It’s one thing to sit there and stare at Perito Moreno Glacier, but it’s a completely different feeling to actually walk on it.
Before I begin describing our experience, I feel like I need to take you back to New York. About six weeks before our trip, Husband J mentioned that we needed to prepare for this all-day walk. I said, “What are you talking about? What exactly do we need?!” Since I have never proclaimed myself to be outdoorsy in any sense of the word, I was just confused. Was Husband J just up to his old tricks of trying to find excuses to make trips to the REI store (a US camping store chain that just opened its first first NYC location)?
We spent a solid two hours in the store with me trying on everything from extra-strength thermal underwear to hiking boots. The entire time I was rolling my eyes. Do I really need all of this? Here’s the fruit our shopping spree:
Do you think I’m warm enough? I had about five layers on. The rain pants are from LL Bean.
I now know why I don’t do outdoor stuff. The clothes themselves are super expensive!
The entire time I was in the store buying all of this gear, I said to Husband J, “I think we’ll be fine as long as it doesn’t rain.” Famous. Last. Words. We had the worst weather of our time in Patagonia the day of our trek. It was beyond cold and wet, and you better know that I was totally rethinking our decision to do this activity.
Some things you should know about walking/trekking or whatever you want to call it on Perito Moreno:
The tour company, Hielo y Aventura (Ice & Adventure), has the exclusive license for trekking excursions on Perito Moreno. There are two types: Mini-Ice and the Big Ice. The Mini-Ice is a half-day trip that allows visitors to walk on the ice for approximately an hour. The Big Ice trek allows for about three hours on the ice.* Both tours allow for one hour at the Perito Moreno pasarelas. Me being me, I chose the Big Ice.
After our one hour drive just to get to the Glaciers National Park, the weather just got worse.
The part of the glacier where visitors trek is actually on another side from the the pasarelas, so we hopped on a boat to get there.
Now what they don’t mention when you do the Big Ice Trek is that you have an approximately 30-40 minute hike BEFORE you even get to the portion of the glacier where you’ll be walking. Yeah….I was happy that I’d been going to the gym. That hike was not even cute. Not even close. The terrain got relatively hard to maneuver in some places. When the Big Ice trek is described on the website, they say a “moderate” level of fitness is required. I don’t know about that. I wouldn’t say don’t do it, but just know that this isn’t going to be an easy, breezy experience.**
Hiking, Hiking, Hiking…
I still look like I’m having a good time, huh? Just kidding. I was pretty bundled up and happy about it. I have to admit that I was shocked at some of the footwear and apparel some members of the group were sporting. One guy was soaked through his thin rain paints to the point that he asked to go back and didn’t go on the glacier at all. I guess you can’t really plan for all weather (or can you?), but I was sending happy, thankful looks Husband J’s way.
The rain kept coming. After awhile I just got used to be being wet, at least on the outside. Then we came to this waterfall, and we had to cross this rather narrow bridge. I had to just laugh because there was no way that we were not going to get absolutely soaked. Yay for extra water! (Not!)
If you’re wondering, it was one big soaking.
Also it wasn’t just rain that was making our hike a tad unpleasant. There was also strong wind. At one point, our guides announced that we probably were going to have less time walking on the ice than usual. After suiting up with harnasses and adding crampons to our boots, we finally stepped onto the glacier.
I don’t know what happened, but Mother Nature and the Glacier decided to give us one big welcome. I have never experienced so much wind and ice blasting my face. I could barely stand and had to move my body in the opposite direction from the wind to try to avoid the force of the wind scattering small bits of ice onto my face. It was completely unreal. Old, non-outdoorswoman Terri would have probably freak, but I was actually comfy between my five layers of clothes. All of these outdoor activities from my travels have toughened me up a bit.
Again, our guides gathered to talk. One mentioned that this was probably one of the worst days that he’s ever experienced on the glacier. They warned us that we’d have less time on the ice, but they’d decide that based on the conditions.
It didn’t matter. It was still so beautiful once we actually got on the glacier.
To walk up and down, you’ve got to dig your crampon into ice at just the right angle. Apparently, I am very good at this. Luckily, all of that wind and rain went away, and it was all worth the minutes of crazy weather and long hike. Do you remember the Superman movies (the first one with Christopher Reeeve)? Well, it looked like we had just found Superman’s lair.
The ice melts and cools constantly, and there are small streams running throughout. Some folks refilled their water bottles.
Our guides were no joke. They ran on the ice like it was nothing. Their crampons were like sneakers. I give them credit but walking with crampons really strains your ankles (well, it strained mine).
Occasionally, the guides would have to crack ice to make steps for us to walk comfortably across certain parts of the glacier.
As our time on the ice wore on and the weather calmed down, everyone in the group became more comfortable and decided to take pictures, including Husband J and me.
Check the crampons, yo!
You know I couldn’t do all that and not say something. Here’s my quick impression of our day on the ice.
Perito Moreno Big Ice Trek Vlog from TAOTerri on Vimeo.
It was totally worth the wind and rain to experience the desolate beauty that is Perito Moreno up close. I will make a public shout out to Husband J for making sure that we both stayed warm. I will never doubt him again…at least not on outdoor stuff anyway.
Have you ever experienced extreme weather while traveling?
* These were the terms of tour earlier this year. It may have changed. Please contact Hielo y Aventura.
** This may have changed as well on the website. Contact Hielo y Aventura for more information.