Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Glacier Perito Moreno


On Monday morning we took a guided tour of Parque Nacional de los Glacieres.  We drove from the town of El Calafate west around much of the southern shore of Lago Argentino.  As we drove our guide, Paula, explained about the wildlife of the area, like why there aren’t too many cows grazing the area (the weather is too severe,) why the crested hawk is called a caracara (that is the sound they make,) and that there are rheas native to the area (we thought we saw ostriches on our way to El Chaltén a few days back.). 
Paula teaches us about the rupture phenomenon.

Paula also told us a lot about glaciers, specifically about the Perito Moreno glacier we would be viewing that day.  Perito Moreno is the most famous one because of how dynamic it is and because of its location next to a peninsula, making it easy to view.  There are 47 major glaciers in the Patagonia Ice Field.  And if I understood correctly Perito Moreno is one of the three glaciers in Patagonia that is growing (or at least not receding.)  We learned that it both grows and calves at a rate of 1-2m a day!  It is considered stable and at equilibrium because the same amount of ice falls off the front that it accumulates.  (Danny and I are still pretty fuzzy on this though.  The whole process is pretty mind boggling.)
Harper explains the finer points of glaciology to Grandpa Bob.
Cal contemplates ablation vs. accumulation.
Some facts I am sure about: Perito Moreno is 19 miles long and 3 miles wide.  Its ice has a height of about 350 ft. above the lake’s water level and a total ice depth of almost 600 ft.  Currently the Perito Moreno glacier has advanced to touch the Peninsula Magallanes creating a dam between the two arms of the L-shaped Lago Argentino.  With no way for the water on the Brazo Rico arm of the lake to flow, the water level on this side rises and creates a huge buildup of pressure against the glacier.  The water level on the Brazo Rico side can rise by almost 100ft. above the level of the main lake but right now it wasn’t quite this high.  Eventually the pressure will break the dam and create a huge show of crashing ice, rushing water and loud cracking sounds called a rupture.  We wish we could have been the lucky ones to view this powerful phenomenon.  The last one occurred in 2008, but from our uninformed eye,  it seems it will be a little while still before it comes down.
Perito Moreno touching the Magellanic Peninsula creating the dam on Lago Argentino
View from the north side of the dam- you can see the water slowly breaking it down and the glacier folding over itself on the rocks.
Inside the national park we hiked along a brand new walkway from overlook to overlook observing the beauty of the south face of Perito Moreno.  Danny, Harper and I could have stayed all day just listening to the cracking in the ice and waiting anxiously for the next chunk to fall.  Harper spent a while observing the icebergs and giving us detailed explanations about the shapes she saw in the ice.  Cal enjoyed the glacier but was just as happy climbing the railings and jumping off the steps.  There were a lot of other visitors at the park but we were able to find a few viewpoints where we were the only ones sitting and watching the glacier calving.  It was peaceful and exciting at the same time.  We all were pretty mesmerized by the glacier’s blue ice, the lake’s milky green water and the sun’s warm bright rays. 

This iceberg quacked off a few days earlier.  Ha Ha.

After the walk we all met up at the visitor center and we found Shirley and Bob chatting away with a family from Buenos Aires.  They both are picking up more Spanish everyday and using it every chance they get.  Harper and Cal love to give them pointers; Harper corrects pronunciation and Cal thinks their mistakes are hilarious.
Glacier love
Our catamaran

After that we took a boat out to the north face of the glacier.  Just as we motored up, a huge chuck of ice crashed down about 100 yards in front of us.  It sent a beautiful swell of waves our way and all the passengers on the boat sounded like children oohing and ahhing with glee.  We took tons of pictures and a couple videos to attempt to capture its magnificence.  Danny, Bob and I spent the boat ride outside on the deck, while Harper, Cal and Shirley were happily hanging out inside most of the trip.
Viewing the glacier up close was pretty spectacular.  A few days earlier Danny and I were a little bummed out about not getting the chance to trek on the ice, but we were all smiles after a lovely sunny day at Perito Moreno.  

Kay Linda takes in the view.
Picture of a picture- An aerial photo of the glacier showing its enormity.

Around towns

Here are some photos from the towns of el Chálten and el Calafate- kind of like Carbondale and Glenwood Springs in their feel.  One small, funky and very community-minded; the other one big, and touristy.  We are flying south to the port town of Ushuaia (some say the most southern city in the world!) later this evening.  Yesterday we visited the Perito Moreno glacier at Glacier National Park outside of el Calafate, but I have so many photos to go through it might be a little while until I make my next post.
Somebody left a garbage truck unattended!  Quick, jump on Standers!
Our park in el Chálten right across from the hotel.
Our empanada shop, also across the street from the hotel in el Chálten.
Some street performers in el Chálten singing, "I've gotta horse but he won't giddy-up..."
"...until he hears a tune."
Stone family Seesaw-a-thon in a Calafate park.  Subi-y-Bajo en español

His Spanish isn't perfect, but Grandpa Bob understands he is being scolded for riding upon the children's equipment.
Cal reads up on some Darwin in a park in Calafate before we head south to the Beagle Channel.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lago Capri Hike

"Think we can climb it?"  "You go first, Harper."
Saturday we all climbed up towards Lago Capri.  It was a steady uphill trail and we all got our hearts pumping on the way up.  The day started out gray and overcast but as it went on the clouds cleared and the sun peaked through.  Thankfully the wind was barely blowing so we were really comfortable and had a great hike.

We stopped a couple times on the way up and Harper and Cal found lots of rocks to climb upon.  Grandpa Bob led the way up a couple big boulders and Cal and Harper were thrilled to follow him up.  You'd never guess Bob's age watching him climb around with the kids.
A great role model for our two year-old and five year-old.
Here we come, Grandpa!

Danny and I continued on to the lake while the kids stayed back at a nice overlook for lunch and hanging out with Bob and Shirley.  They spent the time collecting treasures, jumping off rocks and playing around.  We hiked up to a lake that should have had a beautiful glacier to view just beyond it, but it was too cloudy to see much.  Either way we had a nice time getting some exercise and talking just us.
Harper and Grandma are pretty much inseparable so far.
Dirty, snotty, banged-up, lovable Cal
On the way down Harper and Cal found as many walking sticks as they could amass to be just like Grandma and Grandpa with their hiking poles.  We also spotted a Patagonian Woodpecker and this time I got my camera out in time to take its photo.

The other exciting wildlife was a llama Danny and I saw tied up at the base camp next to the lake.  It was really excited to see us and stood and wagged its tail as we hiked past.  Because of past interactions with llamas (my sisters will remember this from my wedding) I knew they could be mean so I didn't get too close.  But I made my best llama impression instead.

Most devoted reader

I've got to give special mention here to my wonderful mother-in-law who is by far this blog's most devoted reader.  She admitted last night that she checks for new updates on our travels sometimes up to 10 times a day!

Now she's made it onto the blog herself!

Bienvenidos Grandpa Bob and Grandma Shirley

Harper and Shirley with el Torre in the background
On Tuesday in the early evening Danny’s parents arrived in el Chaltén!  We were all very excited to welcome them to Argentina.  They traveled a LONG way to get here and it is so fun, especially for our kids, to have Grandpa Bob and Grandma Shirley here with us on our adventure.
The crew
On Wednesday we all went on a hike together in the national park.  The Las Águilas trail starts at the visitor center and went up, up up for a great view of most of the peaks and glaciers in the park.  We were lucky to have a pretty clear day, although the peak of Fitz Roy was hiding behind clouds for almost the entire hike.  As we walked from town Harper and Cal were very excited to help Grandma Shirley carry her hiking poles to the trailhead, but seeing that she needed them for the hike they both found other sticks and rocks to carry along as we hiked.  The sunshine was nice and warm, although the wind was whipping around us and made it one of those days of putting layers on, taking layers off, repeat.  But even with the wind we all made it to the rocky viewpoint at the end and had a little snack.  Bob and Shirley hike just at the right speed for Harper and Cal and with Grandma Shirley telling Harper and Cal stories from Danny’s childhood the time went by quickly.  For most of the time I don’t think Harper even remembered how sore her legs were from the hike we took the day before, but Cal needed a little more carrying and encouragement than he normally does.
Three generations of blue windbreakers
The hills are alive...
On Friday Bob and Shirley graciously offered to spend the day with Cal and Harper while Danny and I trekked on the Viedma Glacier.  We had to wake up early to make the trip so Cal and Harper even spent the night before sleeping over in Grandma and Grandpa’s hotel room.  Cal was “a lot a bit nervous” but after a few tears and an invitation to sleep with his big sister he went to bed.  Unfortunately for us the trip got canceled midway through.  We took the bus to the dock and got out on Lake Viedma for about a half hour when the sea got really rough.  We hadn’t even made it to see the glacier when the captain decided to take us back to the dock.  Apparently the wind was coming in too strong from the south and the waves breaking at the glacier were too big for us to dock there and disembark for our hike.  We were pretty bummed out but Harper and Cal were even more so when we returned to town and met them at the park.  “When we all go to lunch would you and dad sit at another table?” she asked me.  “We really wanted to have lunch at a restaurant with ONLY Grandma and Grandpa.”  Needless to say we all ate together that afternoon, but it looks like Danny and I at least get to go out for lunch on our own someday to make it up to Harper.  Ha ha

Other fun things to report:
-We've gotten Grandma Shirley and Grandpa Bob hooked on empanadas.
-Cal turns 3 in eight days.
-Picnic dinners have become our norm in the hotel lobby the last few nights.  Grandpa Bob may have met his match for smoked-trout eating in Cal.
Sassy Sue

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Patagonia- El Chaltén

We've been in El Chaltén the last few days.  This little town of 1,000 people is located just at the base of the Fitz Roy Range in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.  It is a funky little mountain town that has only been established for a short amount of time.  Roughly a decade or so ago there were only about 10 houses here and a couple hostels.  Now it is a huge draw for the hiking and climbing crowd because of the amazing peaks and the town has grown steadily from the tourism business.  Danny met a man at the park yesterday who told him about the recent growth.  The guy is originally from Buenos Aires and his wife is from London.  He said of the 1,000 residents 350 of them are 18 years old or younger.  The adults here are almost all transplants from much more metropolitan areas and they have had to do all the work to set up a functioning municipality- trash service, schools, town government, etc.  It sounds like it has been a wild ride.  There isn't even a cemetery here because they haven't needed it yet!
The town of El Chaltén (the peaks are behind me as I take the photo.)

Our first afternoon here we spent hiking along Rio Blanco.  It is a river sprung from the glacial ice melt and it is a beautiful milky-white color.  We hiked along the river for a while and then spent some time throwing sticks and rocks and digging holes (pretty much a daily activity for our family.)  The kids got soaked in the freezing water and when the sun went down we hustled back into town for dry clothes and dinner.
White river from the glacial sediment (we assume).
The next day we did the hike to Lago Torre, one of the more popular hikes in the area.  We all left town en route to the lookout point of El Torre, a huge tower-shaped peak with a icy blue glacier and milky white lake below it.  The kids hiked really well and we were really impressed with their endurance.  Out and back the kids did about 4.5 miles and Danny carried Cal for about 10 minutes total.  We've got some serious hikers these days and it makes us look forward to all the great spots we'll be able to get to in Carbondale this summer.  Needless to say the kids had some sore legs the next morning.
At the trailhead
mmmm GORP (PMBV en español)
View from the mirador- el torre (the tower) is in the back middle-right. (It is much more imposing in person!)
After the lookout the kids and Danny turned back and I continued on to Lago Torre (Tower Lake).  It was a haul and I was trying to hike my fastest to get back in time for Bob and Shirley's arrival.  The hike was beautiful, dropping down into a forest, then moving alongside the river, and then a final scramble up to the lake.  There was lots of other hikers- most people were backpacking and camping out at a base camp a kilometer before the lake.  It felt great to get some good strenuous hiking in after many days without much exercise.  I liked being out on my own as well, just taking in the view and having some peaceful quiet time.  The lake sits at the bottom of the peak, el Torre, and a glacier wraps around its front.  The blue ice of the glacier was beautiful and I don't think I could ever tire of staring at it.  Danny and I are planning a trek on another glacier later in the week (if the weather continues to stay nice) and I can't wait to see one up even closer.  On the way back down I saw a Patagonian woodpecker about three feet in front of me as I came around a turn in the trail.  Sadly I couldn't get my camera out quick enough to capture it on film (or digital pixels whatever.)
We've been told that it is pretty rare to get such a clear, wind-free day here.  What luck!
My solo hike to the lake
The lake complete with iceburgs.  Check out the glacier running into the backside of the lake in front of el torre.
Bob and Shirley brought another lens for my SLR camera (since I dropped the other one ages ago in Ecuador and have been only using my iphone camera since) and so here is one more photo of el Torre: