Posted by Caleb | December 29, 2015
The Southern Patagonian Ice Field is the second largest ice field in the world, covering about 6,500 square meters in Argentina and Chile. It is packed with massive glaciers and unemployed people who like to hike (there were tons of people that looked exactly like us) As we are figuring out, there does not seem to be any climate in the world that can not be made into some sort of tourism, ice fields are no different.
The easiest and most convenient option for us to see a glacier was to visit the most famous in the region, Perito Moreno, located just an hour away from the Argentinian launching point, El Calafete.
To the best of our knowledge the only company allowed to actually trek on Perito Moreno is Hielo y Aventura, an Argentinian outfit plastered all over the El Calafete tourist scene. This exclusivity makes the decision easy for tourists but also pretty expensive and they seem to take pleasure in tacking on the extra fees. They offer two main options to get on the glacier:
- Hielo y Aventura Mini Trekking – Price $1,200 ARS + $300 ARS Transfer Fee + $260 ARS National Park Fee (El Calafete, Argentina)
This is the option we chose based on a ton of recommendations from fellow travelers on the length of the trek.
What it includes:
It is almost a full day of glacier interaction starting with a visit to the Perito Moreno park that provides several “look out” opportunities walking along balconies. Normally this kind of stuff gets old quick but this glacier is nuts. Stand and look for five minutes and you will have seen at least one ice avalanche breaking off the glacier and into the water below. It is well worth the time allotted, about an hour.
A 20 minute ferry ride follows, floating your boat next to the glacier, it actually sounds much more entertaining that it was. The ferry drops you off at the nearest land point to the glacier, there you mosey up to two modern buildings that look completely capable of serving you lunch; however, you are required to bring your grub with you.
The finale is the glacier walk. You are provided with crampons and a short lesson on how to use them. Our group had two guides, one an entertaining fluent English speaker. The other, Marcel, a younger version of the most interesting man in the world. He followed us around in silence for most of the trek, only speaking to notify one of the walkers of faulty crampon walking form. The total time on the glacier is advertised as 90 minutes though we spent only 60-65 minutes actually on the glacier.
For us the trek was worth the ~$118 USD/person we had to shell out. This was tacked onto the list of Patagonian landscapes that look more like something from Game of Thrones, rather than real earth.
- Hielo y Aventura – Big Ice – Price $2,200 ARS + $300 ARS transfer fee + $260 ARS National Park Fee (El Calafete, Argentina)
This trek includes all of what is posted above, with an extra two hours on the glacier. Due to the fact the glacier is growing two meters a day, while also receding at the edges, the trek is different from month to month. When talking to different folks that had completed this full trek, we got very different stories. All were extremely positive, but $200 USD (using the blue dolar rate) was too much for us to dish out.
- Big Foot Patagonia – Ice Hike – Price $95,000 CLP (Torres del Paine National Park, Chile)
Another option we looked into for glacier hiking is located in Torres del Paine National park. Located on one tip of the W Trek, the Big Foot camp offers a 5 hour tour with 2.5 hours on the glacier hiking. We did not include this in our W Trek hike but talked with several people who said it was well worth it. The camp is roughly a 30 minute walk from Refugio Grey though many said the hike included in the trek is pretty difficult. Tacking this onto your W Trek hike would be simple, and more cost effective than the similar Big Ice trek in Argentina.
Don’t miss a chance to walk on top of a glacier if you make it to Patagonia!