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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

Trekking on BIG ICE

ARGENTINA | Sunday, 6 January 2008 | Views [2504]

El Calafate is the entry point in Argentina for Parque Nacional Los Glaciars, and the massive advancing Glaciar Perito Moreno.  Of course, we wouldn't be satisfied just standing here looking at it ... we need to get out on beast and feel it under our feet.  We waited three days to get into the "Big Ice" trek where we would get to spend an entire day actually walking on the mammoth field of ice.  We could've done the one hour "mini trekking", but it just didn't seem as impressive or interesting when one of the big German hostal guests told me he did 'mini trekking' yesterday.  So, we strapped on our packs, harness (in case we fell into a crevasse), and crampons with ten others and trekked up the side of the glacier for an hour before we could actually step onto it.

We have the most amazing day out here on the ice field, and the weather couldn't be better... the entire prior three days in El Calafate have been full of wind storms and cold temperatures.  Even this morning when we awoke, it was still raining from the night storm.  Arriving at the base of the glacier this morning, where it meets and grows into the lake, the clouds are clearing, creating trippy hues of vivid blues in the ice.  The sound of the glacier cracking, expanding and falling into the icy waters far below was eerie, and set the adrenaline stage for our five hour trek.

Stepping onto the glacier is a completely surreal experience.  Similar in texture to the jutting landscape of Valle de la Luna in northern Chile (only ice instead of sand and rock), we zig-zag our way across peaks and valleys, channels and glacial rivers and lakes, stopping for our guides to instruct us on crossing deep blue water-filled crevasses and walking across translucent ice that drops tens of meters below us, deep into the massive ice.  The crampons aren't so easy to walk in, and although we are taught new skills for walking up, down, and traversing the glacial ice, it is still inevitable that the occasional ankle gets twisted.

The colors of the ice holes, streams, and lakes are like none we've ever seen.  Our guides educate us about the vivid blues we see.  They tell us that the ice that is less compact and still has air bubbles in it, absorbs white light, and therefore appears as white in color to us.  The brilliant blue colors are produced from the portions of ice that are much more densely compacted, squeezing out the air bubbles and absorbing blue light.  We've never seen blues this color before, and we recall our flight from Calama down to Santiago, as we peered out the airplane windows, seeing strikingly blue colored lakes, wondering if they were really lakes, and how they could be so blue.  We now have learned that the color coming from the glaciers, some lakes have iceberg debris which refracts the light, causing the unusual color.

While our harnesses we wear for safety and rescue purposes only, our guides have an alternative use for them; each guide on either side of me holding each leg harness, leaving me suspended over a deep glacial hole, peering down to the raging river far below the surface, enabling the glacier to move forward. While I wasn't as fearful on the glacial ice as I had been in Guatemala on the active lava field, I have decided if there were to be an accident, I think I'd rather slop through an icy glacial crevasse pool versus slipping through crackling hardened lava into the depths of firey hot molten lava.  Maybe my body would freeze, like the Inca mummies still preserved in ice from early sacrificial days.  And if rescued, maybe I'd have a chance of being resuscitated.  The alternative of melting away in molten lava is just much less attractive of a way to go.  Which would you choose?  Luckily we have great guides who are testing the ice every step of the way, carving steps into steep slopes down to glacial rivers, and leading us through narrow channels across crevasses and lakes safely.  We're only at the mercy of our tired, weary and very out of shape bodies that are now acing just three hours into the trek.  Walking with these crampons on is a bit of a challenge.  By the time we hit the dirt trail again to head back, we can barely move our legs, however, taking off the crampons makes us feel like we're waling on clouds. I'm even offered a job by one of our young guides, to help with future tours, but having to be at the glacier at 6:00 a.m. sharp each day in the freezing cold weather isn't exactly where I think my dream job is at right now.  That said, if I keep eating Argentinean beef t the rate I am, I'll have a nice big fat layer of padding to help me keep warm for those foul weather tours, and perhaps it's my new calling, certainly a big departure from siting behind a computer and in unnecessary meetings in the corporate world.

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