Ice field

5 day trek over the world’s second largest contiguous extra polar ice field and around.

Date Location Activity Notes
2017/05/04 Argentina, El Chalten Started hiking at 8:15 (sunrise is at 8:50), in the dark, till about 17:30 (sunset is at 18:30). I camped at a place to bivac between two glaciers. Nice weather, little bit of snow on the track and great views
2017/05/05 Argentina, El Chalten – Bivak spot 1 I woke up around 8:50, my tent complete covered with snow. With frozen fingers trying to pack my tent and leaving for the next campsite, on the other side of the paso de viento (pas of the wind), next to the icefield Very cloudy and rainy/snowy day, lost the path a couple times because of the snow
2017/05/06 Argentina, El Chalten – Flooded refuge so sleeping in my tent after all A beautiful day on the ice! During cooking in the evening ice was already forming on my tent, the ropes solid frozen a cold night to come… Snow covered mountains, crevasses, icy streams and ice caves!
2017/05/07 Argentina, El Chalten – Flooded refuge Hike to the lake, total distance well over 30km Mostly cloudy and rainy but some moments in which the view improved
2017/05/08 Argentina, El Chalten – lake side My tent was covered with frost in the morning, long hike back to the main road , from there hitchhiking back to town Clear blue sky

Day 1: I started hiking a little before sunrise. The prediction was for a clear day which turned out completely true. There was still snow from the day before on the mountain tops and with the sunshine on it the colours were impressive.
During the hike I had to cross a couple big creeks, I think that normally it would be possible to cross these by jumping from stone to stone, but now this was impossible. The water level was risen well above its normal level, you could see this as well when looking at the plants that were now underwater in the creeks and the path itself that often was impossible to follow because of the streams. To cross the big creeks I had to take of my shoes and pull up my pants, luckily the sun warmed me up quickly after.

While crossing the first creek I did something stupid, when I was about half way I thought it would be better to throw my shoes that I was holding in my hand to the otherside of the creek. But when I tried to do this, one of my shoe laces got stuck behind my pink and my shoes did fly high up landing almost on the other side of the creek but just in the water. My shoes started floating quickly downstream and I had to run after them bare foot to catch up with them. Luckily I managed to catch them before reaching the river. But I will definitely not try something like this again soon.
Safely on the other side of the creek I tried to get as much water out of my shoes as possible, but plastic bags around my socks and continued hiking to warm up my feet.

Later I passed the first campsite and I decided to continue (it was only around 2:30pm) to the next campsite. The path continued past a lake and then a big deep creek, there should have been a steel cable to cross the creek, but somehow I missed this cable. I continued following the creek upto the glacier from where it originated. At the glacier I could go a little up and then cross the glacier and there by crossing the creek at the same time.

On the end of the glacier the path went a little up to another lake where I could camp. From this spot I could see both the glacier I just passed and a glacier on the other side of the lake.

I cooked my meal while setting up my tent, and after dinner got myself comfortable in my tent.

Day 2: My tent was completely covered with snow in the morning. During the night I had already pushed some of the snow of because the outside tent was getting lower and lower. The snow outside looked beautiful, only a shame that this day was going to be a cloudy, rainy and snowy day.

With frozen fingers and frozen feet (my shoes were still wet) I packed my backpack, and started hiking. Because of the snow I lost the path almost immediately, but I only found out about half an hour later. With the use of gps on my phone and the map I could see where the path was supposed to be, and after a while I found the path again. I would lose it again a couple more times but I was paying more attention now that I was going at least in the correct direction.
The route went over paso de viento (pass of the wind, 1400m and highest point of the trek) and down to the icefield on the other side, the world’s second largest contiguous extra polar ice field. From time to time you could see a little of the ice through the clouds.

I planned to follow a land tong that was surrounded by the ice and camp at the end of this piece of land at a bivac spot. But when I arrived there, there was so much snow and all my stuff was already wet, that I decided to go back and follow the icefield farther south to a refuge. I thought I would be able to dry my stuff there, and prepare my backpack for the next day so I could leave quickly the next morning without first packing my tent and thereby making up for the extra kilometres I would have to walk back to go on the glacier. It worked out differently…

When I arrived after 7km walking south following the glacier, it turned out the water had risen so much that the refuge was flooded. This meant I had to camp after all…

Because of this I decided as well to change my original plan, to walk on the glacier for a day camp on a small piece of land surrounded by glacier, and walk back to the refuge. My new plan was less exciting, but as well easier. I would leave my tent where it was, next to the flooded refuge, do a day trek on the glacier, going on the glacier directly from where I was, and come back the same day, sleep another night at the same spot and then either spent one more day there or continue.

I cleared a spot from as much snow as possible and setup my tent on top of a thick layer of plants, this would at least be nice and soft, all though all the water in the plants would probably make this a cold camp spot.

Day 3: Most of my stuff was getting more and more wet, but I had had a comfortable “warm” night and the weather looked improved again. I packed some stuff for the day hike on the glacier.

I first went over two small hills and then down to the glacier. There I could climb up and start the hike on the glacier. There was directly at the start an impressive ice cave with the light shining through. after that the first part of the icefield was covered with stones and sand, and I didn’t need my crampons jet. After while the ice became more clear and there for slippery and I put on my crampons.

The crevasses were clearly visible and had sometime very deep and bright colours of blue. There were streams meandering over the glacier, and after a while suddenly dropping down as a waterfall in deep blue holes. In the distance the tops of mountains were visible. In the morning the mountains seemed to be floating in the clouds and only the peaks were visible. later the clouds disappeared and the horizon was either ice or the completely white mountains.
This day was definitely the highlight of the trek.

When I got back at 17:45 at the tent I cooked dinner, while I was doing this the water on my tent was already freezing. the lines were solid frozen after I was done with eating and went inside my tent.

It was a shame I couldn’t see the sunset above the glacier, but walking to the glacier was too far (~45min) with the cold and It would be difficult to get back in the dark.

Day 4: During the night a mouse had eaten a small hole in my backpack and eaten some of my crackers.

The weather had turned again. I decided to pack my tent and keep on going, if the weather would improve, I would maybe setup camp and go for another side trip. The weather didn’t really improve and I just kept on following the path till about 6pm. From time to time the clouds opened up a bit and I got some glimpses of the glacier. Near the lake one of the ends of the ice fields dropped down to the lake. This looked very impressive, especially with the huge ice sculpture floating in the lake.

I was thinking for a moment I might be able to make it all the way back to El Chalten, but after looking more closely on the map I decided not to try. Now I’m glad I didn’t because it would have been at least 5 more hours to get back.

Day 5: It had been a cold night, with all my stuff wet and everything was covered with frost in the morning. I packed my stuff and started for the last part of the trek.

The weather was great this day, cold but clear blue skies and therefor warm in the sun. This day I walked mostly next to the lake crossing small creeks and later on there was again a rope crossing. Soon after this the path became suitable for 4 wheel drives and later for normal cars. During this day there were lots of jack rabbits running away.

The road went first away from El Chalten and after a long time I finally reached the main road were the only car that had passed me, going in the wrong direction on the other road, was just coming back and brought me to El Chalten.

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