The Viedma Glacier is one of the 47 glaciers in the Los Glaciares National Park. What makes it special is that you can go ice climbing in the middle of the ice field as some of us did today. From El Chaltén it was about half an hour drive to a lake where we took a boat to the glacier. The boat ride was another hour but very scenic. As we came closer to the glacier the wind became stronger splashing water all over the open deck on top of the boat. Some people got soaked in ice water and needed to change cloth. After a while only the brave went up for a few seconds trying to catch a picture from the beautiful landscape. There were a number of small blue shining icebergs floating around on the lake formed by melted glacier ice. We also had an excellent view at the front side of the glacier where we could hear the cracking of calving ice.
After the boat docked we got off and walked over rocky area. Compared to other mountains the surface of these rocks looked more round since it was formed by the moving ice of the glacier. After walking for a few minutes we reached a tent where we got equipped for walking and climbing on the glacier ice. We put on a special type of crampons with which you cannot just walk on ice but also climb on it. They had strong spikes in the front of the crampon enabling you to climb vertically. Furthermore, we received a climbing harness and a helmet for security.
Before actually stepping on the glacier ice we received a demonstration how to walk in crampons. Compared to normal walking you need to keep your legs a bit more open so the spikes of the crampons don’t get tangled with each other or with your pants causing you to fall. We also received a demonstration on how to walk upwards, downwards and sidewards without falling. Walking in crampons felt strange in the beginning but after a while you get used to it and walk quite confident.
It was a maybe 20min walk over the glacier ice until we reached an area suitable for ice climbing. On our way we needed to cross a crevasse which is a deep crack in the glacier ice. We used a rope for crossing it so in case you slide into it you can be pulled out. The ice itself looked kind of dirty which is due to the rocks contained in it. In areas without rocks the ice was either white or blue.
The three guides with us prepared the ice wall for climbing and gave us a demonstration on the ice climbing technique and how to use the two ice axes in your hands. Then it was up on us to try it. It was actually quite fun since compared to rock climbing you are not dependent on the surface of the rock which forms the path to follow. You can actually climb more or less freely on the wall since you can put your crampons and ice axes in every place of the ice. I felt a bit like a fly walking up a wall. Each of us climbed 3-4 times at the wall and afterwards we had our lunch in the middle of the ice field. I had some sandwiches but tried not to drink too much since it isn’t allowed to pee on the ice field.
In the afternoon we climbed on another wall featuring blue ice which was even more amazing. Compared to the white ice the blue one was much harder and you needed more power to hew your ice axes and crampons into the ice. We also tried another ice climbing technique with which you go a bit sidewards with every step which gives you more stability when removing one of the ice axes to put it in another place. Climbing with this technique looked a bit like dancing cha-cha-cha and was funny to observe.
After having mastered the blue ice wall we went for a walk on the ice field looking at all kinds of ice formations. The highlight was the area where the glacier ice ended and the rocky area started. Here you could go in the area between the glacier ice and the rock which was extremely fascinating. There are several tons of ice above you and you just hope that it doesn’t crack and fall down on you. It felt great being under the ice. It appeared blue and transparent and the shape of it gave you an impression on how it’s actually flowing. There were also some holes in the ice which we could also see on the surface of the ice field. The holes are formed by melting glacier ice and here underneath the ice you could see it running down.
After we returned from the ice caves our guides had prepared a little surprise for us. It was an alcoholic drink cooled by glacier ice. After we returned to El Chaltén I was desperate for some pasta. The name of one shop sounded like they are selling fresh homemade pasta and I went there. They were actually selling pasta but only uncooked so I went into a small restaurant next door called “Mathilda”. The restaurant turned out to be a one woman show and the food I had here was truly homemade and very delicious.