Fans of adventure sports cannot miss the opportunity of getting to know a glacier from a very close distance. Bariloche offers countless opportunities.
A specialized shuttle took us down from Club Andino, in downtown Bariloche
, to the base of Tronador Hill, one of the most impressive in Patagonia. We traveled along Route 258 up to Lake Mascardi, where we turned into a gravel road towards our destination. The journey took two hours. We had been told that it is ideal to have lunch at Pampa Linda (at the base of Tronador Hill) and, after completing digestion, to set out on a hiking tour up towards Otto Meiling shelter, where forests and a thin stretch of rocks are combined. It is an intermediate level hike and takes 4 hours and a half. The weather conditions were normal so we reached our destination in the mid afternoon. We had a rest and waited for the new day to come. Meiling lies 2,000 meters above sea level, between the Castaño Overa and Alerce Glaciers, opposite the three peaks of Tronador Hill. From that spot, adventurers may choose among a wide variety of excursions on ice, all of them escorted by professional AAGM guides (a wise provision set forth by the National Parks Administration).
In our case, we resolved to go on the tour to the Castaño Overa Glacier, which includes outings for all levels, which means it is suitable for all audiences. The glacier is over one kilometer wide and its ice gives shape to one of the steep walls falling from the mountain peaks. The meltdown water from this formation gives origin to the Castaño Overa River. This is a place worth visiting. Everything began at 9 in the morning. Before setting out, it is important to have a hearty breakfast to have enough energy. Immediately afterwards, we got the tools ready with the help of the guides: harnesses, long ice axes (to march) and short ice axes (to climb), helmets, gloves, rigid boots and crampons, ropes and carabiners. Everything was ready; therefore, we started walking. It is a 45 minutes’ walk from the shelter to the glacier and no crampons are needed in this stretch. As we reached this point, the guides helped us put them on. People who have never practiced this activity might feel the crampons a little weird at first, as one has to take a broad step, raising the feet and lowering the gravity center.
Entering the glacier is an incredible experience. The panoramic views are astonishing: below, Pampa Linda; above, the impressive peaks of the Tronador. It is at this point where the seracs (ice blocks that move and are very likely to topple without warning) are made out. Of course they should be avoided. As we walked on, each member of the excursion group would avoid bluish crevasses until the guides decided which one was “the one”, according to the level of difficulty. We got ready for the tour inside the cracks. There is nothing to fear: strong ice screws which can bear 800 kg during a fall hold the ropes. The guides usually look for soft slopes for beginners (65° for instance). For experienced adventurers however, more difficult challenges are searched for (85/90º). The difficult part comes after the amazement: reaching the glacier surface. To do so, we had to practice the various techniques explained by the guides. It was very amusing. When we finally managed to emerge from the crevasse, we noticed a cup of tea was waiting for us. It was an awesome moment: having tea sitting on the ice in the middle of the glacier!
Lastly, after a couple of hours, we started our way back to the shelter to call it a day. We had had a very positive experience that helped us make new friends and encourage future sporty encounters. That is the spirit of the mountain.