The first thing that strikes you when you lock eyes on the Perito Moreno Glacier, in stunning Argentinean Patagonia, is its size.
Rising out of the frigid waters of Argentino Lake, the enormous ice field towered over me at more than 20 storeys high. The 250 km2 formation is one of 48 glaciers fed by the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which are the planet’s third biggest reserves of fresh water, and remarkably, it is still growing.
The second thing that strikes you about it – and this becomes truly apparent after I clip on my crampons and start hiking – is how white it is. The surface of the glacier spreads out like some kind of whitewashed Martian landscape.
Located about 78km from the frontier-like tourist town of El Calafate, the glacier is named after 19th-century explorer Francisco Moreno. It is one of Argentina’s – and indeed the worlds – premier tourist attractions, and during my full-day exploration, it’s easy to see why.
It’s impossible to hike on the enormous body of ice by yourself, so I signed up with the company that offers the maximum amount of time on its surface – Hielo & Aventura. I jump at the chance to experience their signature package, the Big Ice trek and quickly discover it’s an aptly named adventure.
The day begins early. I’m picked up from my hotel just after the sun starts spreading across the barren but beautiful Patagonian landscape.
I join a small group of excited adventurers in the company’s minibus and the two-hour drive from El Calafate takes us south-east, towards the jagged Andes mountain range, which divides Argentina from its neighbour, Chile.
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