under the glacier truly makes one appreciate the world around them. Unfortunately the best (only?) way to experience the glacier trek is through a tour with Hielo y Aventura (see accompanying review for more details). While an excellent excursion, there was a bit of the herding of the sheep feeling to the day of which I am not very fond, but that could probably not be avoided. But enough of the grousing, let us simply get to the day's tale.
Today was my last full day in Patagonia and South America (except for tomorrow's travel day). I had a morning pick-up at 8:30 AM for the 80 km trip to Perito Merino Glacier. So I was down for breakfast a bit before 8:00 to get some food, pick up my sack lunch, and await transportation. Jim and Susan came down as well, closer to 8:30 (they had hit breakfast and headed back to their room before I came down). Transportation arrived shortly after 8:30 AM and we loaded into the 15 passenger van. We were the last stop for the van but our destination at this point was only a larger bus to take out to the glacier. Changed vehicles and were on our way once again. Heading west out of El Calafate we had some additional stops to pick-up additional excursion members.
The drive in was uneventful and relatively boring. Nothing really exciting to see as for the most part as the lake existed initially on our right (north) and the flat dry land around us. Eventually we left the main lake to cross the peninsula to the Brazo Rico arm of the lake. On the drive in we passed the boundary into Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. The bus stopped and a park employee boarded to take our 30 Peso ($9-10) park entrance fee (for international visitors). A short while after the park entrance we started to get some tantalizing glimpses or Perito Merino itself. Before we reached the main viewing platforms for the glacier itself, the bus pulled into a small lot down towards the Brazo Rico. There our boat (appropriately named the Perito Merino) was waiting to transport the group of 40 or so peole to the opposite shore of the lake.
During our short boat journey the southern section of the glacier appeared from around the Magallenic peninsula. It was truly an incredible sight. It was much taller than Grey Glacier (Perito Moreno 150-200 ft tall, Grey 100 ft tall) that I had viewed 10 days or so earlier, and chunks of ice continually calved off the face emitting loud roars as the ice tumbled into the waters below. If you were hearing the roar you had already missed the actual calving of the ice, but you could see the after-effects as the ice and slush rippled out from where contact with the water had been made. Our boat ride was a short 20 minutes or so to the opposite shore and we were met by guides who separated the people into two groups - English and Spanish speakers.
The glacier trek on Perito Moreno was quite tame compared to Glaciar Grande/Torre earlier in the week.
After the glacier trek itself we got to experience what I found to be the most interesting and amazing views of today's excursion. A trip further up the edge of the glacier brought us to the entrance of some ice caves underneath the glacier itself. Our guide presented us with two entrances to the caves; one a walk in/walk through a short section. A second entrance presented some other views, but also required a bit of spider-crawling around in the mud to navigate the low ice-ceilings. Being the adventurous sort, I chose the second option along with two other trekkers that I did not know.
But all too soon we were directed to return to the surface world above. A bit dirtier, but amazed at what I had just experienced I slowly walked back to the hut at the shore of the lake to await our return to the main peninsula. Ate my sack lunch while waiting for the boat and then we were off again. Upon disembarking we were herded back on to the bus for the journey to the viewing platforms.
The platforms also provided a clearer view of the ice dam the glacier had formed as it ran aground on the Magellenic Peninsula. Every few years the glacier advances far enough to touch the peninsula at which point the Brazo Rico arm of Lago Argentino is effectively dammed from the outlet of the lake.
Lower views gave closer views of the north face. With our strict schedule I hurried through the views with Jim and Susan. We tried to wait and capture a decent image of the glacier calving but Perito Moreno would not give us a good thundering crash on this day.
And with that we were heading back to El Calafate. As the bus journeyed back on its 1+ hour trip to town, I realized that this was my last true activity for my Patagonia adventure. This evening I would have a final dinner with my new friends at a nice little restaurant in El Calafate (a wonderful meal of lamb and appetizers along with a bottle of an excellent Merlot), then return to the El Shehuen and prepare for my homeward journey the following morning. But if there was a final way to experience Patagonia, Perito Merino Glacier was as amazing and wonderous an excursion as one could have.