Gable Island
The Secret Garden

Vinciguerra Glacier

This day, the folks from Compañía de Guías de Patagonia picked us up at 9am for our six hour hike through the Andorra Valley and up to the Vinciguerra Glacier, one of the largest in the Tierra del Fuego.

Our Australian friends from the previous day - Stephanie and Mark - were on this trip as well, plus some new friends from California, Rachael and Michael.

After a short drive from our cabin, we arrived at a modest estancia in a lush field - a broken-down wooden fence surrounding a small, dilapidated house with two dogs chained out front. A red, dirt path wove back into the field, and armed with our walking sticks and packs full of water, lunch, cold weather gear, and crampons, we headed into the meadow.

P1000361The low-lying region was gorgeous: bright green grass, huge swaths of yellow flowers, horses roaming freely, a farmer on a tractor in the distance.

P1000366 A pair of falcons sat in the tree above us:

P1000363At the far end of the meadow, we passed through a peat bog, which formed after the glaciers retreated at the end of the last ice age. Our feet sunk into the fluffy, squishy soil in some areas, but bounced as if on a trampoline in others.
P1000368Next, we crossed through a wooded area, full of rocky and very muddy trails. This is where we started the vertical ascent up towards the icy glacier we could see in the distance. It would be a 3 hour hike up to the top, along which we saw a variety of birds and plants, including this wild orchid:
P1000369 We eventually broke through the tree line and arrived at a clearing with a waterfall. The water - all glacier runoff - was beautifully clear and drinkable (we refilled our water bottles with it). The air was crisp, clean, and cool; we had to put on our fleeces before continuing on up.
P1000370From here the trail became much drier and rockier as we climbed up towards the glacier - a huge sheet of thick ice looming above us. No trees, and very sparse vegetation from this point forward.

P1000375 We arrived at a lagoon - all glacial runoff and bright turquoise in color due to the minerals in the rocks. We stopped here for a break and to admire the Chilean mountains in the distance.

P1000376   A bit further up, we stopped again, this time for lunch, right on the edge of the glacier. The ice was thick, but you could see under it in some areas and there was a steady trickle of melting runoff. The glacier has receded a lot in recent years due to warmer temperatures.
P1000377 After lunch, we put on our crampons to walk on the ice. We also had to put on coats/hats/gloves at this point because it was really cold and windy up there.

P1000383Walking out on the ice was both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. We had to follow the guide in a straight line, because he knew by sight the safe areas on which to tread (you must avoid the snowy patches, which don't have ice underneath, meaning you'll fall right through!). We proceeded to climb up across the glacier's surface, including its cervices, caves and gullies.

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P1000389 Look at that view!

P1000390 This trip, while challenging, was so cool. Very memorable. As was all of Ushuaia; I think this region was my favorite part of the trip. Sadly, this was our last day there; the next series of posts will recount our travels up north, among the waterfalls and jungle of Iguazu.

Here is the full photo set from Ushuaia:

Previously:

Gable Island

Isla Martillo

The Beagle Channel

Ushuaia

Trelew

Gaiman

Punta Tombo

Puerto Madryn

La Boca

San Telmo

Puerto Madero

Recoleta

Palermo

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