Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

The Resisting Glacier

argentine colors
Visitors admire the bluish expanse of the Perito Moreno glacier.
fallen bridge
Boat stops at Lake Argentino, in front of the pass a few hours earlier connected by a cyclic ice bridge.
Celebration of the Moment
Couple breaks the ice in front of the Perito Moreno glacier.
Sharp Blue
Sharp ice cliffs at one end of the Perito Moreno glacier.
cold wait
Spectators wait patiently for the ice bridge to fall.
slippery climb
Climber conquers a slippery slope on the surface of the Perito Moreno glacier.
Gaucho guide next to the fence that protects visitors from the slope of Lake Argentino that stops the Perito Moreno glacier.
Colossus Front
The ablation front of the Perito Moreno glacier, invading Lake Argentino.
cold wait II
Spectators wait patiently for the ice bridge to fall.
ice bar
Supply of whiskey installed on a corner of the Perito Moreno glacier.
little human scale
Group of explorers at the base of the glacier ice mountains.
mini iceberg
A fragment resists the melting caused by the heating of the water in Lake Argentino from mid-morning.
Delay on ice
Guide rushes to join a group exploring the glacier's icy surface.
small downfall
Fragment falls from the Perito Moreno glacier, a tiny sample of the upcoming ice bridge collapse.
Warming is supposedly global, but not everywhere. In Patagonia, some rivers of ice resist. From time to time, the advance of the Perito Moreno causes landslides that bring Argentina to a halt.

Doña Alexandra, co-owner of the inn with the same name in El Calafate, does not conform.

It's time for the second telenovela of the day but, like almost all the others, the Argentine channel on which it maintains the TV changed its broadcasting schedule to focus on an event of greater importance.

Family and friends occupy the sofas in the living room. At home, abstracted as they are, they are little concerned about the comfort of various foreign guests who are looking to catch up on news.

Although, on a visible plane, little happens, the Pampas and several other nations keep their antennae facing the end of the world of Patagonia.

More than the broadcast, we were interested in reality. Only 78 km separated them and the decor of that home-inn urges us to leave as soon as possible.

We arrived at the natural amphitheater of the Los Glaciares National Park it's still mid-morning. Reporting teams from Buenos Aires and from other parts of the Planet unloaded equipment from their vans in a light but frigid rain and installed themselves with the best possible view of the scene.

Argentinean flag on the Perito Moreno-Argentina lake-glacier

Visitors admire the bluish expanse of the Perito Moreno glacier.

We went down the winding path. An albiceleste flag waves, fluttering in the furious wind. We stopped by the mast. From there to the north, the majestic domain of the Perito Moreno Glacier prevails.

The origin of this river of ice lies in a low fault in the Andes Mountains. This canyon allows heavy clouds from the Pacific to pass through the Chile to the other side of the partition.

ablation front, peritoneum glacier, argentina

The ablation front of the Perito Moreno glacier, invading Lake Argentino.

And that they discharge moisture in the form of a snow that has been superimposed for many thousands of years on what is the heart of the ventisquero, so the Argentines call them, because the glacial valleys attract continuous gusts.

The weight accumulated by the snow causes it to recrystallize into ice.

This ice gradually descends from the mountain to the east. Thirty kilometers onwards the glacier's ablation front – a massive wall 5 km wide, 60 m high and 170 m of submerged ice – collides with the shore of Lake Argentino and dams the Canal dos Témpanos.

glacial ice escarpments, peritoneum glacier, argentina

Sharp ice cliffs at one end of the Perito Moreno glacier.

Thus, it separates one of the lake's extensions, Brazo Rico, from the main body. The split causes an imbalance of water on both sides. By cutting the flow to Brazo Rico, it makes its flow rise up to 30 meters.

Over time, the pressure and melting of the ice, accelerated by the arrival of summer in the southern hemisphere, ended up sculpting a bridge.

From 1917 to 2012, on twenty-one occasions, this bridge yielded to its own weight and the force exerted by the advance of the glacier against the rock on the bank, about two meters per day.

It ends up collapsing over the lake and causes a loud roar followed by a small tidal wave. The culmination of this entire process is difficult to predict.

spectators await fall, perito moreno glacier, argentina

Spectators wait patiently for the ice bridge to fall.

Hours pass. The cold and rain increase. They chastise the growing crowd, wrapped in plentiful clothing and raincoats, warmed by conversation, scorching coffee and tea. However, the night and the temperature drop. Only professionals continue to expose themselves to aggravated frigidity.

Three uncomfortable days pass like this. El bridge gives quick warnings that excite and encourage people to come back. Eventually, the spectators fill the entire slope and are anxious for the last moment.

From time to time, another fragment of ice falls on the water with a crash. The crowd rejoices. The great downfall, this one, insists on being postponed.

small landslide, perito moreno glacier, argentina

Fragment falls from the Perito Moreno glacier, a tiny sample of the upcoming ice bridge collapse.

A gaucho who works as a part-time guide tells us of his particular agony: “whenever we reach this point, I have to take the same film.

The people I bring get it into their heads that the bridge will fall at any moment and delay the return to the rendezvous point as long as possible.

couple breaks ice, perito moreno glacier, argentina

Couple breaks the ice in front of the Perito Moreno glacier.

As this is a pine cone, here are the televisions and the whole apparatus. It is hard for them to believe that there is still a lot to be done. But look, you can perfectly well spend another 5 or 6 days without anything happening. I've lived through several of these breaks. They are a real lottery.”

gaucho guide, perito moreno glacier, argentina

Gaucho guide next to the fence that protects visitors from the slope of Lake Argentino that stops the Perito Moreno glacier.

Perito Moreno is capricious, we have no doubts about that. Perhaps not even the prestigious naturalist who lent him his name -Francisco Pancasio Moreno – found an explanation for the exceptional phenomenon we were following.

At a time when the hyper-discussed global warming shrinks Greenland visibly and makes them shudder almost all glaciers and icy areas on the face of the Earth, this ventisquero benefits from the winter rigor of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field.

mini iceberg, perito moreno glacier, argentina

A fragment resists the thaw caused by the heating of the water in Lake Argentino from mid-morning onwards.'

It expands and climbs the shore of Lake Argentino over and over again.

We get fed up with the cold and discomfort of immobility. We give up. We ventured on a short hike over crampons and the surface of the glacier.

guide on the glacier, perito moreno glacier, argentina

Guide rushes to join a group exploring the glacier's icy surface.

Leading mountaineers demonstrate climbing techniques that grant them vertical mobility on small glassy mountains.

We go in and out of turquoise caves. We admire rapid streams of water, in the depths of that icy massif.

climb the glacier, perito moreno glacier, argentina

Climber conquers a slippery slope on the surface of the Perito Moreno glacier.

On the way back, we came across icebergs stranded on the coast and watched, in the distance, the collapse of two more large fragments of the bridge's interior. Despite everything, the bridge holds.

The next morning, we woke up crushed by the cold weather and the hard contact of the crampons with the ice.

Doña Alejandra gives us the news with a relief that doesn't even bother to hide: “So you already know? It fell last night. It was pitch dark. Only there the TVs could stand. A half-green video has already been shown but nothing is noticeable. Soap operas have interrupted me over and over for this. Well, at least now it's only about four years from now, with luck more”.

We didn't find anything in El Calafate that promised to entertain us better. Curiosity wins out. We return to the glacier and find the Canal dos Témpanos unhindered.

boat on the lake in front of the bridge, perito moreno glacier, argentina

Boat stops at Lake Argentino, in front of the pass a few hours earlier connected by a cyclic ice bridge.

A patch of the glacier remains embedded against the rocks. The crack is several tens of meters long. On the opposite side, the blue immensity of the main body persists.

We go around Lake Argentino. We admire the result of the great break, together with other visitors who do it aboard one of the panoramic boats that sail there.

At that very moment, despite the southern summer intensifying, the resilient Perito Moreno was already moving once more to the sidelines.

whiskey on ice, perito moreno glacier, argentina

Supply of whiskey installed on a corner of the Perito Moreno glacier.

It wouldn't be long before he regained his bridge of resistance.

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