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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.