After a short ride from El Chaltén, we boarded a small boat on Lake Viedma. Passing by stately blue and white icebergs floating in the grey water of the vast body of water, we only saw the biggest glacier of Argentina after we rounded a cape. Squeezing itself down through the mountains like a giant blue and white monster, the face of the glacier rises some 40m from the surface of the lake. The wind was whipping up waves around us as we approached the Viedma Glacier, but when we reached the far end of the lake, we entered a curiously calm stretch of water. From here, we got a much better perspective of the massive wall of ice in front of us.
We navigated around a gigantic iceberg, of which it was not even clear if it was floating or not; perhaps it was stuck on the floor of the lake. The sunlight was cutting through the ice, showing off brilliant hues of blue. Every now and then, small chunks of ice would plunge into the waters of enormous Viedma lake. After sailing by the face of the glacier again, we docked at the other side of the glacier. From here, we hiked over the brown-yellow-red rock, shining and shaped by thousands of years of being covered by a heavy ice mass. The Viedma glacier is receding; only 20 years ago, the rocks we were walking on were still covered by the ice mass. When we reached the western side of the glacier, we strapped on our crampons, and started walking on the glacier itself. We were now walking the biggest glacier of Argentina, bigger than all Alpine glaciers combined. For the moment, however, we could not see much of it.
What had looked like a frozen, still ice monster from a distance, now turned out to be very alive. Small streams were running down the icy surface of the Viedma glacier, there were small pools with a curiously translucent blue bed, there were wide crevasses so deep you could not see the bottom, in stunningly shades of deep blue. All the while, it seemed like we were trekking on a massive pile of ice cubes. One of the guides told me that the trekking route actually changes every few days; the glacier is in constant move, and what is safe to walk on today, might be dangerous tomorrow. When we reached a higher ledge of ice, we could finally see the surface of the glacier - it stretched all the way to the horizon. It was now possible to get an idea of the enormity of the Viedma glacier. Together with the other glaciers in Patagonia, this ice mass is the third largest in the world after Antarctica and Greenland. We took a different route now, looking up at the jagged peaks of the ever melting ice above us. To celebrate our trek over the ice, one of the guides collected ice cubes and we were served Baileys on natural ice. It marked the beginning of the end: we walked down the glacier, crossed the rocks again and reached the boat that would take us back to the other side of the lake.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Viedma Glacier (Argentina). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Viedma Glacier. Read more about this site.