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Amidst Crystals

   
 Estimated reading time: 2 min. Texts Photos Marcelo Sola Texts Photos Marcelo Sola
Hiking and climbing the Grey Glacier

A mindblowing experience amidst ice blocks, cold caverns and deep cracks. We spent an entire day on the Grey Glacier.

It is five in the morning. We leave from Puerto Natales on one of the most fantastic adventures to be enjoyed inside the park. Everthing is quietness and the first beams of dawn appear in the East.
Route 9 takes us to the very core of the Torres del Paine National Park. Little by little, the lengas and ñires on both sides of the road begin to give shade. Everything is colored, plenty of life.
We pass by the Paine Massif. Once more, we let ourselves be surprised by this colossus of granite but, on this ocassion, it is its horns which strongly catch our attention.
Hiking and climbing the Grey Glacier
At half past eight in the morning, we arrive in the Grey Inn. Without hesitation, we head for the harbor in order to get on board the Grey II. From the shore, we observe the huge ice floes adrift : “Foreword to things to come” we think.
A cold wind hits our forehead and invites us to put on warmer clothes. Soon afterwards, we are very much installed in the inside of the craft.
We head for the Grey Glacier. We will try to do the hiking and climbing excursion on the glacier. Even if it is a technical activity, the conditions to walk on ancient ice are favorable as regards difficulty. For simple mortals -like me- it will certainly be an unforgettable experience.
The Grey Glacier is the largest glacier inside the national park. This natural wonder of significant size is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.
Hiking and climbing the Grey Glacier
One hour later, the craft begins to approach the walls of the ice giant, which is divided in two by an island located in the center of the snowdrift.
Suddenly, a Zodiac MK-5 boat comes to us. We get on board in order to land on a moraine. The whimsical shapes of the glacier and its various ice-blue shades look like amorphous crystals. By the way, it is already a quarter past ten.
We strolled across a land full of rocks up to the base camp, where the guides –Brian and Joseph- give us all the necessary equipment to continue with this blue trip. Harnesses, long ice axes (to march) and short ice axes (to climb), helmet, gloves, rigid boots and crampons are some of the elements we will use.


On the Transparent Floor


Now the glacier is beneath us. We begin to walk on areas of hard access discovering the endless Western arm of the glacier. We got immersed in the deep blue vastness, conquering a world so far unknown. Walking on the glacier is a “weird” sensation. We must walk with a wide step, raising up our feet and lowering our gravity center a little.
Hiking and climbing the Grey Glacier
This kind of activities is special to understand the magnitude of the place we are visiting. Countless cracks, tunnels and ice liftings get lost in the distance. The panoramic view is astonishing.
We walk on this ice field in a row. We make a stop to follow the Patagonian routine of putting on and taking off clothes until we find the exact point between temperature and comfort.
Hiking and climbing the Grey Glacier
We follow our guides in fascination. We explore caves and drains, we pass near the seracs – fragmented blocks of ice– and stop to see a large lagoon in the middle of the glacier. “We resolved that it was along that path that Jesus walked” Brian explains to us. Spectacular. We get closer and, with a mug, we pick up pure water. We drink it and our souls rejoice. We are surprised to hear that the crack is seventy meters deep and that teams from the National Geographic have dived in that place to do research.
Hiking and climbing the Grey Glacier
Time for lunch at twelve o'clock. “Before the ice climbing, there is nothing better than recovering one's energies” Joseph asserts. A cream soup heats us inside. This is an incredible moment. We are having lunch on the glacier!
In the meantime, on the border of an approximately 20-meter crack, the guides assemble a system of ropes and screws in order to make the first steps in the ice climbing stage. They explain to us the technique and we go up. We feel as if we were a living part of the glacier. Very amusing.
After the amazement of the steep wall, we start our way back to the base camp and, from there, to the Zodiac in order to make the crosssing before the glacier once again towards the Grey refuge, where we wait for the Grey II to pick us up.
Hiking and climbing the Grey Glacier
By four in the afternoon, we get on board the craft. During the return, the crew serves a pisco sour with ice from the glacier to all the adventurers. There is nothing better to crown this unforgettable voyage. Raising our glasses, we make a toast to the Grey Glacier and its enigmatic geography.
Useful Data
How to get here
The agency shuttle picks up excursionists at the hotel where they are staying. Another choice is to reach the harbor in a private vehicle.
 
Timetables
The excursion from Puerto Natales leaves at 5.00 in the morning in order to make it in time to the Grey Inn harbor. The craft leaves everyday at 09.00 in the morning and at 3.00 in the afternoon. The time for return, after hiking and climbing, is at 4.00 in the afternoon.
 
Recommendations
This kind of expeditions is advisable for people between 13 and 70 years old, in good physical shape and fond of adventure. In order to make the most of this excursion, bear in mind the following: hiking or similar boots are ideal. If not possible, you may wear a different kind of shoes, as the crampons are easily adapted to any shoe. Wear comfortable clothes, warm sweatshirts, gloves and, sometimes, waterproof garments.
For lunch, take a light meal. Wear UV glasses and sun protection.
 
 
Inter Patagonia

Characteristics
Level of Difficulty
Medium.
Duration
All day.
Useful Data Useful Data



Location



The Viewpoint



Those who wish to experience further in ice climbing may choose to take the course given by our agency. Through various theoretical and practical classes, we teach them all the secrets and the most important aspects to be taken into account when facing a wall.
This course takes from two to three days. Attendants will learn how to use ice screws, to make meetings in the snow, to use crampons and piolets. At the beginning, they will wear hard boots and they will learn to advance with the heavy winter gear. The ice will glitter in a translucent blue and green. It will certainly be hard for a few moments but, in the end, they will make it and they will feel like Superman.
        Brian
        Mountain Guide


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