After recovering from the W Trek and a mild hangover (post trek wine is a killer) , the next stop in Patagonia was to Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina – my 12th country of this trip. The park/reserve covers an area of some 600,000 hectares in the South-westerly province of Santa Cruz and has been an UNESCO World Heritage site since 1981. The plan was to travel North to the hiking mecca of El Chalten, but that would have to wait for another day. First things first, it was time to visit a white giant – the Moreno Glacier.
Seriously though, what a truly fantastic spectacle. I won’t say it was “cool” (even though it was) as I feel I’ve cracked that truly woeful joke a few times too many. To those who know me well, hearing that will hardly come as a shock.
For all the geography nerds, now is the time to pay attention. Glacier Moreno is one of 48 glaciers that comprise the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. With an area of 16,800 km² (6,800 mi²) it is the second largest contiguous ice field in the world, stretching across the southern Andes, measuring almost 220 miles (355 km) long and 30 miles (48 km) wide – much bigger than Argentina’s capital city; Buenos Aires. Alternatively you could just refer to it as “big”. Even if you’re reading about this from home in the UK, chances are you’ve been indirectly involved with the glacier as it is also the third largest reserve of fresh water in the world.
From Moreno’s 5 kilometer front which rises 60meters above the water, great masses of ice crash into Lake Argentino with resounding roars. Deemed an “advancing glacier,” the glacier ice is continually growing and expanding outward, gradually occupying more and more territory. While the glacier is said to move outward at a pace of up to seven feet or two meters each day, large chunks of ice falling from the walls make this growth a bit more subtle. This phenomenon also makes viewing the glacier all the more unpredictable and exciting. After doing some reading, it turns out that the glacier is only one of THREE that advances, as opposed to retreating. Sticking the middle finger up to global warming.
The water colour of the lake is a gorgeous turquoise blue which is a result of the high mineral content in the glacier. One of locals informed me that they refer to the water as glacier milk because despite the wonderful colour of the water, you cannot see deeper than 20-30 centimetre’s. The location’s backdrop like everywhere else in Patagonia is utterly magnificent. The surrounding woods cloak the valleys and mountains. Consequently, it plays tricks with your mind as judging the scale of your surroundings becomes surprisingly difficult. Pretty “cool” eh? (Couldn’t resist, sorry)