When Glaciers Run Blue

During our Patagonia trip, I had a realization that writing it now seems so apparent, but I had never formulated into a whole thought before: what I am longing for in a good trip is often someplace remote. The set-apartness from cities, crowds, and technological noise is really what makes a place refreshing, even if it involves multiple flights.


At the same time, when we are in remote places--places like Sapa in Vietnam or the wilderness of Tanzania, I feel a bit of fear. What if I fall? Can I keep up with a group? So, a bit of trepidation anticipated me with this part of the trip since booking a glacial hike. But, I also really wanted to get on the ice, since we had such an incredible hike in Iceland three years ago. And we had been assured we were up for the Big Ice Glacial Trek numerous times by our travel agents. Spot the hikers below for scale.


In case geography is a getting a little warped, this part of our trip was in the Argentine side of Patagonia, centered around the Perito Moreno glacier and Los Glacieres National Park. The previous day we had a bit of a bird's view of the glacier on the park's platforms, but this day, we started very early with a hotel pickup an hour drive back to the same glacier for the actual hike on the glacier with the same tour company who had taken us on the boat ride the previous day.


Thankfully, clear blue skies welcomed us, and a bold glare off the glacier, compared to the prior day's cooler climes. We spent another hour on the platforms before being transported back again to a boat, this time taking us across the glacier's face for our trek's start.


We disembarked just 20 minutes later, and started what would be a 7 hour hike up onto the ice and back.


The group was quite large and split into smaller groups of about 10-15 after being geared up.  But we aren't there quite yet. First, an hour of hiking up the moraine: soil, wet and digested by the glacier, a bit like crumbled cookies. 


On one side, there was nearly alpine landscape of flowers, waterfalls and fallen trees, 


and on our right, the glacier face stood up right next to us.


The higher we got, the less greenery along the path. Occasionally, we've veer off into the woods to our left, but most of the ascent was just on rocky ground.


We stopped once for helmets and harnesses, which we never used, and were only in case we slipped. And then we stopped again 20 minutes later to be fitted for crude metal crampons--basically metal spikes that strap over boots and grip the ice.


And then, our first steps on the ice. And immediately, I exhaled relief. The ice was much more crumbled on top that our slick glacier hike had been in Iceland, and much easier to walk on without worry of slipping.  Here are our guides demonstrating how to hold our feet so as not to slip. 


Both times we've been on glaciers, I've been surprised how not-cold I felt. We were fortunate with the turquoise skies. For one short moment, a cloud came down the mountains and dusted us with ice and snow, but thankfully left just as quickly as it had arrived. You can see I'd pulled out another layer, probably my 4th or 5th. The helmet is also a nice fashion accessory, right?


The Perito Moreno glacier is very active, which means it moves quickly (a few meters daily as opposed to a year in Iceland), and the architecture of the ice was very fluid, with lots of bright blue streams running across the surface. 

That color was incredibly stunning, and so pure we filled our bottles again and again. The only hard part was getting our hands into the stream so it would fill the bottle without dampening our gloves. Needless to say, Walker took photos while I attempted.


My friends, I had nothing to worry about. This trip was extremely safety-forward, and the ice much flatter and simpler to hike than in Iceland. Time just streamed by with those icy veins under our feet. I was constantly surprised by how the ice held us when it looked paper-thin.


The endlessly transfixing formations were my favorite part, especially when we could see their anatomy under the water. These are not reflections; you're looking with us straight into the water.


Doesn't the color look almost Caribbean? 


After a few hours of hiking around, we stopped for lunch, a water refill, and time to breathe in this.


One of the highlights of tours is meeting new people, and we chatting with a few other couples, most of whom were on the tail end of their trip.


The whole time we walked, we learned their stories, heard where they had been, and unfortunately, didn't ask to borrow their sunscreen. Walker was a peach for days after from the glacier's glare.


Another few hours and it was time to head off the ice.


The walk along the moraine seemed much further on the way back, probably because my thighs were feeling the crampon burn.


It was a relief to unstrap their weight and walk with my feet normally again.


We ended back where we had started, at the face of the glacier, now shaded and a bit chillier than the morning.


And when we boarded the fayre ferry back, a glacial treat awaited us (really, Walker).


What depths of wildness and remoteness are always beyond, and what a joy to approach, with our own feet, this greatness.