Trekking Argentina – South Patagonia Icefield Expedition – Day 5

Juan woke us at 7am to discover that the clouds had not disappeared and the winds had not abated overnight.  If anything, the wind was stronger than the day before!  

The Icefield from Circo de los Altares - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

View of the Icefield from our camp at Circo de los Altares

This meant that we really had to focus as we trekked across the ankle-turning surface of the Icefield.  I mentioned before that glacier hiking requires concentration even in the best of conditions, and this was most certainly not the best of conditions!

Glacier hiking - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

Our fourth day of glacier hiking as we made our way South on the Icefield. Less snow today – more hard ice and slush

If it had been a clear day, we would have had an amazing view of Cerro Torre and its associated range, but as it was, we only caught a 5-second glimpse of it in one of our short breaks.

Glimpse of the tip of Cerro Torre - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

A 5-second glimpse of the very top of Cerro Torre (just below the patch of blue sky). We had to wait for several minutes for a gap in the clouds. I can’t imagine how spectacular the view must be on a clear day!

For the next 3 hours, we hiked through snow, slush, and hard ice, all the while being pummeled with little ice particles hurled at us by the wind. 

Glacier hiking - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

We came across very wet and slushy parts of the Icefield as we headed south

It was mentally and physically draining to ensure we didn’t miss-step and twist an ankle due to the buffeting wind, and I found that I started to develop a little “target-fixation” as I negotiated the crevasses.  Even the narrow ones drew my eyes into their depths.

Crevasse - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

We walked over an uncountable number of these narrow crevasses during our 4 days on the ice. Some were very deep, some were the bluest of blue, and all were oddly compelling

This was our last day hiking on the actual Icefield, and as we journeyed further South, we turned towards the mountains.

Heading towards the edge of the icefield - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

Heading towards the edge of the Icefield at the southern end of the mountain range

When we finally hit land again, it was strange (after almost 4 days) to hike without our crampons.  Having unstable, rocky glacial moraine under our feet also took some getting used to, as we stopped to admire the enormous crevasses at the edge of the Viedma Glacier.

Enormous crevasses in Viedma Glacier - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

Enormous crevasses in the Viedma Glacier. We were hiking on land precisely to avoid these

We crossed a tongue of land to skirt the worst of the crevasses in the glacier, and then had one last hike on ice (this time without crampons) before leaving the glacier for good.

The last of the ice - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

Crossing the last of the Ice

But the fun was not yet over!  We still had 7 glacial moraines to cross in order to get to our campsite at Laguna Ferrari, each one requiring an ascent and descent over loose rocks and scree.

The first moraine was particularly tricky because it was essentially still all ice but with a very thin covering of dirt.  Slow and careful placement of feet and the prodigious use of hands to assist meant that I only fell once, even though it was incredibly slippery.

In contrast, the other moraines would have been quite easy to negotiate, if it hadn’t been for the wind.  By this stage it was blowing at 100km/hr and gusting even faster.  We were mostly walking perpendicular to it, and being small and light and still carrying a 20kg backpack meant that I was constantly bracing myself to avoid being knocked over.  There were moments when I actually had to stop moving, because if I’d lifted my foot to take the next step, I would surely have been blown over.  I cannot describe how much energy I expended simply trying to keep myself upright!

Lake on the way to Laguna Ferrari - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

A lake on the way to Laguna Ferrari. We could barely stand against the wind here and our next moraine is that pass on the left hand side

As it was, I (and Anita) fell more than 10 times over the next 1.5 hours as we made our way towards the campsite.  And there may have been a tear or two of frustration and exhaustion escape as I picked myself up from the rocks for the umpteenth time. “Type 2 Fun” at its best!

Moraine - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

Up another glacial moraine, trying to stay upright against 100km/hr winds

Cresting the last moraine, we could see Laguna Ferrari and the stone protective walls that marked our home for the night.  I’ve never been so glad in all my life to see a campsite, and I could have kissed the ground had I thought I would be able to get back up again!

Camp Laguna Ferrari - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

The campsite at Laguna Ferrari. The rock walls provide a little extra shelter from the wind

We’d been hiking for only 6 hours, but it felt more like 12.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired after a hike in my life!

Hiking Details

  • Hiking time:  6 hours
  • Distance Covered: 13.8km
  • Altitude:  +276m, -411m

Read more about the South Patagonia Icefield Expedition

If this post has piqued your curiosity, read about the rest of my adventure on the the 8-day South Patagonia Icefield Trek with Serac Expeditions:

  • Prelude – leading up to departure
  • Day 1 – El Chaltén to Laguna de los 14 
  • Day 2 – Marconi Pass to Refugio Garcia Soto
  • Day 3 – Gorra Blanca summit
  • Day 4 – Refugio Garcia Soto to Circo de los Altares
  • Day 5 – Circo de los Altares to Laguna Ferrari
  • Day 6 – Laguna Ferrari to Refugio Paso de Viento
  • Day 7 – Refugio Paso de Viento to Paso Huemul to Bahía Témpanos
  • Day 8 – Bahía Tempanos to El Chaltén
  • Summary

Alternatively, check out my other posts about hiking and trekking in Argentina and around the world.

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