Navigating Lake Viedma towards the ancient walls of its glacier and then having the chance to walk on its surface using crampons is an experience hard to be forgotten. Undoubtedly, one obligatory excursion starting at El Chaltén.Just a few minutes away from El Chaltén there lies one of the most beautiful lakes in Argentinian Patagonia: Lake Viedma. In order to be passengers of this singular experience that not only involves sailing the lake but also walking on the glacier, adventurers must reach Túnel Bay. The catamaran is a beautiful brand new boat that the firm Patagonia Aventura has launched in order to develop this kind of tours. It approaches travelers with a perfect natural manner that lets them enjoy the magnificent voyage of coming close to the glacier walls and appreciating its colors, cracks, formations and sounds, something difficult to perceive in the distance. The tours we could choose from included three that turned out to be just perfect for our stay. The good thing about these excursions is that most of them may take half a day, all day, or else, travelers may choose to spend the night.
Viedma Light consists in a two-and-a-half-hour navigation across Lake Viedma. The crossing takes visitors down to the front wall of the glacier, made up by huge ice floes and light blue ice walls that reach over 40 meters above the lake surface. Viedma Ice Trek consists in the same navigation with the choice of landing on the rocky promontory off the Viedma Glacier, where travelers will walk on the edge of the glacier, put on their crampons and start a two-and-a-half-hour hiking tour on the ice, exploring drains, cracks and caves. The other tour is suitable for fit travelers who like to search for more adrenaline. It is called Viedma Pro and it takes nine hours. Unlike the ice walk, it has the added value of climbing on this surface.
Personally, we chose Viedma Ice Trek. Not only does our guide, Juan Aguada, know the area very well but he is also one of the best mountaineers in the world. He even hit the summit of the Fitz Roy. According to him, this is the most popular excursion among tourists who wish to see the glacier from a different perspective. Once the boat approached the shore and after having watched the Viedma Glacier from a very close distance, we landed on some rocks that looked burnt and washed out. And in a way they were, according to our guide: “The glaciers used to rest on these rocks for thousands of years. The cold temperatures, as well as the pressure of the ice, managed to leave a track on the surface they once occupied”. After walking down a few meters, we reached the spot where the rock joins the glacier. It was at this moment when we started to put on our crampons and climb up the glacier to walk on it.
Once we were ready, we started to walk in a single file before we could notice. Juan, our guide, was leading the small troop. Thus, the cracks, the drains and the edges started to succeed one another. We gradually left them behind as we reached the top of the glacier. The secret is to open your legs wide and take short but firm steps. This way, it is impossible to get tired or to be in danger of getting hurt with the crampon edges. We could advance confidently, which was essential to keep the excursion going. Great white, light blue and even deep blue walls followed one another as we discovered the different parts of the glacier.
Juan had a surprise for us and promised to show it once we reached the other side of a big slope. There we found a frozen pond featuring an unbelievable color. Holding his pick axe, he started to break up the ice and got four glasses and a bottle of Baileys from his backpack. We need not tell what happened next. The glasses clanked in the air cheering up the moment. We all congratulated one another for the odyssey we had just lived during this tour, which is certainly free of all danger, provided that the instructions of the guide are followed carefully. We kept on walking for a little longer and this time Juan promised to show us some unique sites, so that our feeling of being in a magical spot would become multiplied. And so it was. Incredible edges anticipated ice cliffs, endless cracks whose bottoms displayed a hue that was getting bluer and bluer as the eyes tried to reach their end and some ice ponds that contained the purest and cleanest water we had ever had the pleasure to see.
There is no doubt that the Viedma Ice Trek is one of the most memorable tours for those who stay at El Chaltén. The diversity of the scenes and the possibility of enjoying a glacier from the inside get real fans. An adventure we would never forget.