a highlight for me. My hikes at home in Los
Angeles don’t include Andean vistas bedazzled
by dense rivers of fluorescent blue-and-white
ice — heck, I’m likely to bring an ascent to a
full stop if I see so much as a lone wildflower
along my city’s dry and dusty trails.
So, confronted with Argentina’s largest
glacier, I did as any nature-starved, urban-desert
dweller would do — I snapped photos like I
would never see a glacier again. And I delighted
in how the clouds seemed as giddy as me, bringing and removing shade in their rapid flight.
I also took a good look at the rock floor
below me. These days, no lesson about glaciers
feels complete without a conversation about
what happens after the ice melts.
Pointing to the boulders underneath our
feet, Burbano explained that their color and
texture — smooth, scarred, orange, gray —
reveal how ice moved over them.
I got a similar lesson in erosion and abra-
sion after visiting Upsala Glacier at Estancia
Cristina, a lodge in a wild and remote — even
by Patagonian standards — swath of land previ-
ously occupied by the Argentinean government,
which once conducted glacial studies here.
At Upsala, guides once again waxed
nostalgic about its receding ice line before
leading my group on a hike through fossil-rich
land glaciers left behind.
“This is classic glacier moraine,” said Cecilia
Costa, our host at the lodge, as we trekked
through a strikingly bare, black-and-brown
landscape showing the first weeds of life. “The
ice melted, so we just have rocks, air, water and
organic materials. Most of us live in areas that
were once covered by glaciers, but here you can
Savvy suppliers are not only explaining the
area’s changes during trips, but they’re evolving
with the landscape, too.
In response to Viedma’s retreat, for example,
Fitz Roy Expediciones built Patagonia’s first via
ferrata, which makes the relatively unexplored
Cagliero Sur Glacier accessible for ice trekking.
Though the Upsala, Viedma and Perito
Moreno glaciers are the park’s boldfaced
headliners, experiencing the supporting acts
can be just as meaningful. For example, some
of my favorite experiences with Patagonia’s icy
atmosphere happened while hiking the most
popular routes from El Chalten.
I’ll never forget my first sighting of a
Patagonian glacier at Laguna Torre, where
lakefront rocks doubled as lawn chairs and a
white-chested southern caracara bird — which,
without my glasses on, looked like a flying
penguin — swooped over iceberg polka dots.
And, during our trek to Laguna de los Tres,
we stopped for a break by Piedras Blancas glacier,
which was framed by symmetrical hills and a
bouquet of mountaintops. While admiring the
scene, I sipped on glacial water — fetched fresh
from a trailside lake — while observing its source.
And this time, I gazed pensively by my own
doing. Burbano didn’t have to say a word. X
The Details: Fitz Roy Expediciones
Ice trekking is no longer
allowed on Viedma Glacier,
but travelers can still enjoy
a trek to its terminus.
50° 19’49.2”S 73° 14’02.8” W