Traveling Solo in Patagonia: Glacier Perito Moreno / by Mark Andre

My first 36 hours in Patagonia would give me a taste of the variable weather I would experience throughout my trip. Upon landing, the wind was so strong they had to turn the plane 180-degrees to be able to open the cargo door on the aircraft. Waking up the next morning the sky was beautifully broken with clouds. After the 6-hour drive across the Argentinian border to El Calafate I found myself at the shores of Lago Argentino looking forward to the next morning’s adventure at Glacier Perito Moreno.

I awoke to a low ceiling of thick grey clouds dumping rain down on the beautifully saturated landscape. I struck off on the 75-minute drive into the southern end of Argentina’s Glacier National Park. Still adjusting to to locals’ habit of driving excessively over the speed limit, I made it to the parking lot in scarcely over an hour. I’ll share some stories of driving in Patagonia in another post, but needless to say, speed limits and lane markers seemed only to be suggestions.

I stepped out of the car to the sounds of ice calving off the end of the glacier and immediately struck off to find a spot to make the best of the grey day.

Walking the paths looking for the perfect view

The saving grace of the rain and low clouds was the fresh gradient of snow on the mountains surrounding the glacier. You are immediately struck by the scale and vastness of this place. The terminus of the glacier rises an average of 240 feet above the surface of Lago Argentino.

This sheet of ice is constantly in motion. It’s one of the only glaciers in the world that is still advancing and about every four to five years the glacier blocks the waters moving from the southern arm of lake, building up pressure and eventually rupturing in dramatic fashion. The last time it ruptured was in March 2016.

The glacier and the mountains beyond

the end of the glacier (about 240 feet tall for scale)

Clouds surrounding the terminus of the glacier

The glacier covers some 100 square miles and is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field which forms the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water. It also helped give Lago Argentino a deep aqua color that cast the clouds above it in a wondrous blue hue. I’ve seen glaciers in Iceland, but never this close. The beautiful peaks and crevasses looked like miniature versions of the mountains surrounding them. I was taking in the glacier on the way between El Calafate and El Chalten so I didn’t have a hug amount of time to wait for the weather to clear.

This was definitely not what most would call ideal day for photography. The light was flat and the rain made keeping the lens clear quite difficult. It forced me to search more for compositions and literally reach out with the longer lens and create more interesting scenes with in the vast landscape.

This might just have been the perfect way to start the trip. It helped me get outside of my comfort zone and search for more interesting compositions in the windswept Patagonian mountains.

Stay tuned for images from El Chalten an Fitz Roy in my next post.

The 5km wide glacier squeezing through the mountains